Wonder

That first day of school can be a real doozy!

Wonder

With the recent success of child casts with hits like “Stranger Things” or “IT”, director Stephen Chbosky (The Perks of Being a Wallflower) took advantage of the huge wave and delivered a heart-tugging gem with Wonder.

This is a film that stares back into the face of hatred, bullying, and contempt for all things different. This is a beautiful story of a young man that tackles the haters and bullies head on and shines a much-needed light on love friendship and acceptance.

Wonder 2

Chbosky, in only his third directing credit, was able to bring out performances ripe with heart and compassion from well established adult cast and a green and growing group of youngsters.

Jacob Trembly (“Room”), as August “Auggie” Pullman was unforgettable and drew me into his world with no regrets. It was a world that he embraced with what seemed to be his very fiber. Couple that with solid performances by Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson and you have the makings of a great family that almost anyone can easily root for. Wilson, most known for his comedic turns in classics like “Wedding Crashers” and “Meet the Parents”, added some much needed levity to the emotional and tender story. Roberts did the majority of the emotional heavy lifting and she did not disappoint. Izabela Vidovic’s portrayal of Auggie’s sister Via, was almost as memorable and she is clearly on the precipice of a strong acting career.

This is an uplifting tale that will have you reflecting back on your days of middle and high school, but it will also serve as an escape from your comfort zone. We can all think back to a time when someone came into our individual worlds that was a little different, someone who made us look in the mirror and judge our own souls. This is a story that captures that idea perfectly and will have you questioning how you really treat people.

I would recommend this movie to anyone that has ever experienced being new, being different or being the outcast. For everyone else, I recommend it as well. If the room or theater doesn’t get a little dusty then you need to check to make sure your heart is still in tact.

Rating: Movie Reel (For Rating)Movie Reel (For Rating)Movie Reel (For Rating)Movie Reel (For Rating)

 

Detroit

Why?

Kathryn Bigelow, the director that has blessed movie fans with Point Break, The Hurt Locker, and Zero Dark Thirty, has added Detroit to her profile. This particular effort would have been better suited as a documentary.

Bigelow has wrangled a who’s who of hot young actors (John Boyega, Anthony Mackie, Will Porter and Algee Smith) to name a few. All are strong actors, but I felt they were misused in this film.

Will Porter of The Revenant and Maze Runner fame, portrayed the main police antagonist. While he is a fine actor, he looked and seemed far too young for the role. John Boyega, was completely wasted and did not add anything to the story. While I understand this is a true event and the character he was portraying really existed, I think a lesser actor could have done the exact same thing. Mr. Mackie, who seems to find his way onto wonderful movie sets, was strong but was overshadowed by the persistent hatred and morally inhumane violence.

The film left me asking a few questions. Why was this movie made? What was the point? How does this push the racial injustice narrative along? Was Bigelow more interested in exploiting one of the many horrific injustices involving white police and black civilians? Did she envision people leaving this film feeling a sense of cause and progress?

I immediately went to Fruitvale Station (2013), Selma (2014) or even Schindler’s List (1993). These films put historical events on the big screen and left audiences with answers. I did not leave the theater wondering if I had just witnessed exploitation. I left feeling uplifted and inspired to never see these atrocities happen again, and with a sense of hope.

After consuming Detroit, I felt dirty. I felt as if I just watched a movie that threw racial injustice directly in my face and said, “Oh well, such is life.” Maybe it is the climate that we live in, but it seemed to prove that this has been going on for years and there is nothing that can be done about it. The same things that happened in 1967 are still taking place today.

Clocking in at a heavy two and half hours, the final act seemed to drag on, especially after such an emotional second act. I was mentally drained, and looking for a hasty exit.

Is there a next step? Or will this movie further prove that we as a country are okay with exploiting these events without actually learning from them? Was Bigelow laughing at us? Was she empathetic? Does this film make her feel better about herself?

Visually, the film was stunning and really brought you into the hotel lobby with the characters. But this proved to be both a blessing and a curse.

