Jordan vs. Coogler

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Spike and Denzel? Singleton and Fishburne? I don’t know if these pairing comparisons can be made, just yet. Both Ryan Coogler and Michael B. Jordan are still young craftsmen in the film industry, but maybe that proves the point. Their work together on Fruitvale Station and now this Rocky spin-off shows their relationship has moved beyond simply budding and become officially the stuff of movie magic.

Creed is a very well made movie. Simple as that. Without spoiling too much (though perhaps some spoilage) I’ve seen all of the other Rocky movies. And I saw them as they were released, not because of a Spike TV marathon that’s on because Creed is currently in theaters. This new installment has all the staples of any Rocky or sports movie: training scenes with motivating scores, tender moments of loss and overcoming life obstacles, fights outside the ring as well as within, and even a chicken-chasing scene. I found myself with only three legitimate nit picks about the film, but I’d rather talk about the scene that stood out most to me: the jail scene.

The title character, Adonis, reaches that point in every film where a lie is revealed and there is an irrational, emotional reaction that leaves our severely six-packed protagonist at his rock bottom. No trainer, no guidance, no love interest–no access to anything he needs to be the best him. This movie is about creating an identity and when Adonis is suddenly derailed from that journey, he lashes out. At everyone. He sits in jail, as if a caged animal. Stallone’s Balboa comes to talk some sense into Adonis, but he’s not hearing it. Jordan’s ability to move through a scene showing reflection, anger, sadness, vulnerability, and closed-off-ness is an astounding acting feat in and of itself–but in a boxing movie? Million Dollar Baby is the only other flick I can think of that has great talents who generate a similar emotional response for viewers. Coogler gets a few similar scenes from Jordan in Fruitvale, ironically, also in a jail scene with the character Oscar’s mother who is appalled to see the kind of person her baby can be, but it’s his survival self. A self generated by street life. The same goes for Adonis. He starts in the streets and–though he does find consistency and love from his father’s widow–he harbors a deeply-rooted anger that bubbles beneath the surface.

The one-two punch (ha!) of this actor and director/writer team must be relished because of how rare it is when both parties are black. Quentin Tarantino and Samuel Jackson spring to mind as another more recent example of a duo that came together early, but TWO black guys producing juggernaut performances like this? Psh. This is great art, jo. Also, the other films I mentioned were on a smaller scale or were not entries in major franchises with major studios that have cumulatively made major bank. Coogler is trekking some interesting terrain here and he and Jordan are carving a wondrous path that’s exciting to witness.

Oh, and Mr. Coogler; don’t think I don’t see that Creed has elements of Boyz n the Hood, homie. Young Adonis starts the movie with a fight because of what another kid says, same as young Trey Styles. Both kids end up moving to get guidance from the parent who seems best equipped to handle his particular set of challenges. Older Trey gets mad after a run-in with police and shadow boxes in the living room while crying. The actor that plays young Adonis does favor a young Trey, too. Sooo…basically, Creed is the exact same movie as Boyz n the Hood except it’s in Philly with slightly more boxing. I see you, Mr. Coogler. So when you gonna do your Higher Learning? Poetic Justice, maybe? Dang…Malcolm X. We’ll be watching and waiting, homie.


Be good.

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Crunch Theory

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Herbert: This world is going to Hell.

Captain: No kidding. So much tragedy in the world, and if we ain’t careful, Donald Trump will be the one regulating all of it.

Herbert: Yeah. Can’t say the writing wasn’t on the walls, though. Our elders warned us. Shoot, it’s right there in the Bible. I mean, not about Trump, but the rest of it.

Captain: Wait. What?

Herbert: The Bible? The most famous Book in the entire world? Didn’t you have a grandma?

Captain: I know what the Bible is and I know what it says. But how do you know what the Bible says?

Herbert: Why can’t I know what’s in the Bible?

Captain: You can absolutely know. I just think it’s funny you bring it up, because I can’t help but think about the revolving door of women going in and out of your bedroom.

Herbert: God knows my heart.

Captain: That’s not how it works, Herb. You can’t just–

Herbert: Anywho, you don’t even have to look in The Good Book to see what I’m talking about. The evidence is all around us. Just go to your local grocery store.

Captain: I don’t follow.

