Those Nagging Concerns That Kept Me From Fully Enjoying Avengers: Endgame

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I liked Avengers: Endgame, a lot. It was the culmination of not only eleven years of filmmaking spanning 22 movies. It was watching the heroes of my childhood realistically come to life. I grew up reading Marvel Comics, patronizing Shinder’s Bookstore on the corner of 7th and Hennepin in Minneapolis which was fortuitously where I changed buses on my way home from school five days a week. A black youth spending much of my disposable income following the exploits of the almost all-white heroes. Then, and now, my favorite being a blonde haired Norse god who carried a hammer whose name I only realized I was mispronouncing in my head when I finally heard someone else say it aloud.

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I am unashamedly a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I learned to appreciate characters I only tolerated in the comics (Iron Man and Captain America) and was highly satisfied with the characterizations of most everyone, not minding when they varied from the comics. I may have been one of the few that liked Thor: The Dark World, which coincidentally is on in the background as I write this piece. The film that preceded Endgame, Avengers: Infinity War, was near perfect in the way it blended almost all the characters of the MCU. Setting us up for the biggest movie event in the history of film. By box office receipts, Endgame didn’t disappoint. It surpassed every record for opening weekends, the only question left is will it pass Avatar as the highest grossing film of all time?

Avengers: Endgame is a long movie that didn’t feel that way, logging in at three hours and 58 seconds. Most fans even forewarned there would be no after-credits scene, waited to hear the faint clanging of metal at the end. Allegedly Tony Stark constructing the original Iron Man suit. The movie was an emotional roller-coaster. We saw what happened to the heroes that survived Infinity War over five-years. Tony Stark got married and had a baby girl Morgan. Bruce Banner permanently merged with the Hulk and became Professor Hulk. Clint Barton dedicated himself to killing bad guys. Steve Rogers was conducting a group to help people cope, reminiscent of those the late Sam Wilson (Falcon) conducted for those returning from battle. Thor… he became a drunk and got fat.

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That was my first issue with Endgame, that Thor, my favorite, was reduced to a running fat joke. That was my first source of discontent but by no means the most prominent. Thor as a character has suffered from some of the same problems as Superman from the DC Universe. He’s too powerful and suspense must be created by finding ways to make things even. In the comics, they often took away half his powers, all his powers, made him spend time as the vulnerable Don Blake, needing to tap his cane to become Thor. His primary flaws were his lack of humility and patience. He would have been far more likely to succumb to “Warrior Madness” than become a sloppy drunkard. The MCU did a disservice to the character for a few punchlines, but I’ll set that aside to discuss the bigger issues.

Women have not been treated well in the MCU. One wonders were there any women in the room when decisions were being made? Sure, Captain Marvel made a heroic return from space, destroying Thanos’s ship. There was the A-Force moment when a team of female characters (with almost no speaking parts) vowed to help get the Gauntlet to the Time Machine. I read where the directors debated whether it was “too much pandering,” but ultimately left the scene in because they liked it so much. It’s revealing that the women’s scene ended up being meaningless as the Time Machine was destroyed and Thanos ended up getting the Gauntlet anyway.

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Worse still was the treatment of Natasha Romanoff, The Black Widow. In the MCU, she was the original Avenger, there before Iron Man, she recruited the Hulk. I’d say she was the least powerful Avenger of all except that she whipped Hawkeye’s ass every time they fought. In the first Avengers, she shut down the portal to space when the “big guns” couldn’t. In Age of Ultron, they made her a “monster” because she couldn’t have children. In Endgame, she was the one that had to die so that the deranged murderous Hawkeye could go back to his family and all the boys could get back together and do their avenging thing. When Iron Man died, he got a hero’s funeral, everyone showed up from the teenage Harley that helped him out in Iron Man 3 to Nick Fury, to Thunderbolt Ross. Captain America finally got the girl and had decades of marital bliss. We last saw Natasha lying in a pool of blood on Vormir.

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When Thor’s mother dies in Darkworld, she at least got a sendoff befitting someone of her stature. Natasha got zip, zero, nada, the original Avenger ultimately not worthy of recognition. It’s worth noting that in the comics, The Wasp was one of the original Avengers, in the MCU in Endgame, she got maybe three lines.

To a lesser degree, I’m reminded of how small a role black people play in the MCU. The best thing they ever did was let a black team run with the production of the blockbuster Black Panther. If the Russo Brothers had directed that, Killmonger wouldn’t have been the unacknowledged hero of the film. Saying many things more popular with black audience members than T’Challa. It didn’t go unnoticed that the New York of the MCU was far less multi-cultural than the one I’ve visited several times. Even the much praised (by themselves) first openly gay character in the MCU wasn’t a hero, just a guy… baby steps.

