*MOVIE RECAP: BEING THE RICARDOS

For one, I’m glad that we have gotten two Aaron Sorkin written and directed movies two years in a row — The Trial of the Chicago 7, in 2020, and now, Being the Ricardos in 2021. It seems like he is getting more comfortable behind the camera and finding his way as a director.

But first, I need to address the elephant in the room. There was tons of nonsensical controversy and outrage with the casting of Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem. Primarily by people who don’t have a clue about the art of acting and filmmaking. And by people who go about the wrong way to ensure and promote fairness and equality in media representation.

Here is the thing, people who had a problem with Bardem, a Spaniard playing a Cuban, are beyond dumb. Any actor of Hispanic heritage is qualified to play any member of our Latino culture, simple as that. After all, Javier Bardem already played a Cuban character back in 2000 in the movie Before Night Falls, a biopic of Cuban writer and poet Reinaldo Arenas. A performance for which Bardem was nominated for a best actor Academy Award — Bardem was outstanding in that movie, and he deserved the Oscar nomination for sure.

Additionally, we have many examples of actors from different Latin American slash Hispanic cultures playing characters from different nationalities like Gael Garcia Bernal, a Mexican actor playing Che Guevara, an Argentinian in two movies, Fidel (2001), and The Motorcycle Diaries (2004). Also, Benicio Del Toro, a Puerto Rican actor, won an Oscar for a best-supporting actor playing a Mexican character in Traffic (2000).

Not to mention all those times when Antonio Banderas, a Spaniard, has played Mexican characters, like in Desperado and Once Upon a Time in Mexico and those two Zorro movies, to name a few. Recently, we had Wagner Moura, a Brazilian actor playing Pablo Escobar, a Colombian character in the hit Netflix series Narcos — which was a critically acclaimed portrayal.

So I ask, where was the outrage then?

In any case, I could sit here and point out tons of actors successfully playing characters from different cultural backgrounds. But, unfortunately, and sadly, all of those people outraged by Bardem playing a Cuban are the same exact people who are setting back the decades of little progress for proper representation that we have made as a culture in recent years.

But what do I know about this? I’m just some random Hispanic immigrant — and a wannabe screenwriter. Right? not really an expert at all.

Anyhow, the story of this movie is centered around a week in the life of Lucille Ball (Nicole Kidman) and Desi Arnaz (Javier Bardem). And it is set during the same week of production for an upcoming live shooting of the I Love Lucy show — with some flashbacks sprinkled throughout the story.

This movie is not your typical biopic per se; It starts with a fake documentary featuring older versions of the original writers for the I Love Lucy Show, Madelyn Pugh (Linda Lavin) and Bob Carroll (Ronny Cox). And the executive producer, Jess Oppenheimer (John Rubinstein). I was thrilled to see Ronny Cox in a big-time Hollywood movie again; he played one of my all-time favorite movie villains, Dick Jones, in Robocop (1986).

The main plot point of the story here is the accusation by the press that Lucille Ball is a member of the communist party. The implications of this accusation could cost Lucy her career and the possible cancellation of their hit TV show. So the tension and the stakes of this shocking accusation become the main obstacle for our heroes to overcome. And we get to see how this real-life TV couple had to tackle this issue head-on. Desi has to deal with the fallout and navigate through all of the network and corporate politics. At the same time, Lucy is trying to keep the show running efficiently and keep it fresh and funny. And on top of that, she is trying to save her marriage.

Nicole Kidman delivers an interesting performance; She managed to capture the heart of two characters, one real and one fictitious. In essence, Kidman’s performance focuses more on Lucille Ball, the person and not as much as Lucy Ricardo, the TV character. Still, when she transforms into Lucy Ricardo, she nails it beautifully.

There were some excellent scenes where we get to see Lucy display her comedic genius. When the writers pitched scenes to Lucy, you could see how her comedic mind worked as she began to imagine the multiple possibilities within the scene—like a chess master, seeing how a scene would play out ahead of time. Also, we got to see how obsessed she was with physical comedy.

