GREEN BOOK – MUST SEE COMEDY-DRAMA LESSON ON HISTORY AND HUMANITY

AUDIO PODCAST OPTION OF GREEN BOOK REVIEW

 

SHORT TAKE:

Excellent buddy dramedy based closely on the real life friendship between a black gifted but haughty pianist and the thuggish but fundamentally noble white bouncer he hires to chauffeur him during a concert tour through the Deep South in the 1960’s.

WHO SHOULD GO:

Any mature mid-teen and up but with parental discretion due to language, the examination of extreme racism during this time period and some conversation topics.

LONG TAKE:

Green Book is one of the most delightfully charming movies I’ve seen in a long time. The story is about a New York Copacabana bouncer, Tony Vallelonga, conventionally bigoted for the 1960s, hired as the driver for a brilliant black pianist, Dr. Donald Shirley, for a concert tour through the Deep South.

Based on a true story, Tony Vallelonga was already a part of Hollywood. The real Vallelonga appeared in movies like Goodfellas. His son, Nick, wrote and helped produce this movie based upon interviews with him and Dr. Shirley about this road trip taken when Nick was a little boy.

The title refers to the name of the catalogue the men use as a guide for the places that black people were allowed to go – the hotels, vacation spots, tourist areas, bars, and gas stations where black people could stay without fear of harassment from regional authorities and punitive local ordinances. The title comes from its author, Victor Hugo Green, a New York postman and a black man. The book was published yearly from 1936 until 1966, when Civil Rights Law made it, thankfully, obsolete.

The unlikely pair are wonderful to watch. An entire play could have been made just out of their time in the car together as they exchange observations of the world from their own unique perspectives. Tony is white, tough, with a mediocre education, naive in his own way, and world-wise in others, who lives in a simple small house with his devoted wife and two boys,  living somewhat hand to mouth, between jobs, even willing to engage in a hot dog eating contest for an extra $50 towards the soon-to-be due rent. Shirley also grew up poor, but after being recognized for his gifted playing has become an effete, sheltered, black man residing in an artfully appointed apartment literally above Carnegie Hall. He distances himself from his black heritage in particular and most people in general. Both have much to teach the other.

We get a tour of 1960’s Americana, from the gift stands at the local gas stations to the tough bars, and the “coloreds only” seedy hotels to which Dr. Shirley is relegated because of the color of his skin.

The acting is Oscar-worthy. Mortensen, stepping, chameleon-like into the skin of this gruff and uneducated but likeable and protective bodyguard, is almost unrecognizable in physique, mannerisms or even speech patterns from such previous characters as the seduced professor Halder from Good or the incorruptible hero Aragorn from Lord of the Rings. Along with the accent, the body movements and facial expressions of Vallelonga, which surviving son Nick claimed were so accurate they brought him to tears, Mortensen gained 45 pounds to get into character. Mortensen’s Vallelonga is a three-dimensional character from moment one on the screen throughout. Brutal and thoughtful, principled and amoral, loving father, devoted faithful husband, and violent bouncer, Mortensen creates a completely recognizable person from characteristics which could have lent themselves to a cliched caricature.

Mahershala Ali (small parts in Hidden Figures and Hunger Games) does an excellent job of portraying the stiff and defensive Shirley while incorporating the subtle chinks in his armor through which the unassuming Vallelonga connects. His Shirley is sensitive and subtle with a tough core of dignity, principle, and determined courage.

Linda Cardellini (Daddy’s Home) is lovely as Tony’s devoted wife, Dolores. In real life the Vallelongas were happily married for 41 years until her death in 1999.

In addition there is the fantastic music, and delightful songs played in classical mode by Dr. Shirley. The background soundtrack was written by Karol Bowers whose hands, through the miracle of CGI, physically sub for the gifted Dr. Shirley piano performances. Much effort went into blending Ali’s physical performance with Bowers piano playing prowess and it works very convincingly.

