Friday, March 03, 2017

Stop child screen exploitation NOW!

          Child neglect and abuse is happening every day, right under our nose, and we’re doing nothing to stop it.   In fact, we’re bankrolling it.  Been doing it for years. 

            I’m talking about kids appearing in what were once considered X-rated movies, but worse.  Kids doing and saying and outrageous things, things that would strip the chrome off a bumper.  Things that used to make adults blush, when blushing was in style. 

            It’s child exploitation under the guise of freedom of speech.  Hollywood sells and we buy.  We Cinemark, we Netflix, we Amazon Prime; we buy, rent and stream.  But most of all we silently accept.  We may flinch with each new encroachment on the bounds of decency, but we shrug and go on.  Every year more graphic, more flagrant.  Like frogs in heating water we’ve become desensitized and we stew in the caldron as our soul slowly melts. 

            I’ve silently vowed to do something for years.  But now it’s time to act.  The last straw is the new movie, Fist Fight.  Let me ask you, how many times is it acceptable for a little 10-year-old girl to say the f-word?  If you said more than zero you’d be considered a bad parent. 

            And that would be in the privacy of your own home.  How much worse would it be in public.  And how many times worse than that if it were captured on film and repeated on thousands of movie screens across the world, and eventually on millions of pads, tablets, tv’s for all time?  If one time is too many what about 5?  What about 10?  Try 25! 

            25 TIMES this 10-year-old child “actress” raps out the f-word, along with equal numbers of the s and b word, in front of a roomful of other young kids during a grade school talent show, with her on-screen dad coaching her and pregnant mom wildly cheering her every evisceration of whatever childhood innocence that we once used to cherish in children.    

            And her real-life parents?  They’ve sold her for big bucks.  These parents would be subject to child neglect and/or abuse charges in Kentucky.  Minors lack the capacity to make a contract.  Children do not have the life experience or wisdom to make decisions for their long and short term best interests.  That is why parents or legal guardians bear responsibility for them until they turn 18.  It is a relationship that demands actions that are always in the child’s best interest.

            Fist Fight is an R-rated movie.  It promotes high-school teachers having sex with students, teacher and student drug use, violence, bad—check—horrible manners and attitudes.  Children should never be allowed to even appear in R-rated movies, much less be active participants in the lurid action. 

            And PG-13 films are just as bad.  In fact, this film is just the latest tip of the child-exploitation iceberg Hollywood has built on societal indifference over the decades.

            Free speech comes with responsibility.  Those that violate this duty must be held to account.  We used to have standards and boundaries.  But as the line of acceptability has gotten increasingly extreme so have the bad statistics.  Higher rates of child abuse and neglect, child sexploitation, marital discord, drug addiction and deaths:   it’s all related to the descent of decent society. 

            I’m no goody two-shoes, and certainly not one to be preaching.  But providence has placed me in a position of awareness through my experience as a child advocate in DNA (Dependency, Neglect, and Abuse) Court.  Beyond that I act as a concerned citizen. 

            Contact your lawmakers.  Write the studios.  Boycott all movies by studios who produce such offending movies.  Boycott all other movies from the same director, production company and actors.

            It has gone too far.  It is unacceptable and we must stand for positive change.  We CAN do it!  And for the sake of our children, ourselves, and our future, we must do it. 

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Richie's Reel Reviews 2015

Richie’s Reel Reviews 2015

It’s been a middling year for movies.  While I am sure that there are many under-the-radar quality films that I rarely have the privilege to enjoy--foreign, indie, and others that don’t fit into the mass distribution formula-- this review pertains to movies that do.  As I said, if you long for more in a movie than action, violence and boring, repetitive story-lines, it was not a banner year.  Still, there is always enough to keep the corn a poppin’. 

BEST OF 2015

The Martian—Science, drama, humor intergalactic Gravity-inspired cinematography, heart-tugging human sacrifice culminating in ultimate victory for the whole world!  This movie has it all—it’s one of the few (only) films I went back multiple times to see.