Javier Bardem brings lots of charisma and charm into this role. However, I didn’t really see the same Desi Arnaz that I remember from the old interviews on YouTube at the Johnny Carson show and the old NBC David Letterman show. I still think that the version of Desi Arnaz in the 1992 movie Mambo Kings, played by Desi Arnaz jr, remains my all-time favorite version of Desi. Nonetheless, Javier Bardem has some solid scenes here, most notably, Bardem’s impressive version of Cuban Pete.

Also, the location settings, custom designs, and set pieces are all great and felt right with the period. The scenes in the writer’s room were exceptional; it was cool seeing the writers working out their material — the difficulty of making comedy for TV and how they went about creating comedy. The fake documentary thing, set in the future with the older versions of the writers and producer, was a good choice, but I wanted to see a little more of them throughout the movie.

The taboos and the gender dynamics of the era are also on full display here. It was an era when a handful of old conservative white males were making all the important decisions — and having a pregnant woman appear on TV or even to say the word pregnant on TV was considered obscene. The scenes where the white male, corporate suits clash with Lucille are some of the best scenes in the movie. It is important to note that Lucy was the first visible pregnant woman to appear on TV.

The supporting performances by Nina Aranda (Vivian Vance) and JK Simmons (William Frawley) are praiseworthy. The younger version of the writers, Alia Shawkat (Madelyn Pugh) and Jake Lacy (Bob Carrol), are solid. Also, the younger version of producer Jess Oppenheimer played by Tony Hale, was notable. I appreciate the layers of humanity both central characters were given. It brilliantly touches their past, personal relationships, and comedic genius. Especially when seeing that Lucille’s ultimate goal was to have a real home and a family, and her struggle to keep everything together — it all comes through across to the audience clearly and nicely.

Being the Ricardos is a well-written, sophisticated, and complex movie — Typical of an Aaron Sorkin production. As a writer-director, Sorkin is a superb combination that will only improve as he embarks on more directing and writing projects.

Three out of Five Popcorn Bags 🍿🍿🍿

Being the Ricardos (2021). Streaming on Prime.

*MOVIE RECAP: THOSE WHO WISH ME DEAD

At a glance, Those who Wish Me Dead had the makings of a terrific movie. For one, it is directed by Taylor Sheridan and based on a novel of the same name by Michael Koryta. The adaptation was scripted by Taylor Sheridan along with Michael Koryta and Charles Leavitt (Blood Diamond, 2006). On top of all that, the casting assembled here is impressive but very underutilized.

Angelina Jolie plays Hanna, a disgraced firefighter and smoke jumper, haunted by the death of a colleague and three young kids due to a mistake on her part. For the confused, a smokejumper is someone who combats forest fires and wildfires.

Hanna now spends her time alone in a fire tower, where people live for months and months in total isolation looking for wildfires. 

We also have Connor (Finn Little), a young boy on the run from assassins. Connor’s father, Owen (Jake Weber), is helping the local DA build a case against some bad people. The DA gets blown up by two assassins, and Owen is the next target — So they have to flee. For me, this whole running from the killers’ premise was a bit weird and convoluted.

In any case, Connor and Hanna cross each other’s paths, and they both have to fend off the hired killers.

The two hired killers have zero redeeming qualities, but they are excellent together; Assassin 1, Jack (Aidan Gillen, little finger in Game of Thrones) is evil and remorseless; Assassin 2, Patrick (Nicholas Hoult) is creepy as fuck. The chemistry between these two psychotic contract killers is outstanding, and the humor is solid.

The rest of the characters lacked more depth and development. Jon Bernthal’s character needed more screen time and more dialogue. Also, Tyler Perry’s character went nowhere and seemed unnecessary. However, Allison (Medina Senghore) steals the movie — She has some of the best action sequences and some of the strongest scenes of the entire film.

Taylor Sheridan has a good track record of well-written and well-developed characters that feel genuine. Unfortunately, this is wasn’t the case here, so this film feels underwhelming. There were no socio-economic themes like in his previous work. And there are plenty of holes in the overall storyline and premise.

The special effects looked silly and not very realistic. Except for the dry lightning storms, those scenes were pretty cool. In addition, the dialogue and overall premise seemed flawed. As a result, the whole movie comes off as a sloppy popcorn movie. In essence, it has an old-school 90s throwback action movie vibe. Most reviewers have compared it as a mixture of The Client (1994) meets Firestorm (Howie Long’s 1998 movie).

