Guess Who’s Coming Home to the Snake Pit? OJ.

 

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967)

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967)

Joanna Drayton comes home unexpectedly to announce to her parents, publisher Matt (Spencer Tracy) and art gallery owner Christina (Katharine Hepburn) she’s getting married to John (Syndey Poitier). Joanna’s progressive parents have taught her race shouldn’t be a determinate in how you treat other people, but their theoretical posturing is put to the test when they realize their little girl is going to marry a black man.

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“That’ll never happen” — a look back at 2016

In 2016:

The World Health Organization announced the outbreak of the Zika virus;

The United Kingdom voted in a nationwide referendum to leave the European Union;

The Olympics were held in Rio de Janeiro;

The website www.abevigoda.com changed its status;

Donald Trump was elected President of the United States of America;

The Denver Broncos defeated the Carolina Panthers in Superbowl 50;

Peyton Manning retired from professional football;

The Cleveland Indians overcame a 3 game to 1 deficit to defeat the Golden State Warriors and capture their first NBA Championship;

The Chicago Cubs battled back from a 3 game to 1 deficit to defeat the Cleveland Indians in the World Series, ending a 108 year drought;

Four films grossed over $1 billion: Captain America: Civil War; Rogue One: A Star Wars StoryFinding Dory; and Zootopia;

The Big Bang Theory aired its 200th episode while The Simpsons aired its 600th episode;

American Idol aired its final episode;

Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize in Literature;

The Powerball lottery prize surpassed $1 billion for the first time;

Uptown Funk” won the Grammy for Record of the Year;

President Obama became the first US president to visit Cuba since 1928;

Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan retired from professional basketball;

Hamilton won the Tony Award for Best Musical;

The US Treasury Department announced Harriet Tubman would replace Andrew Jackson on the $20;

Former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert was sentenced to 15 months in prison for paying “hush” money to victims he had sexually abused;

Ringling Bros, and Barnum and Bailey Circus ceased featuring elephants during their live shows;

Hillary Clinton’s use of private e-mail to conduct State Department business while she was Secretary of State became a major scandal;

President Obama became the first US President to visit Hiroshima;

Thirty five years after he attempted to assassinate Ronald Reagan, John Hinckley Jr. was released from institutional psychiatric care;

Game of Thrones won the Emmy for Best Drama while fellow HBO program Veep won the Emmy for Best Comedy;

A 2005 video of candidate Donald Trump making lewd comments about women was released;

David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Glenn Frey, Antonin Scalia, Boutrous Boutros-Ghali, Umberto Eco, Harper Lee, George Kennedy, Nancy Reagan, George Martin, Larry Drake, Keith Emerson, Garry Shandling, Patty Duke, Merle Haggard, Doris Roberts, Chyna, Prince, Muhammad Ali, Kimbo Slice, Peter Schaffer, Gordie Howe, Anton Yelchin, Pat Summitt, Michael Cimino, Elie Wiesel, Abbas Kiarostami, Hector Babenco, Garry Marshall, Marni Nixon, Tim LaHaye, David Huddleston, Kenny Baker, Fyvush Finkel, Arthur Hiller, Mr. Fuji, Gene Wilder, Jon Polito, Phyllis Schlafly, Edward Albee, Curtis Hanson, Arnold Palmer, Shimon Peres, Andrzej Wajda, Dario Fo, Leonard Cohen, Janet Reno, Robert Vaughn, Florence Henderson, Fidel Castro, Ron Glass, John Glenn, Alan Thicke, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Richard Adams, Carrie Fisher, and Debbie Reynolds died.

These are my top ten films released in 2015:

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Best of the 2010s

Incendies (2010)

Incendies (2010)

When Nawal Marwan dies, she leaves instructions for her twin children, Jeanne and Simon, to find their father and half-brother.

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A look back at 3172, Year of Our Lady of Discord*, a look back at 2006

*3172 in the Discordian calendar was 2006 in the Gregorian calendar.

In 2006,

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf became the first female elected head of state of an African nation;

NASA launched the New Horizons spacecraft;

The Winter Olympics were held in Turin, Italy;

Twitter launched;

The Human Genome Project published the last chromosome sequence;

Montenegro became an independent nation;

Paul McCartney, who wrote “When I’m Sixty-Four” when was sixteen years old, turned sixty-four;

Pluto was reclassified as a dwarf planet;

Ban Ki-moon was elected as the 8th Secretary-General of the United Nations;

The United States population passed 300 million people;

No. 5, 1948 by Jackson Pollock was sold for $140 million, becoming the most expensive painting at the time;

Saddam Hussein was sentenced to death and executed;

Al Jazeera launched an English language version of its news channel;

Monday Night Football moved to ESPN after 35 season on ABC;