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Still, I have enjoyed, even loved most of the films of the MCU. I could throw out The Incredible Hulk with Edward Norton as an outlier, they still brought me back to a simpler time and helped relive the glorious adventures of my childhood. I give the Russo’s great credit for their fanservice. All the references to moments of the previous films, working in hundreds of characters without too much exposition, that they could make that movie even in three hours was amazing. I was on edge the whole time. They will go down in history along with Kevin Feige, the President of Marvel Studios as having imagined and pulled off something never done before. If they also go down in history for maintaining a boy’s club, limited by their own maleness and whiteness. That will be true as well.

Samuel L Jackson’s Hair Over The Years

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They Call Him Mr. Glass

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Stephen from Django

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Jules Winnfield

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Ordell Robbie from Jackie Brown

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Nick Fury (Present)

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Nick Fury (1970s)

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Mitch Hennessey from The Long Kiss Goodnight

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Elmo McElroy from The 51st State

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Lazarus Redd from Black Snake Moan

Feel free to add other Samuel L. Jackson looks in the comments!

 

Republicans: From The Party Of Lincoln; To The Party Of Putin, Trump, And David Duke

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Republicans like to refer to themselves as, “The Party of Lincoln.” This typically comes in response to questions about racism in an attempt to deflect any charges of discrimination today by referring to their long-ago stance. When the Republican Party formed, their first platform resisted the expansion of slavery into new states and territories. The Party’s initial founders were abolitionists, an anti-slavery faction of the Whig Party, and the Free-Soil wing of the Democrat Party. Say what you will about Republicans now, they once stood for something positive, not so much today.

Lincoln himself gets all the credit for ending slavery but given his way, he’d have allowed slavery to continue where it already existed. At his first Inauguration Address, he said, “I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.” He also supported the return of slaves to Africa. The Emancipation Proclamation was less about granting freedom to the slaves than it was about hurting the South’s economy and keeping France and Britain from siding with the South whom economically they were inclined to.

Despite Lincoln’s personal ambivalence, the Republican Party was a major factor in the ending of slavery and the environment that led to Reconstruction. Unfortunately, they gave away their claim of moral superiority when in the Compromise of 1877, in trade for winning a disputed Presidential election. They agreed to remove Federal troops from the South which directly let to the end of Reconstruction and the imposition of Jim Crow. The Republican Party’s last claim to be the Party of Lincoln died in 1877.

Fast-forward to the present. The most recent Republican platform includes language changing the previous Republican position favorably to Russia. There has never been a satisfactory explanation as to who, how, and why. The Republicans who controlled oversight in Congress in the House and the Senate have looked away. Their response to a President and Administration who has had multiple secret meetings with Russians and Russian intelligence has been either muted, standing by watching, or a full-throated defense. The more information that becomes public about Trump and associates ties to Russia and private communications, the more the Party that tied itself to national security, at best looks the other way.

Republican legislators have foresworn any priorities other than getting re-elected. This means looking away as he separates children from families, shuts down the government, and destroys the economy with his trade wars and dramatic increase of the national debt. They perhaps console themselves with the tax cuts which benefit them personally and court appointments which protect the class they are part of.

Republicans rage at being portrayed as racist. They don’t mind their Party being racist in their policies but find being called racist offensive. I’m not saying all or even most Republicans are racist. I’m saying they have created an environment where racists are welcome and in fact, pander to them to ensure their continued support at the polls. To avoid the appearance of promoting racism, the Republican House leadership just stripped Rep. Steve King (IA) from his committee assignments after wondering how white nationalism and white supremacy got a bad name? They were shocked, shocked, to find out King harbored racist sentiments, though he’d been expressing them openly for decades. The President makes racist statements all the time, where is the outrage?

Whatever you think of the Republican Party, they have long ceased to be the Party of Lincoln. Depending on the need they now are meeting the needs of Vladimir Putin, Donald J Trump, and David Duke. Parties can and do change. A look at the past of the Democrat Party shows a history of racism, more violent than Republicans have engaged in. When Republicans allowed Jim Crow in 1877, Democrats instituted it. The Democrats changed dramatically in the 1960s when dissatisfaction with the Voting Rights Act and Civil Rights Act caused many (Dixiecrats) to flee to the Republican Party. The “Southern Strategy,” ensured they remained Republicans.