The Intern—A Robert De Niro tour de force.  It was as if the breadth of his entire movie career molded his conglomeration of characters into the perfect specimen of humanity, which Mr. De Niro played perfectly as Anne Hathaway’s intern.  I found myself hoping beyond hope that this was the REAL Robert De Niro, that this was how he was in real life.  I know he’s a good actor, but such humanity, grace, sacrifice and class is hard to fake, even for the best actors. 

Cinderella—Surprisingly, OUTSTANDING, EXCELLENT, UPLIFITING and entertaining!  I was just searching for SOMEthing to watch so I could feed my popcorn fix.  I thought I’d CINDERELLA a try and boy am I glad I did!  Story, color, costumes, acting and wow, what a moral.  As Cinderella teaches:  BE KIND, ACT BOLD AND ENVISION THE WORLD AS IT COULD BE, not as it is.

Spotlight—This true story covers the Boston Globe’s Pulitzer Prize-winning expose of child abuse in the Catholic Church.  “Spotlight” refers to the special team of reporters who focus on big assignments.  Liev Schreiber plays Marty Baron, the new editor of the Globe, an outsider, who was the first, and—being an outsider—possibly the only one to see the story for what it was, and who had the guts to direct the Spotlight team to prove it despite the enormous pressure the Catholic Church exerted in Boston.  Spotlight shows how absolutely indispensable good journalism is to our world.  A fabulous cast includes Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Stanley Tucci and John Slattery.  Certainly one of the best and most important movies of this century.

Bridge of Spies—True story of 1950’s Cold War intrigue, heroism in the face of public scorn and, in the end, justice for all.  Tom Hanks plays the attorney who takes to heart his duty to defend a Russian spy.  He then engineers a swap for American spies held in the USSR and East Germany.  You shiver with him as he snakes his way across the Berlin Wall on a typical German grey, freezing and snowy winter day, where he wheels and deals with various Communist officials.  The period detail, from New York streets in the fifties, to the jail cell, the wood paneled law offices, the courtroom, the still war-torn Berlin society—with stark differences between east and west—combine with a suspense-filled script and outstanding acting to create an outstanding movie.

Selma—A long overdue true account of the quest to make America’s laws match its pledge, “And liberty and justice FOR ALL.”  SELMA covers the crucial three-month period in 1965 when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led the violent, dangerous movement to secure equal voting rights.  You can never appreciate the gauntlet the marchers from Selma to Montgomery had to overcome:  an intransigent army of white citizens BACKED BY STATE and local POLICE! Who beat, clubbed and killed those who dared to march…IN PEACE.  I had no idea what was involved, the courage and sacrifices made, and the backroom politicking Dr. King did on LBJ, to get the power of his Presidency behind basic human rights in America.  SELMA is a gripping story you can’t look away from, even as you tell yourself “this could not have been this bad before…”

The Big Short--Just released movie about the mortgage crisis.  It shows on the one side the smug and greedy bankers and mortgage brokers, greedy and foolhardy, all the while knowing the American taxpayer would bail them out when things would inevitably collapse, and on the other those who profited from the collapse by creating the "credit default swaps."  It is a repeat tale from the 1929 crash and ensuing Depression, where government, corrupted by big money insiders, de-regulated the system, allowing the wolves to oversee the chicken coop.  Privatization of profit, socialization of the risk, i.e. the few won, the many lost. Watchable movie, but bring a puke bag.

Mission Impossible—Rogue Nation—I love international locales, high-tech glitz, and plot twists and turns on par with well-placed action.  This film has it all and I should know:  I chomped through nearly two big tubs full of popcorn!

Mr. Holmes—Ian McKellan is unreal as an aging Sherlock Holmes.  The period detail and cinematography are stunning, from Holmes’s haberdashery to the billowing plumes of the locomotive as it winds through the verdant English countryside.  Plot twists and human compassion combine with Holmes’s cold objectivity to create a winning and very satisfying movie.   