Big Love, The New Adventures of Old ChristineHannah MontanaMickey Mouse ClubhouseThe HillsCelebrity DeathmatchPsychRachel RayHeroesUgly BettyDexterFriday Night Lights, and 30 Rock debuted on American television;

Malcolm in the MiddleThe West WingThat 70s ShowWill & Grace, Charmed, and Alias aired their final episodes;

While Lou Rawls, Shelley Winters, Wilson Pickett, Chris Penn, Coretta Scott King, Betty Friedan, Don Knotts, Darren McGavin, Kirby Puckett, Maureen Stapleton, Buck Owens, Caspar Weinberger, Stanislaw Lem, Earl Woods, Floyd Patterson, Lloyd Bentsen, Billy Preston, Aaron Spelling, Kenneth Lay, Syd Barrett, Red Buttons, Mickey Spillane, Jack Warden, Mike Douglas, Steve Irwin, Byron Nelson, Jane Wyatt, Red Auerbach, William Styron, Adrienne Shelly, Jack Palance, Milton Friedman, Bo Schembechler, Robert Altman, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Augusto Pinochet, Peter Boyle, Joseph Barbera, James Brown, and Gerald Ford died.

The following is a list of my ten favorite films released in 2006:

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Ex Best Enemies

Best of Enemies (2015)

Best of Enemies (2015)

During the 1968 Republican and Democratic National conventions, floundering ABC news shook things up, hiring conservative intellectual William F. Buckley Jr. and liberal intellectual Gore Vidal to debate the issues.

The “debate” quickly became personal and heated, culminating in an ugly exchange where Vidal called Buckley a “crypto-Nazi” and Buckley responded by calling Vidal a “queer” and threatened to assault him.

This is fascinating because the two men profiled are fascinating. The personal animosity and rage were unheard of in 1968, but have since sadly become commonplace; their confrontational rivalry is the template for today’s nightly cable news channels.

Their hatred for each other did not subside with the conclusion of the program. Each man wrote an inflammatory article recounting the experience which led to a protracted legal process alleging libel and slander. Their enmity lasted for the next forty years: when Buckley passed away in 2008, Vidal wrote he hoped Bill was enjoying his time in hell.

The film uses archival footage to recreate the intensity of their time together, as well as personal written material of the two principles, with Kelsey Grammer reading as Buckley while John Lithgow stands in for Vidal.

I love politics, and I love arguments, and I especially love eclectic characters. This is a great movie about an important turning point in our political discourse.

Ex Machina (2015)

Ex Machina (2015)

Using data mined from his work as CEO of Bluebook (the world’s largest search engine), Nathan Bateman (Oscar Isaac) has built Ava (Alicia Vikander), a humanoid robot with a sophisticated AI. He invites programmer Caleb Smith (Domhnall Gleeson) to test his creation.

Isaac has, over the past half decade, established himself as one of the most electrifying, diverse actors in Hollywood. One of the most memorable scenes from any film in 2015 is his bizarre dance sequence with his maid.

2015 was a breakout year for Gleeson. The Revenant, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Brooklyn. His resume for the year rivals what many actors achieve in a career.

While the male leads are great, the star of this movie is Vikander. Most of the film, she exists as a disembodied face, but still makes us believe in her pain and suffering.

This fantastic essay on what it means to be human serves as a counterpoint to Spike Jonzes’s wonderful film Her (2013), and is destined to join the pantheon of sci-fi classics dealing with expanding notions of humanity.

Lady Day to Hunt Mustangs

The Hunting Ground

The Hunting Ground (2015)

This film indicts America’s colleges and universities as a hotbed for sexual predators and “rape culture.” I’m not inclined to be an alarmist, and I believe in the presumption of innocence, but it makes a compelling argument. There is a problem brewing in American universities.

However, the problem of collegiate indifference to sexual misconduct is only one symptom of a much larger issue. Colleges and universities in the United States are money making juggernauts. They cover up sexual assaults because of possible ramifications to their bottom line. Wealthy students from wealthy families who provide big donor checks get preferential treatment. Florida State doesn’t treat Jameis Winston like other college students, because most college students don’t make their university tens of millions of dollars.

We bemoan the influence of big money in politics, we complain about the explosive growth of student loan debt, but nobody investigates the obscene budgets of our most prestigious schools. Money has corrupted our post-secondary educational system which now routinely uses capital campaigns and endowment drives as the primary benchmark to determine their value. A successful college president is worried more about the bottom line than the school’s educational mission.

Mustang

Mustang (2015)

Five Turkish sisters struggle to find fulfillment in a patriarchal society. They’re not allowed physical contact with boys or to leave their home. They’re expected to be domestic servants until they’re old enough to marry.

