Nominated for Best Documentary Short this year at the Academy Awards, ‘The White Helmets’ takes the audience (especially in America) a front row seat to a place we hear about daily on the news but don’t actually experience.
The White Helmets are a voluntary rescue group in Syria who go into the heart of the war zones and attempt to save as many lives as possible, without asking which side they were fighting on. The film follows the group as they save lives, while also following them to Turkey where they train (both physically and psychologically) for what they’re destined to see.
If you’re reading this, you most likely are aware that the filmmakers and the White Helmets themselves are not allowed into this country (and thus will not be at the Oscars, win or lose. However you feel about that, you should take 40 minutes out of your day or night and appreciate what these guys are doing.
Now streaming on Netflix.
I came to the realization a few days ago that most likely for the rest of my life, a major aspect of my private life will no longer be private. And in the short term it’s shaping national security for the worst.
If that’s the way it is, fine. But I’m going to be a lot more active in controlling the narrative. So as much as I like entertaining purely for entertainment’s sake, I’ve started screenwriting again very very specifically to my voice.
Got in the car this morning and this was first song that came through the jazz station.
So, I still don’t really have the words. I’m physically drained to say nothing of my emotions. It’s been a weekend spent touching base with my people so we can vent to each other. I’m genuinely thankful to the friends who texted and DM’d to make sure my head was still on straight (you know who you are).
I know how many of you could choose to stay silent or look the other way but choose to voice your dissatisfaction or anger when it doesn’t effect you so directly. If there’s one Muslim teaching I try to define my life by, it’s ‘You have not worshipped perfectly until you want for your brother what you want for yourself.’ I think I saw it on Amy Schumer’s Instagram, but my favorite sign from the airports said, ‘They came for the Muslims and we said Not Today Motherfucker!’ So whether you’re physically at the airports or you have another way of letting them no, ‘We won’t stand for this’, I thank you.
I still don’t really have humor in me so we start this week with brother from another mother, Mahershala Ali. Won the SAG Award for Best Supporting Actor, gave this speech.
It’s the weekend!
The news is consistently…jarring to put it nicely.
But personally I’ve gotten used to a certain type of peace and have no complaints.
So I greet you this weekend with one of my favorite covers of my theme song.
To you, he will probably always be Aragorn from ‘Lord of the Rings’. To me, he’s always Lalin, the pretty boy pimp snitch from ‘Carlito’s Way’. Either way, Viggo Mortensen has built a hell of a career, and ‘Captain Fantastic’ is a worthy Oscar nomination for a solid character actor who’s good looking enough to jump to leading man status in the right films.
A ‘Wes Anderson film’ in a year where we didn’t actually get a Wes Anderson film, Viggo plays the hippie patriarch of a free spirited family, raising six kids outside the standards and norms of society. But when his wife dies, Ben (Viggo) treks his family out of the forest and back to civilization to attend their mother’s funeral. Against the explicit wishes of his father in law (a great Frank Langella). Missi Pyle, Kathryn Hahn, and Steve Zahn round out a murderer’s row of an indie film class.
Funny, quirky, sad and thoughtful; this was more than I thought it would be and a fun watch. Recommend.
First, an editor’s note: for those of you who come for my thoughts on the prestige pics, I went back this morning and tagged ‘oscars 2017’ on all the nominated movies I’ve seen to this point. You click that tag to the right and you can go back and see what I thought on most of the films. As usual, a handful of surprises I haven’t gotten to yet, probably will at some point over the next month.
Now, as for today: my timelines, my playlists are all New Edition. And I’m not mad about it. Hearing this today reminded me how much of a great ballad this was. You’ll probably feel the same.
Based on the best selling novel, the industry was stunned when Emily Blunt got a SAG Award nomination for ‘The Girl on the Train.’ The question is, is it better than some of the other ‘high profile’ performances that will likely get an Oscar nom in the morning?
‘Better’ is relative obviously, but as far as popcorn movies go, it’s not a bad lead performance. The story (in short) is a woman (Blunt) prone to blackout binge drinking rides the train everyday past her old home. Her husband still lives there with his second wife and their baby. When their nanny turns up dead, all hell breaks loose.
The story is a little soapy for my taste, but the cast is solid and is filled with enough likable actresses in supporting roles (Alison Janney, Lisa Kudrow, Haley Bennett continuing to make us double take and ask, wait is that Jennifer Lawrence?)
Again, it’s not a prestige pic, but it’s exactly what you think it is, like most popcorn pics.
This has been a weekend.
Saturday: how can you not be impressed? I know men and women who marched in DC, I know men and women who marched in L.A. I don’t think it’s remotely coincidental these are the same people who have my back when I drop the comedy and speak with passion about my racial or religious identities. The best compliment I can give is the truest; I was going to privately message everyone I saw on the streets, but I would literally still be sending my praise and support out 24 hours later. You guys all did well. Now on to the next phase…
Sunday: I was writing something completely political this morning when I got the news Yordano Ventura died in a car accident. Forget sports for a minute, 25 is just an extremely young age to die. Prayers to his family, the Royals organization and the Dominican Republic (as Ventura wasn’t the only native ballplayer who died today).
So the wind was taken out of my ‘Sunday post’ sails pretty early. We’ll start this week with some comedy. My Hollywood twin Aziz Ansari hosted SNL this weekend and no surprise he did well. Oscar nominations are announced Tuesday morning; this one definitely got some chuckles out of me.
We ended up talking about Ciara last weekend because of the playoffs, thus today’s song.
Lot of choices, but…for the sake of the children, let’s go with the safest one.
Have a good weekend gang!
Sometimes, you need to see something to realize how obvious it should have been. Of course if you wanted to do a fresh take on the Kennedy assassination, you should do it from Jackie’s point of view. Of course, if you want an A-list actress who can play glamorous, fragile, and upper class in one stroke, who else but Natalie Portman?
So on paper, ‘Jackie’ was already a great idea; the execution of the idea pretty much comes through. Portman is aces as the First Lady; she nails the light, finishing school accent that was part of the public’s image of the future Mrs. Onassis. This is the story of the film as well: immediately after the assassination, Jackie Kennedy tosses back every suggestion, some genuine, some condescending, to ‘take her children and disappear’. At least not until she plays a major role in assuring her husband’s (fairly short) time as President of the United States goes down in history.
Portman and the screenplay both do an excellent job of reminding us: this woman had to be under an extraordinary amount of stress. She was sitting right next to her husband when his head is literally blown off; she’s suddenly a single mother of two very young children, and by the way she happens to be one of the most famous women in the world.
‘Jackie’ is a really powerful film, and my gut says it’s Portman’s best overall performance. Worthy of its spot in the awards season conversation.