Ultimately, Those who Wish Me Dead is not that bad; it is just pretty unremarkable. And it didn’t really do it for me, but it is a short movie to watch, so it is definitely worth seeing at least once.

Two out of Five Popcorn Bags 🍿🍿

Those Who Wish Me Dead (2021).

*NEW NAME FOR WASHINGTON, 2021 SEASON RECAP & SUPER BOWL THOUGHTS

It took me a while to sit down and write this post wrapping up the season — mostly because I was busy moving to a new place. Sadly, the 2021 NFL season has come and gone. I’m looking around, and I still cannot believe the season is over — it feels like the whole thing went out in a flash.

Anyhow, My Washington Football Team had a rough 2021 season — All of the Dan Snyder controversies overshadowed the season for Washington. The accusations of sexual misconduct, harassment, and toxic culture made constant headlines: the lawsuits, the cheerleading scandal exposed by the Washington Post. The John Gruden slash Bruce Allen email scandal. The secrecy surrounding the Beth Wilkinson investigation. The drama with the minority owners looking to bail on Snyder and sell their shares. The low fan attendance for home games. The whole screw-up with the Sean Taylor tribute — and of course, the congressional hearings, looking into Washington and Dan Snyder.

The team finished at 7-10. There were some highs and a bunch of lows. The 4-game winning streak and briefly climbing to the top of the NFC East was the highlight of the season for me. However, losing our NFC East lead, primarily due to the record number of Covid positive players becoming ineligible for crucial games, was the kill shot for our season. It was pure agony and misery week to week watching our lead shrink and shrink and eventually disappear into nothingness.

On top of all that, on 2.2.22, The Washington Football Team became The Washington Commanders. This new name doesn’t excite me at all — I wanted the new name to be Red Hogs and not this uninspiring name. Admittedly, I wasn’t crazy about the idea to rebrand from The Washington Football team name — a name that had actually grown on me. But, who knows, maybe Commanders will eventually also grow on me.

This was a mess of a rebrand, full of leaks and missteps. They even messed up the logo and the dates of our NFL championships. They put the year when the Super Bowl was played in the new logo — which was entirely wrong — it was supposed to be the year of the NFL season, not the year the game was played….what a bunch of fucking idiots, really.

As a Washington fan, I’m happy for our old QBs coach and offensive coordinator, Sean McVay, winning his first Super Bowl. It is becoming more apparent how special Mike Shanahan’s coaching staff was during his time in Washington. And besides McVay, the Mike Shanahan coaching tree is deep and impressive, with many former assistants now working as NFL head Coaches — Matt Lefleur (Packers), Kyle Shanahan (49ers), and Mike McDaniel (Dolphins). I think McDaniel will be an excellent head coach for Miami.

Their success as coaches and teams’ continued interest in hiring from the Shanahan tree is direct proof of how awful and stupid Dan Snyder was for allowing Bruce Allen to be part of Washington in any capacity regardless of George Allen’s legacy as a coach. They both wrecked this team and the potential of what the Shanahan era could have been.

In any case, I don’t really like this new name, but I have no choice but to accept it. I echo everyone else saying that the only way Washington fans and people in the DMV area will embrace this new name is by winning. They have to win — and win consistently — simple as that.

SUPER BOWL GAME:

LA RAMS 23 — BENGALS 20
The Rams bet massively in free agency, and it paid off big-time this season. They gave up so much to get Matthew Stafford, Von Miller, and OBJ, But it all worked out, they got to the Super Bowl, and they won the whole thing.

OBJ getting hurt early in the game after scoring a TD changed the entire outlook for LA’s offense. However, the triple crown of receiving, Cooper Kupp stepped up and delivered the goods again — Kupp was deadly in this game, especially in the final offensive drive, scoring the game-winning TD.

On the other hand, Cincinnati did not make things easy for LA. Joe Burrow had a solid game and showed flashes of future greatness. However, the Bengals have to upgrade their O-Line and actually protect Burrow to compete and get back to the big game next season.

Overall, the 2021 season was fun, and I really liked the extra regular-season game added. Although I’m getting annoyed with Thursday night games, I think they should scrap those at some point.

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