Peter Farrelly, whose credits up until now mostly amounted to questionable  movies such as Three Stooges, Movie 43 and Shallow Hal, has really found his inspiration in this script. Green Book is masterfully crafted – balancing the natural humor that comes from people simply interacting with each other against the tragic drama of abuse, condescension and indignities which black people endured all over the country during the 1960’s. Every detail is complete and period – from the gas station gift stands full of trinkets to the chandeliered restaurants and the florid night clubs.

By all accounts the script details both their trip and their characters very accurately, coalescing experiences described in interviews with both Vallelonga and Shirley. The only liberty taken was that the road trip lasted, not two months, but a year and a half! While taken directly and in detail from real life, the story still serves as an allegory. Vallelonga is an  example of the transformation America was making from the caricature perceptions of minorities to the informed friendships and respect which would soon be crafted, blossom and become commonplace all over the country.

Historically educational, were it not for the rough language, admittedly appropriate to the characters, their occupations, times and places, and one scene depicting a massive character flaw of Shirley, this movie would be family-appropriate. As it is, while I very highly recommend this movie, it is only for midteens and up and even then only upon the discretion of a pre-informed parent. The language is not confined to profanity, but is littered with historically accurate racial epithets often casually included in conversation.

This is a movie both men should be very proud of having made. It touches on very sensitive racial issues from the ’60’s but does so with politically incorrect good natured humor, an acknowledgement of the past with both its virtues and its mistakes, and attention to detail in authenticity which would have made any history professor proud.

With its slice of the past, the inspirational character learning curves, the marvelous music, and the splendid performances, time going to see Green Book is time well spent.

A WRINKLE IN TIME – RE-REVIEW – A GLOWING EXAMPLE OF LIBERAL COMMON NON-SENSE

I have long maintained that liberals in Hollywood were willing to throw money away on financing abyssmal movies if they think it will further whatever agenda they are after: socialism, destruction of the definition of marriage, sexualization of children, artifically inflammed racial divisiveness, atheism. I have had a lot of conversations with people who don't believe me – that they think "Hollywood" will learn their lesson when this or that movie fails.

I hate to disabuse them of the notion that liberals have the slightest bit of common sense but one only needs to read the following article on the deserved thrashing A Wrinkle in Time is getting to understand how far liberals will go: A Wrinkle in Time:…$100 million…Disney…Bomb

In this article you will read quotes by the sneering and smug Ava DuVernay, a stridently vociferous anti-Trump liberal and the director of this $100 million turkey. “I don’t care what anybody thinks about it,” she told the Times. “I know it’s $100 million for the studio. They’ll be fine.” In typical liberalese – she doesn't care that Disney may have just lost $100 million so she could display her little propaganda tantrum – why SHOULD she care? It's not her money she is wasting.

For a more detailed review about the movie in general go to my previous review of this waste of celluloid at: A Wrinkle in Time – Disturbing and Repulsive

I don't feel sorry for Disney. After all they knew what they were getting into when they funded this bomb. But let's be clear about what it is they have done.

Many of the reviewers went right along with Ms. DuVernay's sentiment, bending themselves into pretzels attempting to avoid saying A W.I.T. is a BAD movie:

Marie Claire of the Hollywood Reporter: ’A Wrinkle in Time’ isn’t a great movie, but that’s completely irrelevant.”

Yolanda Machado, a free lance film journalist said, “Because of this film, my daughter will never question that she can be strong.”

The FOX article reads: "One reviewer called it a 'big bold beautiful mess' before praising DuVernay for 'swinging for the fences' with a 'not great' script.'"

Ms. DuVernay CLAIMS she is trying to demonstrate that black women can be shown as strong leaders. This is all a massive load of what Biff Tannen and his relatives kept falling head first into in the Back to the Future movies.

