Some movies are definitely better than others
Monday, April 29, 2013 4:06 AM
An unusual thing happened for us this last week: we went to a movie. It is not something we do often. That's likely because I don't care much for watching violence, or high-speed chases. I don't appreciate high tech special effects, which seem to be so prevalent.
I simply prefer a great story line and good acting that can carry the movie without the buzz. I also hope for an ending that, while it doesn't have to be a happy one, at least leaves me feeling good that I spent the time and money.
We went to see "42," the movie that was described by Roger Moore (of McClatchy Newspapers) in the April 11 Post Bulletin as Jackie Robinson's biography. All of the publicity surrounding its release that following weekend was very positive. The Med City Movie Guy, Chris Miksanek, also writing in the Post Bulletin, wrote on April 18 that it "transcends America's Pastime."
In the Star Tribune on April 12, reviewer Colin Covert said the "Robinson biopic hits right notes....It's a valuable history lesson, an intelligent drama that hits all the right emotional buttons, and an inspiring portrait of a true American hero."
Associated Press quickly reported that the movie "scores a grand slam," having taken in $27.3 million, that weekend's "box office championship domestically."
An article on April 14 in the Star Tribune described the excitement in the Robinson family itself about the release of the new film. His daughter, Sharon Robinson, said that the film "does a good job of highlighting the resistance and prejudice faced by her father..."
While he "faced stress and turmoil as a trailblazer (breaking the color barrier in Major League Baseball while playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers), he felt great fulfillment raising a family with his wife, Rachel, and raising consciousness about the need for equal rights for blacks and other minorities."
I was too young then to even be aware of what was happening in baseball, much less remember it now. But it would have been not long after that when a "transplant" to our little town had been moved there by a big meat processor to manage its local operation.
He came early in the mornings to eat breakfast at my parents' business, where I worked for two hours before going to school. He was the first person I had met from the Deep South, and he came complete with what I found later to be very typical of those values. It might even have been some news event about Jackie Robinson that got us started. It became a usual occurrence that, while he was eating his breakfast and if I wasn't too busy, we would engage in what I later called fighting the Civil War all over again. I do remember him telling me that I would change my mind about the colored people when I got older.
Well, I got older, but I didn't change my mind. I was traveling with my then-husband across Missouri, on our way to New Jersey and his next Navy duty station. We stopped to stay overnight at a hotel close to Fort Leonard Wood, and there were a lot of Army personnel around. In the lobby was a sign that said "Whites Only."
When we got to our room, my former spouse said to me, "Why does the hotel care whether I wear my blues or my whites?"
Likely due to my morning arguments with the fellow from the Deep South, I was a little more worldly-wise: I explained that the sign meant white people only, not white Navy uniforms.
Later, in Jacksonville, Fla., I enjoyed fighting that Civil War thing a lot at my workplace, often saying that I made it a habit to drink out of the water fountains labeled "colored only." People would look at me aghast, and warn me that if I did that, I was sure to get really bad germs.
One day the news was full of a black man who had been found in a river, just over the line in Georgia, with a lot of heavy chains wrapped around his neck, obviously intended to make him sink and drown.
The informal story being told around the water coolers: "Isn't that just like a n____ to try to swim the river carrying those heavy chains?"
Needless to say, I was pretty upset. One of the people with whom I worked and who had lived there all her life, turned to me and very matter-of-factly said, "When a n____ gets lynched around here, it doesn't even stop a checker game."
The Sunday after some race riots in Jacksonville that ended bloodily, the minister at the church we attended preached about "Blood ran red in the streets of Jacksonville yesterday," and exhorted his congregants to stand up and be counted on the side of ending racism. After the service, he was called aside by the powers-that-be and told that if he didn't shut up on that topic, he would be going back up north from whence he came.
Seeing this movie brought all of that back. And it also got me thinking about how things have changed. Back then, we had hope, and so did people like Jackie Robinson and his family: give them an opportunity and they will work hard to make it happen. But overall it hasn't happened the way it could have, I think because the change went in a different direction.
We can't remember the last movie we saw. But it is likely we won't forget this one. In addition to my criteria for a good movie that I mentioned earlier, I want to leave any movie feeling some sort of purpose for being. I also hope that it will make me think. "42" filled all of my criteria. It especially made me think.