I’d like to believe Republicans can do better. I’m less sure they will. Mitch McConnel is racing to fill the Federal Courts with young, conservative Judges. He and other Republicans hope that they will exert control of the Judiciary for generations, long after demographics have lessened their power to legislate. Outside the Courts, Republicans are using Gerrymandering and Voter Suppression to impose the will of a minority on the rest of us. They have gotten a partisan Supreme Court to support unlimited, undisclosed financial contributions, courtesy of Citizens United. They just experienced historic losses of House seats in the 2018 elections and are facing tough sledding in the Senate in 2020 based on who is up for reelection. When they lose, it will be because they sacrificed the principals they once held as a Party. Telling us, “collusion is not a crime,” is not the cry of an ethical Party. Putin, Trump, and Duke couldn’t be more thrilled.

Trump: Surrounded By Rats!

Instead of the rats deserting the sinking ship, they appear to be circling the President, waiting to bite a vulnerable spot. It was ironic that Trump recently tweeted about Richard Nixon’s lawyer John Dean being “a rat” for his Watergate testimony that brought Nixon down. It was recently revealed that Don McGahn who serves in the same position John Dean did, White House Counsel, has given 30 hours of testimony to lawyers representing Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

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Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal attorney of almost two decades is at this moment entering a guilty plea a plea deal on charges of tax and bank fraud which will result in him cooperating with Federal investigators. This is the man who was negotiating with Russians to build Trump Tower Moscow, during the 2016 Presidential election campaign. He also was found to have made tapes of the President and others without their consent, some describing events like arranging to pay off a Playboy Playmate who accused Trump of having a year-long affair with her.

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Reality star Omarosa has written a book making multiple claims about Trump, for which she has provided receipts in the form of audio tapes with as many as 200 more possibly to come including some with video. It’s hard to imagine her skulking around the White House with spy gear taping people but she’s already successfully taped John Kelly in the situation room so all bets are off.

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Others who have already testified before one of the Special Counsel’s grand juries or FBI investigators include former communications directors Hope Hicks and Sean Spicer. Former NSA Director Michael Flynn, Steve Bannon, George Papadoupolos, Carter Page, and more. The biggest rats might be those who have not yet been before the grand jury because they themselves are targets; Donald Trump Jr, Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump, Mike Pence and Roger Stone. Who among them is willing to go to jail and sacrifice themselves for this President?

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During Watergate, the question of the day was, “Who is Deep Throat?” The whistleblower who pointed the press in the right direction. In the Trump era, one needs a scorecard to keep track of all the people ratting out Trump both publicly and privately. Trump himself is in a panic and truly looks like a man with no way out. In reality, he actually has two… resignation or jail. If he waits too long, it may only be jail, we will see!

5 Questions To Ask Trump’s Accountant: Allen Weisselberg

He was almost unknown a week ago. A longtime accountant for a family firm, Allen Weisselberg will be 71-years-old next month and had to have at least considered a quiet retirement in the near future. Suddenly, after being mentioned twice in the leaked Michael Cohen/Donald Trump audio tapes describing how they paid $150,000 to squelch a story about Trump’s alleged affair with Playboy Playmate Karen MacDougal. Within a few days, Weisselberg was subpoenaed to testify to a Federal Grand Jury in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York in the investigation of Michael Cohen.

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Given his long ties to the Trump Organization, dating back to the 1970’s. There are a few questions I hope Weisselberg is asked while under oath on the witness stand:

  1. HOW MARRIED IS TRUMP TO THE MOB? Allen began working while Fred Trump was in charge and he once had a partner, Willie Tomasello, who was a Genovese mob family associate. S & A Concrete, owned by a joint venture of the Genovese and Gambino families, built Trump Tower and Trump Plaza. Trump worked with Nicky Scarfo and the Cleveland Wrecking Company and multiple other mob front operations. The mob settled Trump’s labor disputes. Following the money; how much money in the past and is currently going to mob operations including, of course, the Russian mob?
  2. HOW MANY WOMEN? Just how many women has Trump paid off and more importantly, what is it he’s trying to keep silent? Besides the multiple affairs, how many women are being paid to hush-up allegations of sexual harassment, assault, and even rape? How many abortions has he paid for?
  3. HOW MUCH RUSSIAN MONEY? Eric Trump and Donald Jr have both bragged about the vast amount of Russian money they had access to in building golf courses worldwide. There are multiple real estate transactions providing hundreds of millions of profits for Donald Trump and where the Russians seemed to have little use for the properties. How much money has Russia provided to Trump and what did they get in return?
  4. HOW MUCH DOES TRUMP GIVE TO CHARITABLE CAUSES? To be more specific, how much of Trump’s personal money has he given away that wasn’t actually a payoff of some kind? Inquiring minds want to know.
  5. WHAT’S IN TRUMP’S TAX RETURNS? It’s obvious Trump never intended to release his tax returns. What’s in them he doesn’t want anyone to see? Money laundering? Tax evasion? We can assume Special Counsel Robert Mueller has Trump’s taxes and some of that information may come out in his report, but can you give us a few tidbits in the meantime?