I recommend seeing this movie but prepare for some tough moments.

My rating:     

Ironic rebuild could reshape the Crosstown Cup

With the Chicago Cubs clinging to a slim lead in the NL Central, and the Chicago White Sox bringing up the rear in the AL Central, one could say the crosstown rivals are heading in opposite directions. I, on the other hand, see them heading in the same direction.

I am not looking at this in the vacuum of the 2017 season, but more of a big picture. The Northsiders are loaded with young talent. They are coming off of their first World Series Championship in 108 years and barring any more injuries, they looked primed to make another deep October run. Many, including myself, saw this team as a team that will be playing for another World Series ring this season. After a subpar start, they are now playing the type of baseball to back up that notion.

As a prisoner of the moment, you could theoretically say the only thing these teams have in common is that they both play in Chicago. I, being a White Sox fan, choose to look a little deeper at these two teams. The Cubs lineup day to day is one of the strongest in MLB, but what the Sox are doing is following the same mold. Owning, arguably, the top farm system in the league right now the Sox look poised to make a similar run that the Cubs are currently on.

The Sox started the real rebuilding process by parting ways with sure-fire hall of famer Chris Sale in the offseason. What they received in return was a hand full of huge prospects, most notably Yoan Moncada (#1 MLB prospect), they also wrangled Michael Kopech (#11 RHP), twenty-one-year-old Luis Alexander Basabe (OF) and twenty-three-year-old right-hander Victor Diaz.

      

For a lot of teams that was a great start to the rebuilding of a franchise. The Sox, however, did not stop there. The Sox then traded another great left handed arm in Jose Quintana to the cross-town rival Cubs for more young talent. While they lost a great pitcher that has had terrible luck, they gained more top MLB prospects. The Sox in return, received Eloy Jimenez (#8 prospect), along with Right handed pitcher Dylan Cease (#62 prospect). Add them to an already young and talented White Sox roster (Tim Anderson #38 2015 prospect, Luis Robert #23 prospect, Luis Giolito #28, Blake Rutherford #29 and right handed pitcher Reynaldo Lopez) and there is a very bright future on 35th street.

Along with the many moves, the White Sox have made of late, we can’t forget that they still have all-star Jose Abreu (30) and a pair of 26-year-olds Avisail Garcia and Adam Engle on the roster. Unfortunately, life tells us that all of these prospects will not pan out to the max, but with the embarrassment of riches the Sox currently have, they have room for a few to not fully recognize their potential.

This is a time that the fans in Chicago should be extremely excited to see what happens in the next few years and how this natural rivalry could grow into something very special.

Lion

In India, 180 children go missing daily, most are never heard from again, and even fewer are able to tell their story. Saroo Brierley, however, has been heard from again and his story is both incredibly heart wrenching and heart warming.

The deservingly scrutinized and much maligned Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences certainly got it right when it nominated Lion for Best Picture in 2016.

Not only was the story compelling, but the acting was superb. Sunny Pawar, who portrayed young Saroo, was fantastic. He was able to take the audience along on his journey. I found myself as frightened as Saroo was; I found myself as confused as Saroo was – most notably when he found himself in a foreign part of India where the natives spoke Bengali while he only knew Hindi. It was very easy to place yourself in this situation, and understand that a child of five years old would be in a panicked state of mind. Just imagine being lost in Penn Station and not speaking English.

Once in Australia, Dev Patel took the lead as the older Saroo, and did not skip a beat. The underlying angst that he felt resonated through the screen. The chemistry with both Nicole Kidman (adoptive mother) and Rooney Mara (girlfriend) was undeniable.

While the acting was superb, it could only be outdone by the beauty and terror that was the landscape of the film. The cinematic references were second to none. Whether on the train through the countryside or on a desolate bridge all alone, the pictures were breathtaking.

 

In the end, Lion is a film that understands the depth of Saroo’s story and takes every precaution to make sure the audience understands it as well. You will find it very difficult to watch this film and not be awed by its tenderness and heroism.