Herbert: Oreos got different flavors, dude. Oreo used to be the flavor. When I go get ice cream, I get Oreo flavor. But now they got mixed berry, peanut butter, birthday cake, punkin’ spice–

Captain: What about mint?

Herbert: Mint’s cool.

Captain: Okay, ’cause mint’s my jam.

Herbert: No doubt. But it’s just a matter of time before they got a two-dollar mixed berry, pumpkin spice, Oreo shake at Sonic.

Captain: That’s gross.

Herbert: Before you know it, there’ll only be the marshmallows in Lucky Charms.

Captain: Now you’re just being ridiculous.

Herbert: You sure about that? You see what happened to Cap’n Crunch.

Captain: Hey, now. That’s literally my cereal. Don’t talk about my cereal.

Herbert: Your cereal also has a version that’s just berries, no crunch. What you say about that, Cap’n?

Captain: Watch your mouth.

Herbert: I’m simply saying that these things going on in the world were revealing themselves in some of the other areas of our lives. All you have to do is pay attention.

Captain: I refuse to argue with you about the flavor of my cereal being comparable to ISIS attacks in Paris; violent unrest in various parts of Africa; Greek economy; continued turmoil in the Middle East; violence on college campuses; planes falling out the sky inexplicably then possibly explicably; police killing black folks left and right; children targeted in gang violence; social media done somehow turned into racial media… .

Herbert: You’re not understanding me. That’s not what I’m saying but it’s okay. The world is going to Hell in a hand basket. In this case, I’m merely drawing attention to the basket.

Captain: I couldn’t agree more. You are a basket case.

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On My Own

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Anyone worth their weight in kimchi bacon cheese fries takes decent care of their possessions. Some people even take care of stuff better than they do someone else’s. That can be scary. Don’t believe me? Ever lend somebody a cd or video game (oh, ancient one)? Better yet: ever loan a book out? One of the worst feelings ever. There’s nothing like thinking you may not get that book back, or worrying you’ll forget about it and when you realize you don’t have it, you can’t remember who you gave it to or when. Not to mention the likelihood of that person letting some third-party borrower take the book to use in a PolSci 204 or Af Am Lit 231 course as a works cited page reference, meaning now some negro is cross-country skim-reading your first edition signed Walter Mosely book and don’t even know whose library he stole from. Don’t let them bring it back you and it be all bogus…

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Book lendin’ is real outchea in deez streetz. #keepyoshelves100

Owning something like a book, a valuable piece of art, or even some kind of collectible like a World Series foul ball is one thing–personal keepsakes aside. But owning a home for the first time changes the entire game on a completely different level. I’m talking running along the top of the bricks in the sewer in Mario Bros. type of other level. Bypassing all those other smaller things you thought meant more than they actually do type of other level. I’m not saying those things aren’t important to you, but the difference is staggering.

I discovered how dust bunnies are created. I used to wonder how all of a sudden there’d be giant, fabricky clumps of lint and dust under the bed when it was time to clean my room as a kid. It looked like someone had been cleaning out the dryer lint and stashing the contents under there with my shoes. Sheep sheerings must’ve blown through the window and got caught under the television stand and behind the bookshelves. I never would have learned that dust particles link up like velcro as you sweep it up with a hand broom if it wasn’t legit my floor I was sweeping. By the time you’re ready to sweep it into the dust pan, it’s turned into a bunny right before my eyes. Taking that care, paying that much attention to an act as mundane as sweeping…man…never thought it was something I’d care that much about.

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Or light bulbs. My wife helps to make our condo a lovely home. But we have so many different kinds of lightbulbs throughout this place it’s cartoonish. The entryway lights are different from the living room lights, are different from the bathroom lights, are different from the hallway lights, are different from the ceiling fan lights. I mean, I’m gonna need to buy some stock in GE just to make my money back on bulbs.

As a grown adult person, I’ve realized–fully–what my mother meant when she said I couldn’t have that super sweet cereal: “When you’re in your own house, and buying your own groceries, you can have whatever kind of cereal you want.”

Touche.

Now, I’m sweeping my own floors, I’m buying my own cereal, and I’m homing up this place real good. Oh, and if you’ve ever lend me a book, I won’t lend it out to anyone else. It may be forever before you get it back, but I won’t give it out. It’ll be right here on the shelf. #100

Be good.