Inspired by a former teacher, the youngest sister, Lale leads the others on several unorthodox adventures including a surreptitious trip to a forbidden soccer game.

The two oldest sisters are married. One happily to her lover, the other to an ill-suited stranger. The third sister, unable to cope with her uncle’s lecherous advances, commits suicide. At the fourth sister’s wedding, the indomitable Lale convinces her to runaway to Istanbul and reunite with their former teacher.

This harrowing film forces us to confront the harsh realities of life in the middle East and other places of the world where women are treated as property. It’s a beautiful statement about the power of the human spirit to overcome seemingly insurmountable difficulties.

While we’re obsessed with the gender politics of celebrity tweets, there are real young women like Lale struggling with issues larger than the implication of Taylor Swift’s new haircut. This film chastens us to not get so lost in the rabbit hole of western feminism we forget the people left behind in its wake.

Last Day of Freedom

Last Day of Freedom (2015)

Years after he returned from US military service in Vietnam, Manny Babbitt killed 78 year old Leah Schneidel. He was convicted for the crime and, after a lengthy appeal process, executed in 1999.

The year before his death, he controversially received the Purple Heart.

No one denies he killed Schneidel, as his brother, Bill Babbitt, narrates the circumstances of the murder, it’s clear Manny suffered from severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder stemming from his experiences in Vietnam.

This short film is a chilling indictment of the way we treat mental illness and the cruel ways we treat our veterans who sacrifice their lives and well-being to protect us, but return to apathy and indifference.

Scientology and the Life and Death of Chicago

Chi-Raq

Chi-Raq (2015)

In an inspired creative decision, Spike Lee updated a Classical Greek comedy (Aristophanes’s Lysistrata) to the current climate of Chicago.

In Aristophanes’s original play, the women of of Greece withheld sex as punishment for fighting in the Peloponnesian War. In Lee’s update, Lysistrata pledges to refrain from sex with her boyfriend until there’s a peaceful resolution between rival gangs.

With this film, Lee reminds us of the pliability of art. A play first performed over 2400 years ago, still contains enough truth to speak to present day situations. This is humbling, comparable to people finding inspiration in Blade Runner in 4500 AD.

Despite its explosive subject matter, the movie largely avoids racial politics which makes the film more poignant and accessible.

The cast, featuring Samuel L. Jackson, Nick Cannon, Wesley Snipes, Jennifer Hudson, Angela Bassett, Dave Chapelle, Isiah Whitlock Jr., and John Cusack is uniformly excellent, making Lee’s first musical one of his best films in years.

The Jinx (2015)

The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst (2015)

In 2010, Andrew Jarecki directed All Good Things, a film about multimillionaire Robert Durst and his alleged involvement in the disappearance of his wife.

After Durst saw the film, he was so impressed he agreed to let Jarecki interview him. These interviews, along with interviews Jarecki conducted as background for the previous film resulted in this documentary.

During the trial for his murder of a New Orleans man, Durst admitted to cutting the man into pieces and dumping the body into the water, but claimed it was self-defense. To the astonishment of many watching the case, he was acquitted.

At the end of this chilling documentary, Jarecki confronts Durst with damning evidence linking him to another murder. A visibly frustrated Durst goes to the restroom and (unaware his microphone is still recording) appears to admit to killing several people.

Everyone who watched this fascinating look at the special protection afforded the wealthy will instantly elevate the frail, elderly, constantly blinking Durst into their pantheon of scariest people in the world.

Going Clear (2015)

Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief (2015)

Documentarian Alex Gibney traces the life of L. Ron Hubbard and his founding of the Church of Scientology, then explores criticisms of the sect and its current leader David Miscavige.

Beyond the usual claims of indoctrination and brainwashing, this film alleges physical abuse and imprisonment for those daring to expose questionable church practices or question its leadership.

Gibney depicts an organization willing to bully and intimidate any former members who speak publicly about their experiences.

Exposing the ways religion has been used and manipulated for the personal gain of a selected few, this film is a must see for anyone interested in a serious discussion of the role of faith in 21st century America.

While the twenties roared, the films were silent: a look back at the films of 1925

In 1925:

Nellie Tayloe Ross became the governor of Wyoming, the first female governor in the United States,

The New Yorker was first published,

Calvin Coolidge was inaugurated as US President,

Tennessee passed the Butler Act, which prohibited the teaching of evolution in the state’s public schools which led directly to the Scopes Trial,