 

If you are looking for a film that will capture your emotions from the first scene Lion is certainly worth watching!

 

My rating:     

 

Stick to Sports

“Stick to sports!”

This is a saying that I have heard my entire life. This year, however, it seems to be more prevalent. I am not sure if it is the 24-hour news cycle, or the “controversial” protest by Colin Kaepernick, but I seem to hear that phrase about once a day. What troubles me about the phrase is that it seems very dismissive and it devalues athletes and their roles in our society.

This saying seems to be used when an athlete voice his or her opinion about something that is taking place in our country, and to a lesser extent the world.

ali-silenced

I started hearing this more often around the same time that San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick chose to take a knee during the national anthem during a third preseason game. The interesting is that he started the protest two weeks earlier during the 49ers opening preseason game (in which no one noticed.) Once the protest was recognized nation wide, the venom that I heard here in Charlotte was immediate and vast. As a consumer of sports talk radio, I heard it every day. The more I heard it the more I began thinking about the phrase deeper. I couldn’t just dismiss it as a throw away saying.

At an almost parallel time, we had one of the most vitriolic Presidential elections of all time. As the campaign season picked up steam it seemed almost daily that a microphone was thrown into the face of a politician, actor or athlete asking their thoughts on what was transpiring in the country. Of course, this led to more scrutiny on those who spoke out. The one that is closest to me is “stick to sports”

What does it mean when people say, “Stick to sports?” The way I take it (which I realize may not be everyone’s feeling) is to shut up and go entertain us. Stay out of our business and do what you animals are paid to do. I realize that this may be harsh, but that is the visceral feeling that I get whenever I hear the term. Should athletes only talk about last night’s game, or the 5 game road trip that they are about to embark on? Should they give the press and the consumer the normal clichéd answers and move on to the next city? Are athletes really viewed as disposable commodities that have no say in what happens in the country they live? Is the old adage “dumb jock” still a thing? If that indeed is the case, why is it?

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 25: Colin Kaepernick #7 and members of the San Francisco 49ers kneel during the national anthem prior to the game against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field on September 25, 2016 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

I believe there are a few answers to that question. First and foremost, I think there are people that see professional athletes as people that have more money than they can ever imagine and therefore do not have the same problems and issues as common folks. Secondly, there are people that do not believe that an athlete can possibly be smart enough to have an intelligent opinion, therefore rendering their opinions nonsensical from the outset. Lastly, I believe that race plays a part in it as well. As much as people do not like to talk about it or act like it doesn’t exist, it does and it shapes our opinion daily. Right or wrong, it is an issue that affects millions of Americans minute-by-minute, day-by-day and year-by-year.

Lets tackle these in order. First, the money issue; just because you make a lot of money playing a sport doesn’t exclude you from every day problems and issues that plague us all. Grant it, they may have some issues that money can help with, but being an American is not one of them.

johnny-manziel Money certainly didn’t stop him from having problems, but I digress.

We ALL live in this country together, and ALL have a say in how it is run. Take the issue with Kaepernick, he was protesting how African Americans are treated in this country. He has every right to do that. Just because he gets a check every week from the NFL, does not mean he loses his voice. If he is passionate about something and chooses to protest, that is his right, just like it is the right of every other American. People have died for that right, and people quickly want to strip him of his right to be an American. It shows incredible ignorance to belittle someone for utilizing the rights that we have all been afforded. You may not have liked the method in which he did it, but he may not like the way you balance your checkbook. How would you feel if someone came into your workplace every day and criticized you for how you chose to do something? The double standard I find incredibly insulting. Take North Carolina for example, and the HB2 bill; People want to write it off as the “bathroom bill” but in actuality it is much deeper than that. There are people that want to openly discriminate against people because of their sexual orientation and they will scream to the mountaintops that it is their “right” but Kaepernick he doesn’t have the right to kneel during the national anthem. People sure hate looking in the mirror!