Max—Great true man’s-best-friend story of Max, a Belgian Malinois dog used by Marine Kyle Wincott in Afghanistan to root out weapons and bombs.  Max gets injured in an advance on a suicide bomber and Kyle gets killed in a shootout.  Fast forward to the funeral in Texas, where Kyle’s family lives.  Max is barely held on the leash as he struggles towards the casket in the front of the church.  He paws it, then lays at its base, legs outstretched, eyes looking up over forlorn, wrinkled brows.  In this early scene you can easily relate to the connection we all feel with our pets, as real and as deep and as heartfelt as the dearest human relationships.
Max, however, is a wild dog, inconsolable as he is uncontrollable at the loss of his master.  Uncannily he gravitates to Justin, Kyle’s younger brother after the funeral.  The army brass tells him that he is the only chance to save Max from the executioner’s blade, so Justin and his parents agree to take Max.  The rest of the story is an exciting and feel-good triumph, with a surprise ending.  The movie celebrates both our furry friends’ invaluable contribution to the service of mankind, and also the truth that they are often as good or better humans than their owners.

DECENT movies of 2015 (watchable)

Ex Machina—Cool movie about a reclusive billionaire tech genius who has developed the latest robot.  He runs a contest for a volunteer experiment, and another tech genius-in-waiting wins.  He is aired off to the very, VERY remote secret location, in an ultra-secure structure deep within the forests of somewhere (Alaska? Siberia?).  In it he meets the inventor and his new love-to-be, the seductive robot who eventually convinces him that their mutual attraction is real, and that the inventor is really an inhuman bad guy.  The end is shocking, surprising and will leave you wondering about the unintended, but entirely possible, consequences of science run amok.  NOTE:  Last year’s CHAPPIE was a great movie about a good robot who is a model for how humans should be.  By contrast EX MACHINA shows what computer perfection looks like divorced from human values.

My All American—Blink and you missed it, but go get it!  True story of a real hero, Freddie Steinmark, who famed University of Texas football coach Darrell Royal called his favorite player.  A brilliant movie about a fine young man and his infectious optimism and positivity. 

Spectre—The umpteenth James Bond entry BARELY makes the cut.  And only the international settings and the fact Daniel Craig is the perfect model for today’s svelte suits save this boring overdone, and (yet again) humorless movie from my “avoid at all costs” list, which I can hardly wait to get to, so I will!

Daddy's Home--Just released Will Farrell movie.  Just okay, but enough laughs and a nice ending to while away an hour and a half.


Mad Max—I finally had to walk out about half way through, feeling as though I needed to take a shower to get rid of the dirt, dust and muck and heavy-metal noise that dominates this wretched excuse of a movie.  Avoid at all costs!!

The Hunger Games Mockingjay—Part 2—OMG, horrible!  I tried TWICE to sit through the whole thing but HAD to leave.  Not even the terrific Jennifer Lawrence can save this one.  

The Force Awakens—They should have let sleeping dogs lie.  Actually, that’s an insult to dogs (see Max above, e.g.).  This movie breaks no new ground, repeating refrains and storylines that were new and kind of neat (just “kind of”, I never was all that impressed with the Star Wars phenomena) in the 70’s.  Long, boring, over-hyped and underwhelming.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

A Thanksgiving Appreciation

This Thanksgiving I am thankful for…HANDS!

My hands that allow me to do so much, SO much!

The hands of others, without whom I would have little life.  The hands of the Shenzen seamstress.  The hands of faceless nameless workers throughout the world who make the countless products I use every minute of every day.

The hands that clean my house.  The hands that rid my trash.  The hands that stock the shelves.  The hands that ring the sale and that are always accompanied by a smiling face and cheerful spirit.

The hands that clean.  The hands that cook.  The hands of colleagues and court clerks.

Thank you for the hands that brew, and for the hands that help me chew.

The hands that plant, the hands that toil, the hands that harvest from the soil.  The hands that pack and prepare for shipping foods of all manner from all the world’s quarter just for me and my belly in the store down the corner.