F. Scott Fitzgerald published The Great Gatsby,

The Butcher of Hanover was beheaded,

Percy and Florence Arrowsmith were married,

The Chrysler corporation was founded,

Adolf Hitler published volume one of Mein Kampf,

Meher Baba began a 44 year self-imposed silence,

40,000 people attended a Ku Klux Klan rally in Washington D.C.,

Mount Rushmore was dedicated,

The first Surrealist art exhibition opened in Paris,

The Grand Ole Opry debuted,

New York City passed London to become the most populous city in the world,

and John DeLorean, Lee Van Cleef, Paul Newman, Dorothy Malone, Elaine Stritch, Jack Lemmon, Hal Holbrook, George Kennedy, Robert Altman, Sam Peckinpah, Flannery O’Connor, Rod Steiger, Yogi Berra, Malcolm X, Pol Pot, Tony Curtis, Barbara Bush, William Styron, Maureen Stapleton, Audie Murphy, Farley Granger, Medgar Evers, Merv Griffin, Bill Haley, Mike Douglas, Donald O’Connor, Peter Sellers, Mel Tormé, B.B. King, Elmore Leonard, Margaret Thatcher, Lenny Bruce, Angela Lansbury, Johnny Carson, Richard Burton, Doris Roberts, Jonathan Winters, Rock Hudson, Robert F. Kennedy, William F. Buckley Jr., Julie Harris, Sammy Davis Jr., and Dick Van Dyke were born.

The following is a list of my top ten films released in 1925:

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Before Elvis and his gyrating hips ruined everything, a look back at 1955

In 1955:

Marian Anderson became the first African-American to perform at the Metropolitan Opera,

The USS Nautilus, the world’s first nuclear-powered submarine, launched,

60,000 non-white residents of Sophiatown were evicted as a result of the South African policy of apartheid,

The short-lived Baghdad Pact was signed,

US President Dwight Eisenhower sent the first US advisors to Vietnam which would eventually lead to US involvement in the Vietnam War,

Jim Henson built the first version of Kermit the Frog,

Claudette Colvin and Rosa Parks were arrested in Montgomery, Alabama for refusing to abide by laws regarding segregation of the city’s buses.

The Broadway musical adaptation of Peter Pan debuted on American television,

6,000 people rioted in Montreal to protest the suspension of the Canadiens star player, Maurice Richard,

Eighty year old Winston Churchill resigned his second term as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom,

Richard J. Daley won his fist election as Mayor of Chicago, a position he held for the next 21 years,

The  Salk polio vaccine was approved by the Food and Drug Administration,

Ray Kroc opened the first McDonald’s,

The $64,000 QuestionGunsmokeAlfred Hitchcock PresentsThe Mickey Mouse ClubThe Honeymooners, and Captain Kangaroo debuted on American television.

Ruth Ellis was the last woman executed in the United Kingdom,

Disneyland opened,

Hurricane Diane struck the northeastern US, causing over one billion dollars in damage,

The first edition of the The Guinness Book of Records was published,

Argentinian President Juan Peron was ousted in a coup,

James Dean was killed in a car accident,

Emmett Till was murdered,

Lady and the Tramp premiered,

Vladimir Nabokov’s controversial novel, Lolita, was published,

The world’s population was 2.7 billion people,

Rowan Atkinson, J.K. Simmons, Kevin Costner, Eddie Van Halen, US Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, John Grisham, Greg Norman, Kelsey Grammer, Jeff Daniels, Steve Jobs, Penn Jillette, Gary Sinise, Bruce Willis, Moses Malone, Reba McEntire, Earl Campbell, Brendan Gleeson, Michael Rooker, Barbara Kingsolver, Dodi Fayed, Judy Davis, Kate Mulgrew, Donatella Versace, Tom Bergeron, Chris Berman, Mark David Chapman, Jack Morris, Debra Winger, Bill Paxton, Chow Yun-Fat, Dana Carvey, Sandra Bernhard, Tim Berners-Lee, Laurie Metcalf, Jimmy Smits, Willem Dafoe, Iman, Billy Bob Thornton, Wayne Knight, Peter Gallagher, Mike Huckabee, Yo-Yo Ma, Darrell Hammond, Bill Gates, Maria Shriver, Roland Emmerich, Whoopi Goldberg, Bill Nye, Howie Mandel, Billy Idol, and Jane Kaczmarek were born,

While  John Mott, Sir Alexander Fleming, Charlie Parker, Albert Einstein, Cordell Hull, Wallace Stevens, Carmen Miranda, Cy Young, Dale Carnegie, Shemp Howard, and Honus Wagner died.

The following is a list of my ten favorite films released in 1955.

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A visit with the master

Bergman's Island

Bergman’s Island (2004)

Few directors consistently speak to me as deeply as Ingmar Bergman.

In this fascinating documentary, Marie Nyeröd visits the famed director at his home on the small Swedish island of Fårö to discuss his process, his most famous films, and his notorious relationships with women.

This is the equivalent of an interview with an aging, wistful Picasso or da Vinci, a master artist looking back and enlightening us once again.