tumblr_ol32fff73l1qkgqqho1_500National darling, Stephen Curry came under some heat when his comment about Donald Trump hit the internet (no one reads newspapers anymore, SAD.) I immediately heard “He is disrespecting our President” or “What does he know anyway?” The first place that my brain went was, birth certificate. My mind went there because for eight years people claimed that Barack Obama was not an American, that he was a Muslim aiming to destroy America, spearheaded by our current President. Was that not disrespectful? It is very interesting to see this dynamic in action. Things that we agree with can never been seen as wrong, and the things we do not agree with immediately are shot down and discredited. More recently, several New England Patriot players have declined to accept their invitation to the White House. Again, that is their right. People quickly labeled them as un-American. I believe most people that watched this years fantastic come back during the Super Bowl never once labeled Tom (Captain America) Brady as un-American. Mr. Brady however, chose not to join his teammates at the White House in 2015. He instead claimed to have a previous commitment. Now, he has not committed one way or another this season, but since he is a “friend” of Mr. Trump, one may surmise that he will push all other commitments to the side. It is absolutely Mr. Brady’s choice to go or not to go, and just the same, it is the right of some of his Patriot teammates not to attend. SIMPLE.

The second rational that I came up with is that athletes are not smart enough have intelligent thoughts about what is going on in this country or the world. That is, in my opinion, a very dated and childish rational. Why do people still believe that athletes are dumb? They are a microcosm of our society as a whole, a subculture if you will. Just like walking down Wall Street in New York, there are some incredibly bright people, and intertwined there are some that are not so bright. That being said, it is incredibly unfair to paint athletes with a broad brush as dumb. Has anyone ever seen an NFL playbook? Has anyone ever taken the time to see what some athletes do outside of their given sports? There are currently two online blog/article sites that are penned by current and former professional athletes from all sports. The Bennett brothers, while tremendous football players, have incredible interests outside of football. One of the most talented people that I know is Bryan Scott, is a 10 year veteran of the NFL. The thing is, he is so much more than just a football player. He is a tremendous musician that can also sing with the best of them. There is no way I could ever call him a dumb jock. He also has a degree from Penn State and is incredibly bright. That is just one example, but I know plenty of professional athletes that are incredibly smart.

jock

Finally, race, this is something that a lot of people do not like to talk about. Therefore, it is easily passed off as something that is non-existent. I could go on for days about that topic, but this is not the crux of this piece. It is however a part of the discussion. There are people, and I can never say all, but there are those that believe that a black, or Latin athlete should stay in their place as a second-class citizen. This is terribly sad, but is terribly prominent. In the year 2017 it seems like this thought process has not eased at all. I remember growing up hearing people referring to black athletes as not smart enough to be a quarterback, or a black athlete was not capable of leading a team to success. The interesting thing about this thought process, is that the locker room is one of the more progressive environments. While still a microcosm of our society, it acts and reacts to social issues at a much more rapid pace.

I wish society could take a cue from our professional athletes and start to really understand that we are all different and unique. This doesn’t make one better than the other, just different. My father once told me something during a discussion about politics that has continued to resonate with me. He reminded me that we all have different views and different experiences and to try and look at things through someone else’s lens to get a glimpse at why they feel certain ways. That is a very powerful message and one that can give us all perspective.

african-american-athletes-at-news-conference-af400c2cb31b07a9jpg-58d0b9b5d7f833b0

Until next time,

 

E. Scott 23

Unreal Expectations

The NFL season is upon us ladies and gentlemen. With the birth of a new season come great expectations for our favorite teams. I for one have been filled with optimism for my beloved Chicago Bears every season since 1985. Inevitably those optimistic feelings lay in the very incapable hands of Jay Cutler for at least one more year. I have resigned myself to the fact that the Monsters of the Midway will not reach the pinnacle this year, but I will watch every game and root and critique as I would any season.

That brings me to the topic of today’s writing session, Unrealistic Expectations! Every season there is a crop of new talent that graces the 120 x 53.3 gridiron, and inevitably there are a few that have the burden of making a big splash from day one. The enthusiasm is to be expected, but the idea that they will step in and flourish immediately is statistically inaccurate.