For the purpose of the following points some acquaintance of the original book's story is necessary – check out: Wikipedia Synopsis of: A Wrinkle in Time

First, Meg's race is irrelevant. Storm Reid is terrific as Meg. The only ones who care what race she is are the liberal racists. The story of A Wrinkle in Time depends on a daughter's love for her family and not at all on the race of the family members. As long as the genetics are logical or there is a mention of adoption, the young lady could be Chinese, Hispanic, white, black, Indonesian, Aleusian or any combination. (As in, if two white people have a black baby or two black people have a white baby some mention of adoption would need to be thrown into the script for the sake of practicality.) Meg being black has NOTHING to do with the story one way or the other and I couldn't have cared less. All that is required is acting ability which Ms. Reid has. Meg's race is irrelevant.

Second, the original story HAD a strong female character that everyone followed. At the risk of SPOILERS, in the end, not even Meg's father could go back and save Charles Wallace. ONLY – and I repeat this emphasized emphatically ONLY Meg could or was even allowed by the Mrs. W's to return for her younger brother. Meg was the only one whose love was strong enough. (It was explained that her father had not seen his son in four years and Calvin had only just met him.) Calvin, in the book, followed Meg like a puppy the entire way. He was a strong character in and of himself, but recognized Meg's purpose and inner vigorous soul. What Ms. DuVernay proposed was nothing Madeleine L'Engle had not already put in the original source material. In other words DUVERNAY IS TAKING PLAGERISTIC CREDIT FOR SOMETHING ALREADY IN THE BOOK!

Third, and most importantly, even if what Ms. DuVernay said was true or even believed was true – that she had sought to make a movie which showed a strong black woman in the lead – there was ZERO reason to make the single change which has made this movie such a spectacular BOMB. Ms. DuVernay has stripped the flesh off of the reason the story was written. She deliberately, and I believe with malice, removed every iota of Christianity there was to be found in what is essentially a Christian allegory.

I really didn't care one way or another about The Golden CompassThe Golden Compass was another child's story which was filmed as an anti-religious tome and bombed. The G.C. was written by Philip Pullman, a self-described atheist, as an atheistic yawner and was so filmed, receiving the attention it deserved – earning less than half of its production budget.

But A Wrinkle in Time was created as a CHRISTIAN allegory by a devout CHRISTIAN and DuVernay has gone out of her way to brutalize it. You'd think Disney, if not the agenda-driven Ms. DuVernay, would have exercised more foresight and not dumped quite so much money into a movie which shoves a middle finger in the face of the very demographic who made the source book a children's classic. I mean – from a business P.O.V. alone you'd think they would have filmed it with the intent with which it was written to bring in the moolah from the audience who liked the book in the first place! But, in keeping with longstanding liberal "ethics," as long as it is someone else's money, they do not care if it is thoughtlessly and carelessly fizzled away.

Yes, make the lead child a black girl – make her Tibetan or Hawaiian – who cares one way or the other?  I LOVED Storm Reid as Meg. She brought a fierce intensity to the role as the determined and dogged young lady who devotedly goes to rescue her father in the face of tremendous uncertainities and great evil. It is a tragedy that DuVernay took a great performance and threw it away on her trash fire of New Age proselytizing.

DuVernay is a poster child for my now proven assertion that Hollywood is willing to throw away a fortune to foist their own ungrateful dystopian indoctrination into the very culture that tolerates them the way no other culture would. And until and unless they manage to chokehold us into sponsoring their ideologies through taxation or forced attendance, the movie going public will likely continue to vote with their closed pocketbook.

To sum up – Ms DuVernay is using the race of this lovely child actress as a smoke screen to hide her anti-Christian agenda. And to me this is not just nonsense – it a demonstration of racism, child abuse and religious bigotry. SHAME ON YOU MS. DUVERNAY!!!

THE SHAPE OF WATER – OFFENSIVE ON SOOOO MANY LEVELS

 

SHORT TAKE:

An attempt to "update" The Little Mermaid which is buried in an agenda filled script.

WHO SHOULD GO:

Don't bother.

