Tuesday, September 1, 2015

"Show Me a Hero" starring Oscar Isaac

I'm finally getting around to writing this and this link contributed to that procrastination  :P

I first came across Oscar Isaac in "SuckerPunch"
Oddly enough when I reread my discussion of this movie, I didn't discuss him at all. But I had a lot of other items to address that required more importance.

I don't know if it hit me right away or it slowly sunk in after I saw this movie a dozen times... but Oscar Isaac played such a good bad guy in this. I mean, there was a major ick factor with him with the way he exploits these girls for monetary gain and just being in control of his operation. When he posed a threat, he was terrifying and I mean TERRIFYING. I mean, if the role had called for his distinct look, he could have played a good Christian Grey. He certainly had that control freak thing down really well.

The next time I saw him was in "Inside Llewyn Davis," which I'll probably post a review for the next time I see it. It was an oddly fascinating performance for him. And not just because he was playing a good guy. A very flawed one, but he's not the villain.

Whether he has a very menacing presence on screen or not, I am drawn to him.
When I heard that he went to Juilliard for acting [and graduated], I wasn't surprised at all. I've heard "Ex Machina" was one of this year's better movies and because of him, I considered seeing it, but just didn't get to the theater within that small time frame.

His next big project is, of course, the new Star Wars film. And I cannot wait for that. Right now, I'm just hoping he's a rebel that stays a rebel... although, like I said, he's a really good villain.

I came across the trailer for "Show Me a Hero" somewhere on Twitter a couple weeks ago. Even though I had no background on the story and I'm not big on politics, I knew I'd be treated to another great Oscar Isaac performance.

First I'll lead in saying that this guy needs to win a Golden Globe for this performance. Never mind being nominated, he needs to WIN.

The 6-part HBO mini-series ended this week. I did a quick Wikipedia search on Nick Wasicsko to see at a glimpse how true it was and maybe get some answers about how it all ended as it did.
I can keep up with fast-paced dialogue pretty well, but when lots of political stuff gets thrown in, my brain tends to switch off so I thought a little got lost in translation. It turns out that I had a fair grasp of it, but it still didn't make complete sense to me how it all went down. Given how it was all represented.

The story takes place in Yonkers, New York in the late 80's and early 90's. The hot button issue is the building of low-income public housing. Yonkers had segregated all the minorities [mainly blacks and Hispanics] to one side of town and the housing would be built on the white side of town. Naturally, the townspeople were not happy about Judge Leonard Sands' plan because they fear the minorities would bring down property values along with drug and crime activity.

Nick Wasicsko ran for Mayor on the platform that he would oppose the housing, but ultimately changed his mind and would send the majority of his term getting the other politicians on the city council to change their minds. The housing either had to be approved or the already poor town would be fined into bankruptcy.

In more ways than one, this mini-series got the Hollywood treatment. The actors were better looking than the actual people the characters were based on. That much was expected. It was a little disappointing to read after the fact that the actual person didn't do this for the right thing, but rather he was forced into doing what became the right thing.
Sometimes it's easier just to believe the lie...

Half the time of the series was spent with Nick Wasicsko and the other was spent with a bunch of different stories within the minority community. 

  • An older woman who becomes legally blind and has had issue getting a caretaker to look after her
  • a young woman who has a baby, loses her husband in an accident, becomes addicted to drugs and ultimately turns her life around
  • a divorced mother of 2 kids who she picks up at the airport a couple of times during the series and is initially put on the housing waiting list.
  • a girl who meets a guy at a party, they have a one-night stand, she gets knocked up and he promises to stick by her so she doesn't get an abortion. He goes on to prove that he's a loser and a criminal... and they have two more kids together.
I found all these stories pretty compelling. Although that last one developed into an annoyance. The boyfriend was well meaning at first, but he just keeps getting into trouble. And for whatever reason, they make kids they can't take care of. I kinda understood the second time, but I wanted to smack him the third time because he admitted to tampering with the condom.

Another thing about this set-up I didn't get: why do they insist on allowing the public into these court proceedings if they're just going to yell and complain the entire time? It was amazing the city council got anything done... of course they didn't for a while.

Catherine Keener [who I didn't recognize at first] plays a woman maybe 20-30 years older than she is. She's one of the most vocal opposers of the public housing, but in the final two parts, she comes around. In true Hollywood fashion, I kinda saw that coming, but it was just a matter of when that would be.

There wasn't as much of Nick Wasicsko in the final two parts of the series. After he loses the re-election, it seems like he's only concerned about getting back into politics. I understand part of it was to see the housing plan through. But after that... I mean, it was just one failed political run after another. He got a city council seat, but wasn't able to do much with it. Wikipedia said he practiced and taught law and hosted a local radio talk show. But we didn't see any of that. We just skipped to the 90's where he went back to politics.

I don't pretend to understand politics. I get that the lifestyle can be addicting if you don't know what else you're really good for or you're used to having power.
This was around the point where a lot of it was going over my head and I just saw that he was just becoming unlikable. He was butting heads with people he used to be friends with just to get ahead... only to fail.

What helped turn it around for me was a scene where he goes to the pubic housing to ask how everyone likes it. A lot of doors get slammed in his face. The only one who didn't was, of course, the older blind woman. Not a lot was said in this exchange, but it was a nice moment. One of the few instances where we see him interact with any of the other characters.
Throughout the series, he'd visit his father's grave in Oakland Cemetary. Wasicsko Sr. died in 1985, a few years before his son became Mayor. These were always such poignant scenes where he takes a few moments to himself to get his head straight. There didn't even have to be dialogue for it to carry impact.

By the end of it, I did enjoy my time with it. I know a lot of people will come after it by saying it's bleeding heart liberal agenda trying to tell us to give minorities a chance and so on. It's a hot topic, even now.
In a lot of ways, it did remind me of "Freedom Writers." Of course because it dealt with the issue of the races integrating into one society and getting along. At least that story had some notable success to it that wasn't all staged to tell a good Hollywood underdog story.
According to the after credits, there were some success stories that came out of the Yonkers low-income public housing matter, which finally resolved in 2007.
I can understand both sides of the issue, but ultimately believe that both sides shouldn't be so quick to judge and assume the worst in each other.

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