If they are not great from the first snap, pitch or jump ball the media has headlines like this. “Jameis still a work in progress after debut” No kidding! Why do media outlets and fans alike expect these guys to make a tremendous leap and be perfect right away?

Jamies Winston (Heisman)        Jamies Winston (Tampa Bay)

The microwave generation

Long gone are the days of sitting behind the incumbent franchise quarterback and biding you time. Time, which is extremely valuable, time that is used getting reps and studying the playbook. Honing in on the nuances of the professional game. Remember Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers? In 2005 Rodgers saw some time during the preseason and saw even less time during the regular season. Needless to say he struggled when he did take the field. This is to be expected. He was coming from the Pac 10 to the National Football League!! As great as some of the NCAA Conferences are, they pale in comparison to the National Football League.

Aaron Rodgers Rookie Season

In college you play fewer games and the competition you face week in and week out is not the same as facing the best players in the world every week.

The first three or four Saturdays during the college season you face lesser opponents to get your rhythm, a sort of preseason that actually counts. In Rodgers’ freshman season he started with #7 Kansas State then faced 4 unranked teams (Southern Miss, Colorado St, Utah and Illinois) Not exactly Minnesota, Detroit, Arizona and Chicago. While they were not the best NFL teams that season, they are still the best in the world at every position.

College athletics are far more saturated that the professional ranks. There are some ninety-seven hundred college football players a year compared to sixteen hundred and ninety-six in the NFL.

So, why would people expect someone from college, regardless of conference, accomplishments, awards etc. to come into the NFL and excel from day one? There are so many adjustments that have to be made. There are so many challenges ahead of them. It is slightly unfair to ask them to complete 70 percent of their passes or successfully lead their team on a 10 play 90 yard scoring drive in the two-minute drill.

Instead, we as fans should enjoy the process and watch the maturation process take place. Unlike video games, real people take time to develop.

There are also anomalies that excite fans into unrealistic expectations. Take Andrew Luck for example. He was an anomaly! He replaced one of the best quarterbacks in history and has hit the ground running with the Indianapolis Colts. It has made it harder for everyday quarterbacks, even guys that will become stars.

Andrew Luck

Instead, we as fans should respect the process and understand that playing quarterback in the NFL is not something that everyone can do. It is a job that takes time to learn and develop greatness. If they throw a pick six it is ok. They are human and will hopefully learn from their mistakes. I challenge you to look at the great quarterback in history and name the ones that started their NFL careers without missing a beat.

The media coverage does not help

As the headline I referenced above implies Jameis Winston was expected to walk onto the field and make Tampa Bay an immediate contender. That is incredibly unfair. OTA’s, mini camps, Pre Season all carry pressures, especially for rookies, so why do media outlets pile on with these types of headlines. Instead of printing a negative from day one, why not talk about the progress that a player has made? Will that sell fewer papers or get fewer clicks? I am tired of reading this every week. It also aids unrealistic fans and perpetuates the belief that every quarterback that comes into the league should be polished and ready to lead their team to the Super Bowl. If they don’t somehow they are seen as a bust.

Enjoy the season football fans, and hopefully your team makes you proud (Even if they don’t win the Super Bowl). Keep in mind, no matter how bad your team is doing I will be watching Jay Cutler every week!!!!

Domestic Violence

Unless you have been under a rock over the past 12 months you have noticed the rise in frequency of domestic violence issues in professional sports.

Like it or not professional athletes are “role models”. They may not have signed up for the title, but because they are seen on television, in magazines or any other social media site or app, they inherit this responsibility. People look up to them as heroes, right or wrong, they are seen as super human.

Ray Rice (knocking out his then fiancé now wife in an Atlantic City hotel), Greg Hardy (throwing his girlfriend on a couch full of loaded weapons) or Hope Solo (beating up her sister and nephew) have all been thrust into the bright spotlight, not for their athletic prowess, but because they decided to put there hands on their spouse, significant other or relative. This is nothing new, it is just reported differently now with the surge in social media, with everyone having a phone and recording at all time. There is no longer a 2-ton elephant lying dormant in the closets of locker rooms of professional sports. This is a problem that has affected thousands of families every year.