LONG TAKE:

Rhett Butler, in Gone With the Wind, while talking to Scarlett O’Hara after the death lists are handed out says: “I'm angry. Waste always makes me angry. And that's what all this is, sheer waste.”

And that about sums up my opinion on The Shape of Water. This movie is offensive on so many levels. There was a great idea in there but the film makers were so bent on foisting an agenda upon the audence that they lost track of it.

The premise is clever. It’s the story of Hans Christian Andersen’s Little Mermaid turned on its head. When a “Creature from the Black Lagoon” and a mute cleaning lady named Elisa,  (Sally Hawkins from Paddington Bear), fall in love, she and her friends endeavor to set him free from the facility in which he is being held.

Sounds a bit like Splash but with the genders reversed. But that’s where the similarities end. This is a humorless, angry diatribe against the human race in general and men in particular.

To start with, the only males in the movie who have any redeeming features are Elisa’s homosexual neighbor Giles, (Richard Jenkins – Jack Reacher and White House Down) and Dimitri, (Michael Stuhlbarg – A Simple Man and Dr. Strange), a Russian spy who decides to defy his own country to help Elisa – two men who are outcasts of the society in which they live.

All the other men are evil characters. Elisa’s only other friend is her co-worker, Zelda, (Octavia Spencer). Zelda’s husband, Brewster, (Martin Roach) is a lazy, unappreciative burden, does not protect his wife and betrays her at a crucial moment. Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon – 12 Strong), the scientist who captured the creature from South America is sadistic, domestically abusive, carelessly bigoted and a sexual harrasser who rots – literally – before our very eyes. Even the counterboy, not so much as given a name except for the “Pie Guy,” at the local shop is portrayed as gratuitously evil. A scene in which he gives a startled but gentle rebuff to Giles’ sudden, unexpected and unencouraged sexual advances is immediately linked to an overtly bigoted action towards a black couple who enter his diner – as though to imply if you are heterosexual you must be a bigot. Well, frankly, to my way of thinking this shows the screenwriters, Guillermo del Toro and Vanessa Taylor are both bigoted and racist – to men in general, to heterosexuals in particular and especially, but not exclusicvely, to those who are not minorities.

Minorities are not treated respectfully eiher. Zelda is a caricature of an uneducated black woman who indulges and allows herself to be taken for granted by a husband who will not even defend her when she is threatened.

Giles is also a caricature – an ineffectual, alcoholic unemployable elderly gay artist who yearns for young men and youth, pitiful and cowardly unless led by a strong woman’s presence.

The military is portrayed as heartlessly and unnecessarily cruel, disposing of people like used socks and planning to vivisect a one of a kind creature with abilities and physical attributes that can only be exploited if it is alive. This latter is especially stupid and demonstrates the knee-jerk distain and prejudiced hatred del Toro and Taylor must have for an organization which helps protect our country. I could have understood a plot which wanted to use the creature, to perhaps even put it at risk in order to duplicate its abilities – but to simply and randomly kill it to see what is inside is a juvenile finger in the face to any kind of authority figure and exposes del Toro's —isms which prevent him from writing a good script.

But of course the women are courageous movers and shakers. Zelda, for all her weakness with her husband, is a stalwart companion to Elisa. And Elisa marshalls help from her friends in a daring rescue of the sentient creature who she then hides and has an affair with in her bathtub at home. If this sounds ridiculous and somewhat grotesque – it is.

And if you take any kind of objective look it is hard to determine who is the more evil – Strickland or Elisa. Elisa is a woman who feels isolated – mute from birth, no family, abandoned by a river with gill-shaped scars on her throat, who has a — thing — for her bath water.

After making contact with the creature Elisa goes to Giles to DEMAND – not ask or entreat – his help. She explains that she wants the creature because SHE is lonely, because SHE needs him, and because the creature is alone LIKE her. She does not say she wants to rescue him because he is a sentient creature about to be needlessly killed; not because he is perhaps the last of his kind – both of which would have been far nobler arguments. And, BTW, the only one who does consider these two more valid points is Dimitri the Russian spy.