Looking out for Allen Weisselberg, I’d get immunity if I were you before I started spilling information. Once you’ve received it, tell all you know and set yourself free. Then you can go ahead and enjoy that retirement without having to look over your shoulder.

Update: 8/24/2018  Allen Weisselberg has been granted immunity by Federal prosecutors. Watch out now!

Trump Word For The Day: Collusion!

Definition – Secret or illegal cooperation or conspiracy, especially in order to cheat or deceive others.

Donald Trump says it in almost every public conversation. “No Collusion!” “There was no collusion!” “No Collusion!” We now learn that Trump’s former personal attorney is willing to testify that Donald Trump knew about the infamous “Trump Tower” meeting in June 2016 where Russians came to Trump Tower to meet with Donald Jr., Paul Manafort, and Jared Kushner to allegedly provide dirt on Hillary Clinton.

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All of the attendees of the meeting originally denied the purpose of the meeting and that Donald Trump was aware it was taking place. When news of the meeting broke when the President and Donald Jr were returning from an overseas trip on Air Force One. Donald Trump dictated a letter downplaying the meeting and making a claim it was merely about Russian adoptions.

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We now know Donald Trump knew in advance and approved of the Russian meeting, being approached about it by Donald Jr. Donald Trump approved the meeting and is more likely than ever to have been the source of a call Donald Jr took during the meeting from a number marked “Private” which calls from Trump’s cell phone are.

The legal and criminal implications of Trump’s knowledge, approval, and subsequent denials of the meeting are staggering. Donald Jr and Kushner have perjured themselves in testimony before Congressional committees. Manafort, Kushner and Don Jr will have given false testimony in interviews with the FBI. Trump himself will have done the one thing he constantly denied, conspired (colluded) with Russians to get information about Hillary Clinton, and of course, Russia knew.

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Russia has always known about Trump’s culpability in at least this instance. They know about his financial ties to Russian oligarchs. His dependence on Russian funding over the years and even his relationship with the Russian mob in New York. This is why Trump bends over everytime Putin is near, and the information is coming out a piece at a time on a daily basis. One claim Trump won’t be able to credibly make any longer is “No collusion!” Because he’s corrupt as hell!

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Rudy Guiliani, came out after the story broke calling Michael Cohen “unbelievable” and “a liar.” He never said the story wasn’t true!

“Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain,” It Was Just Me!

President Trump read some words to the press this afternoon. It can’t be called a press conference as no questions were allowed. He read from a script, probably written by someone else to keep his own words from the public.

Trump gave a glowing summary of the last week during which he claimed he raised “hundreds of millions” for NATO and everyone was pleased. He didn’t insult anyone like he did Angela Merkel when she was out of the room. He met with the Prime Minister of Great Britain and they got along famously (Trump tried his best to oust her from the government in a newspaper interview with one of Rupert Murdoch’s papers). The closest he came to telling the truth was when he mentioned he and the Queen of England walked in front of her honor guard. More accurately he stepped in front of the 92-year-old Queen, showing he has no respect for anyone or anything.

He finally came to his closed-door meeting in Helsinki with Russian President Vladimir Putin, claiming they resolved most of the problems of the world. They jointly stepped in front of press microphones and Trump claimed the Mueller investigation is “a witch hunt,” and of course, “there is no collusion.” Trump let us know Putin “strongly denied” meddling in the US Elections. And that Trump, “didn’t know why they would.”

In today’s “clarification,” Trump tried to say after reviewing the transcript and watching the video, he meant to say he “didn’t know why they wouldn’t.” And added for effect, it’s what you call a double-negative. To believe his new version, we would have to disregard everything he’s both said and failed to say about Putin and Russia since his campaign began. Even when he grudgingly acknowledged Russia did “attempt to meddle” in our elections. He couldn’t help but add, “it could have been others as well.”

When the statement ended, someone shouted three times, “Will you publicly condemn Putin?” Trump thanked everyone for coming and slinked away. It’s increasingly clear, that while Trump is publicly the President, Putin is the man behind the curtain pulling the strings.