Why the spike in domestic violence in sports? How can professional sports play a leading role is addressing the issue?

Ray Rice

The first answer is simple, the boom in social media. Gone are the days of seeing your favorite athlete on the field, court, ice or pitch. Instead you see them in their homes, with their friends and family, on a trip to Turks and Cacaos. Fans now more than ever are a part of their lives. For the most part they welcome the social attention. It is only when a surveillance video is attained by TMZ that they want to run away from the limelight.

Fans are now privy to the underbelly of athletes; they are no longer just pictures on Wheaties boxes that people can idolize.

Pete Rose Wheaties Box

The second question is a little more tricky, but very manageable. The quick easy solution is to have a united stance on the issue. They cannot continue to pass the buck or as the commissioner of the NFL admitted, continue to be ignorant to the depth of the problem. He has spent the majority of his adult life around professional athletes and owners. I find it extremely hard to believe that he did not understand that this problem existed. If he wanted to be completely transparent he should have said that it has been swept under the rug for so long and now we must address it. I found his excuse extremely patronizing.

Mr. Goodell is not the only one that is guilty of sweeping this issue under the rug. Major League Baseball has long had a problem with domestic violence. Kirby Puckett, one of the games best centerfielders was in the middle of several domestic violence and sexual assault cases. In 2008 Philadelphia Phillies right-hander Brett Myers allegedly dragged his wife by the hair while continually hitting her. Myers went on to pitch the next day against the Boston Red Sox. Trust me those are not the only two examples

http://deadspin.com/5019197/smack-my-bitch-up-major-league-baseballs-continuing-domestic-abuse-problem

Roger Goodell

Athletic prowess should not trump domestic violence

It has long been stated that if you are a great player the rules are bent for you. That needs to change, especially when it comes to the issue of Domestic Violence. No longer can these leagues hid behind “He/She is a great asset to our team.” they are not an asset if they are beating on their spouses, or anyone for that matter. Am I an asset to society if I am beating on my wife? The police and court systems would not say so. My employer certainly would not have mercy on me. I would be fired the next day. Athletes on the other hand seem to play by a different set of rules. They are given every benefit of the doubt and held onto like a precious stone. Take the San Francisco 49ers and Chicago Bears for example. The 49ers supported Ray McDonald throughout his entire year domestic violence issue. McDonald was initially arrested in August 2014, but played in 14 games the following year. In December he was named in a sexual assault case and subsequently released by the Niners. The Chicago Bears then decided to get into the mix and signed McDonald in the offseason. He was promptly arrested again for domestic violence and child endangerment. Just three days later he was arrested again for violating the restraining order filed against him. The Bears released him immediately after learning of the incident. This is a clear case of someone getting the benefit of the doubt because of his or her abilities on the field.

Ray McDonald Mugshot

Hope Solo competed in the Women’s World Cup this year while a domestic violence case loomed over her head. The only reason she played is because she is the best goal tender in the world right now.

Every professional sports organization needs to take a stern look in the mirror and ask if they are doing all they can to educate their “employees” Are they ignoring a societal issue in lieu of wins on the field.

Fans have voiced their displeasure with the current trend, and the teams need to tap into that. Here in Charlotte, it was common knowledge that the majority of fans were not happy with the Greg Hardy issue. Hardy played in only one game last season for the Panthers, all while continuing to be paid his 13 million dollar salary. He was not resigned by the Panthers and is now a member of the Dallas Cowboys. It remains to be seen how this will turn out for Hardy, but the statistics are not in his favor. This issue will continue to grow and grow if organizations are not diligent in addressing the problem immediately.

Hope Solo

Professional Organizations handling of Domestic Violence Issues:

Cleat (For Ratings)

Comments and thoughts are always welcome.

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