Her friends must put themselves at risk because SHE wants the creature – leaving aside the answer to the question of what she would do if she fell out of infatuation with him – bring him back to the lab or leave him on the side of the road like an unwanted puppy?

So she coerces Giles into helping him, either not considering or not caring that he could get shot (which he almost does) or put in federal penitentiary for what they are about to do. She then, during the course of this ill-conceived adventure, forces Zelda to help her too. And had Dimitri not popped up and risked his own life to help them the misadventure WOULD have ended up with them all dead or in jail. Never mind the feds would, realistically, have had enough evidence to be on their tail within days – finger prints, the random witness. Instead these same agency members are now portrayed as not only evil but bumbling and come to the conclusion the creature was snatched by 10 specially trained Russian forces instead of two cleaning ladies and a sympathetic scientist. Meanwhile, the security guard who got a good look at Giles and was injected by Dimitri is an ignored casualty. The guard's murder is shrugged off by our "heroes" and Elisa gives it no thought even though it was her fault.

Once in her apartment she puts Giles at further risk by asking him to babysit the creature, who proceeds to eat one of his cats and gash his arm. Even Elisa doesn’t object when Giles forgives the creature on the grounds it is a “wild thing” and doesn’t understand what it did. So they KNOW it is an animal – a sentient one perhaps on the intelligence level of  dolphin, but an animal. Nonetheless, Elisa continues to care for it and eventually uses it as a — tub toy, filling her entire bathroom up to the ceiling with water. This foolish action puts the movie theater above which she lives at serious threat of collapsing. Water drips into the owner’s struggling movie house and shoos away the patrons, and floods the upstairs portion of the building, likely doing serious damage to the business of the owner, a man who has been nothing but kind to her.

At the end when she and the creature escape she leaves her friends behind to explain to police and federal authorities about three dead men – the guard, Strickland, and Dimitri, as well as a conspiratorial break-in and theft of a highly valuable animal. Zelda and Giles will probably go to jail. Thanks Elisa.

Additionally there is gratuitous sexuality and nudity, plus demonstrations of sadistic violence and cruelty especially towards the captive creature. They even take a random stab at blasphemy by declaring the creature a “god” because of his healing powers.

In a horrifying lapse of judgement, for even the jaded and agenda-driven Oscar voters, this is one of the best picture nominees.

To paraphrase a joke about the assassination at Ford’s Theatre – "So, aside from the bigotry, bestiality, blasphemy, brutality, buck nakedness and… misanthrope (an almost completely alliterative list) Mrs. Lincoln, how was the movie?"

To which she could quote Rhett: "sheer waste".

MARSHALL – WELL DONE STEP BACK INTO HISTORY

SHORT TAKE:

Fascinating re-creation of one of Justice Thurgood Marshall's early cases and brilliant home runs for both Chadwick Boseman "Black Panther" (the superhero, not the violent political group) as Marshall and Josh Gad as his reluctant Jewish co-counsel.

LONG TAKE:

When you make a movie about a figure as historically significant as Thurgood Marshall (the first black United States Supreme Court Justice), it is tempting for the filmmakers to want to cover his entire life story. The creators of Marshall, however, wisely and cleverly instead, focus on one of his early cases, The State of Connecticutt vs. Joseph Spell, and use it as a microcosm of Justice Marshall’s life’s work and legal career.

The story which plays out during the course of the movie like an episode of Perry Mason, is the little known but real case of Eleanor Strubing who accused her back chauffeur Joseph Spell of raping, binding, then throwing her in the reservoir. Spell claimed he was innocent.

Chadwick (Black Panther) Boseman steps into the shoes of the young Thurgood Marshall with the self confidence that makes him believable portraying both the man who would eventually be appointed as a Justice to the United States Supreme Court as well as leader of the Black Panther Clan and King of Wakanda in the upcoming Black Panther franchise.

