April 19th, 2021

US vs John Lennon:   It seems that lately I have been watching films surrounding the same period of time in the late 1960s and early 1970s.  From Trial of the Chicago 7, around the Democratic National Convention to this movie and then later Judas and the Black Messiah.  All focus on a government with Richard Nixon and J Edgar Hoover in the FBI who believe that those who hold contrary opinions to them are the “enemy”.  Their view was skewed towards a law and order stance with an underlying view that the war in Viet Nam was needed and just to protect American interests from the Soviets. 
With that backdrop, there is the famous peace-loving Beatle John Lennon who is seeking an end to violence.   He and his wife Yoko Ono are doing protests in the form of “sleep ins” in hotels.   The powers in the government are watching him closely and his associations.   For those who have seen Imagine: John Lennon and other Beatle documentaries, not many of the clips will be new to you.   I learned about the US Immigration sending letters to Lennon that he would need to leave NYC because he visa was not renewed.   This went on time and again.  Further I learned of his court case against the government.   I also did not know about his associations with prominent peace lovers like Abbie Hoffman and the leader of the Black Panthers.   In the end Mark David Chapman did was the US government couldn’t do to silence this most public figure.   I learned a couple of things, like G Gordon Liddy will always blindly lead whoever pays him and believe in their rhetoric.   This was an interesting watch but not deeply memorable.   I think history has shown 50 years later who the heroes and the villains were in these circumstances. In the end, a government with an immoral leader, or at least with a misinterpretation of his role and why they are in their position, can infringe upon the rights of the public at large to a disturbing degree.

Judas and the Black Messiah: This was the final Best Picture nominee film that I needed to see for the upcoming Oscars. The setting is late 1960s with the leader of the Black Panthers in Chicago as mentioned. Fred Hampton, played remarkably by Daniel Kaluuya (from Get Out in 2017 and Black Panther in 2018) is the new leader of the Black Panthers and he is looking to unit the gangs and leaders in Chicago. He is well-spoken, educated and passionate. He influences and convinces those around him. He makes speeches and engages with the people. With that backdrop, there is a young man, Bill O’Neal, who is caught doing a very stupid crime, in which he becomes a pawn for an overly zealous police officer. The police want an informant inside the Black Panther organization, including the top brass of the FBI, and they continue to twist harder against this young man. The story details all of these interactions and once again emphasizing a strange time in the US. A time of a great divide. War vs Peace. Black vs White. Republican vs Democrat. Law and Order vs Civil Rights. This was a very compelling story. It has nothing directly to do with religion despite the title. Good performances all around. A well deserved nomination for Best Supporting Actor. In the end, I am not sure who in a less than stellar year will be the Best Picture. These are not, as Bill Mahar pointed out, uplifting films. A movie like Mank is a Hollywood and Academy pick for those who make movies, but it isn’t enjoyable. None of them are really enjoyable. There are good performances. They aren’t movies you hit down with a bag of popcorn and feel entertained. You appreciate talent and good acting. But you don’t smile when you are done. In the end I don’t think the ratings for this year’s awards can be very good.

Godzilla vs Kong: As a kid I used to watch Creature Feature week on Buffalo Channel 29. In this week you saw each weekday after school fighting creatures like Mothra, Godzilla, etc. At the end of the week, Kong fought Godzilla in the campiest of films which looked mostly like two guys in suits fighting on a train set. After Kong: Skull Island this remake was inevitable. Is it ridiculous? Of course it is! Is there impressive CGI in it? Yes, of course. There are some good fights. Do I believe that Kong would fight with a weapon, or even understand how to use it? No. And what about the ability in this film for a form of communication with Kong? It is actually quite laughable as much as it is ridiculous. But never mind all of that. Was it fun? Sure. It brought some escapism in a troubling time with rising Covid-19 cases and more lockdown measures. I laughed probably more than anything. But that is something. Do you need to have watched the earlier Godzilla films to watch this? No. Not at all. Millie Bobby Brown returns from the Godzilla movie as does Kyle Chandler. Neither does a great deal. Is the resolution predictable? For those who understand that this is not the end of the series, and money keeps stories to remain alive, then you can figure out what will occur here. How they get there isn’t nearly as predictable but it doesn’t really matter. This is mind candy. Enjoy it for what it is, if this is a genre that you enjoy.