And in a surprise turn Josh (Murder on the Orient Express) Gad hits his second homerun as Sam Friedman, a Jewish lawyer, familiar with being the target of bigotry himself, who normally only did insurance civil cases but was dragged into this controversy magnet legal team with extreme reluctance by the necessity to have a local co-counsel for Marshall, the unwanted and out of state lawyer.

The story examines the bigotry and prejudice in the high society and northern judicial system rampant in Connecticut, which institutional racism was not only aimed at blacks but also towards the tragically frightened Jews of the pre-World War II community who are just beginning to hear the horror stories coming out of Germany.

Kate (Goldie Hawn’s daughter, Nine, Raising Helen, You, Me & Dupree) Hudson plays Eleanor Strubing, the socialite ice queen around whom the turmoil spins. Dan (Beauty and the Beast, Night at the Museum) Stevens is Loren Willis, the aristocratic, well connected prosecuting attorney. And James (Babe, I Robot) Cromwell presides as Judge Foster, a man not a stranger to expressing racism himself.

Gad and Boseman hit all the marks of good chemistry, bringing a comfortable and occasionally humorous friendly-antagonistic buddy movie element to the story, as well as embody the rich history of those who were not respected in the autocratic northern communities. Bonded by the common state of being accomplished men who were nonetheless outcasts, they begin from polar opposite goals – Friedman from a desire initially to keep his head down and not connected to this highly charged case, and Marshall who seeks to frankly use Spell to further the "greater good" goals of the fledgling N.A.A.C.P. Boseman and Friedman inform each other during the course of the movie into operating outside of their normal comfort zones, and the result is a team I would enjoy seeing work together again.

There is much more food for fodder in the life of Justice Marshall and it would be interesting to see it played out if done as well as this first installment.

There are adult themes in Marshall, involving sexuality both visually and discussed, including some graphic but necessary courtroom descriptions. There are demonstrations of institutionalized racism, some profanity and some violence. But the value of the story for older teens and up is well worth the discussions which will inevitably arise from the watching of this movie, especially between parents and children.

Suburbicon: Clooney sinks a Coen comedy

SHORT TAKE: Clooney’s failed attempt to walk in the shoes of the Coen brothers, Suburbicon is supposed to be a noir comedy in the line of Fargo but sinks under the heavy handed weight of Clooney’s attempt to be socially relevant.

LONG TAKE: Years ago the Coen brothers wrote a darkly comic script about a quiet average suburban family who descends slowly and inexorably into evil and ultimately madness beginning with one bad decision. That script lay fallow until George Clooney – alumni of multiple Coen films, including two of my favorites –

Hail, Caeser! and o brotherO Brother, Where Art Thou? – decided to film it.

BEYOND HERE BE SPOILERS:

The premise of the main story deals with the disintegration of a family subsequent to a robbery which results in the death of the paraplegic mom, Rose (Julianna Moore). As the story unfolds, like the gradual rotting of a supporting beam to a house, the unnatural complacency of the husband, Gardner Lodge (Matt Damon) during the break in, the displays of grief amongst his friends and family that he obviously does not share, the quick injection of the twin sister Margaret (also Julianna Moore) into the mother’s place all begin to develop the smell of what Big Daddy from Tennessee William’s Cat on a Hot Tin Roof might have referred to as “mendacity”. gardner and margaretThat is – the husband and the deceased wife’s sister are lying and definitely up to no good. Much of this growing tragedy is seen through the eyes of their 12 year old boy Nicky (Noah Jupe).

What struck me about the machinations of Gardner was the “Banality of Evil” – a phrase coined by Hannah Arendt – the ease with which otherwise ordinary decent men can be lured into committing great evil.

At its best moments, Suburbicon reminded me of the movie Good – starring Viggo “Aragorn” Mortensen and Jason “Lucius Malfoy” Isaacs. Good is about a decent ordinary man named John Halder (Mortensen) who is slowly lured, one simple, poorly chosen decision at a time, into having his mother euthanized, betraying his best friend and family to hideous deaths, and becoming a functionary of the Nazi party, ending in the weight of his guilt pushing him into madness. Good is a tragic tale of the noble man whose flaw of stunning self-interest destroys him and everyone around him. Good is a fascinating movie heartbreakingly told with complexity and depth of purpose. But – at the deliberate risk of being punny – Suburbicon is NOT Good.

There is an especially telling scene in Suburbicon where Lodge calls his son, Nicky, into his office. Nicky, by witness of a number of incriminating events subsequent to his mother’s murder, has already inferred his father and aunt’s complicity. Aside from the terrible vulnerability a child would feel, he has been betrayed by his father in the most fundamental of ways. intimidatingHis father has not only failed to protect their family but he has opened the door to permit evil and chaos wreck their will upon their home. carSo driven is Lodge by his own mortally self-indulgent passions, that he has tried very little to even pretend sympathy or connection with his son throughout this ordeal. Knowing his son’s suspicions Lodge enters the bathroom where Nicky is bathing – metaphorically and physically vulnerable – to cajole then berate Nicky into agreeing that what he knows – he does NOT know. Then in a later scene he lectures his son on his failings, rationalizing the boy’s grief and suspicions on being undisciplined and coddled by his dead mother.  Lodge’s thinly veiled justifications for his own abominable deeds reek of the casual self justifications offered by the Nazis at Nuremberg.

This is as dark a story as one might tell and in the hands of the Coen brothers who directed equally dark themed topics like Fargo through the medium of humor they become multilayered stories which make you wiser for having watched them. But wherein the Coens guide their films through those grim forests with the lightening lantern of humor, Clooney takes himself too seriously and drives the Coen scripted screenplay to murky depths. The trailers advertise a black comedy. What we get is a noir which attempts and fails humor like someone who uses a hand buzzer in a funeral line.

To underscore Clooney’s heavy handedness he adds to the Coen script a clunky grafting of the real life incident of the Myers family in Bush, Pennsylvania in 1957, wherein a black family’s entrance into an otherwise white suburban community results in two weeks of harrassment culminating in a neighborhood riot. Clooney is too intent on castigating the memory of early white suburbia as uniformly viciously racist based upon a single isolated incident, rather than craft the Aesop-like Coen tale to which we are used.

There is some small merit to the historical event’s inclusion to the Coen brother’s film as a macrocosm of chaos, as it were, to the microcosm of the family’s disintegration. In addition, as a clunky plot point, the riots act as a convenient McGuffin to explain why the neighbors don’t notice the insanity unfolding in the Lodge’s home. But Clooney cannot resist the urge to overlay his own obvious disdain and suspicion of middle class America upon the story all the while in an act of hypocrisy more wryly amusing than the movie, patronizingly presents the beseiged black family not as individuals but as de-personalized racial symbols. Neither adult has a first name and the father does not even have any lines. The only personality given to the black family is through their son Andy and only then through his friendship with the white Nicky Lodge child next door.

Samuel Goldwyn once famously said to an idealistic screenwriter with visions of teaching the public a socially meaningful lesson: “If you want to send a message, call Western Union.” Clooney would have been wise to heed that advice.

Hopefully Clooney will learn, if he directs any movies in the future, from the admonition that Edmund Kean allegedly gave upon his death bed: “Dying is easy, comedy is hard.”

As a side note – if anyone was wondering – I looked for a connection to Satyricon – the story whose obvious title similarity screams for comparison – and really couldn’t find much – aside from the fact Satyricon in all of its manifestations from Roman literature to Fellini – were just bawdy house sensualities with about as much deep meaning as your average porno film. I suppose it is possible the title was simply intended as a warning that this story might start out as an innocent  look at suburban life in the 50’s but will become an excuse to roll around in undiluted profane sexuality and raw graphic violence and bloodshed.