The hands that prep, the hands that heal, yes, even the hands that polish the still.
The hands that paint, and draw and write, all hands that bring me great delight. 
Hands that hold the camera, hands that hold the script, hands that pop the corn and show me to my seat.
Hands that keep us safe and sweet: the checkers of the flame, the walkers of the beat, the providers of our light and heat.

Hands that tend the gardens, mow the lawns and change the bulbs, hands that trim the trees, the bushes and the shrubs.

Everywhere I look I see reason for thanksgiving.  I have earned NOTHING, I deserve NOTHING, but there those hands are, caring for me, providing for me, saving me.  Especially the hands from above.

So to all those countless hands here and there, near and far, I say--THANK YOU! 


PS  and a special word of thanks to….(drum roll) the turkey vulture!  Yes, I just read this piece on the enormous debt of gratitude we owe the turkey vulture.  Fascinating read:

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Last Cicada

BZZZZ-Z-Z-Z! BZZZZ-Z-Z-Z! The verdant path through the neighborhood forest now rings with the call of just one. One lonely sycophant still searching for its mate.

Weeks earlier the tropical canopy was a deafening riot of screaming cicadas, each trying to out-maneuver the next. Imagine your lifetime of sexual energy condensed to one 30-day period. The maniacal buzzing and whirring went non-stop 24/7, so loud and frantic it was comical.

For 17 long years these nymphs sucked sap deep underground from the tall trees’ roots. Finally mature, they’ve come out and shed their skin for their summer prom, engagement, honeymoon and funeral all in just a few short weeks.

My evening walk’s now mostly calm, save this last cicada. Why, pray tell, is he still unmated? Pimples? Shy? Two left feet? Too picky? Off key?

Are the females all gone that his wails go in vain?

Or maybe he don’t give a damn, he just wants to be the last man standin’.

The toughest dude in the brood.

The last cicada.

Richard Dawahare
(originally published September, 2005)

Saturday, August 23, 2014

RICHIE’S REEL REVIEWS! New and updated

It’s been a while since I have weighed in on the flics. Frankly, there has been a dearth of what I consider commendable films.  I will therefore start with the most recent of the very very few that I have actually seen.  OBVIOUSLY, there are bound to be many films that were I to see them I would heartily recommend.  I put them in the category of “I will always have something to look forward to!”

If a movie is not bad, it is generally watchable, meaning I am okay spending the $6-$9 for the ticket and another $7.50 for the popcorn.  I may not see it a second time, but hey, it wasn’t bad.   The vast majority of films are either bad, or not bad.

But sometimes on a rare occasion—just once or twice a year—a movie transcends this categorization and is truly good.  Some are even GREAT! 

Chef is such a movie.  It has it all:  story, humor, drama, music—FANTASTIC latin music—setting, cinematography, acting, and a fabulous surprise ending.  The movie establishes Jon Favreau who WROTE, DIRECTED AND STARS as today’s premiere Hollywood talent.  In short, this film is a masterpiece.

A word about music in movies:  it can either make or break a film.  As an example—the music in Chef enhances the emotions you are supposed to feel at whatever point in the movie it plays.  It does this so PERFECTLY that you can’t wait go buy the soundtrack. 
By comparison, I sat halfway through a really bad film (Grown ups 2) earlier this year that is typical of most bad films in that the music is forced, as if putting a popular song in a terrible movie will somehow save it.   This was very amusing to me—way more than this horrible film (thus my early exit).

Quite a coincidence that the two best movies this year involve chefs and food!  Helen Mirren is the owner (Madame Mallory) of a one-star Michelin restaurant in a French village near the Swiss border.  She is obsessed with getting another star.  

A family from India, led by “Papa”—whose wife was killed in the fire that destroyed his Bombay restaurant—stops in this village because their car broke down.  Papa determines to open his new restaurant in a vacant building right across the street from Helen Mirren’s classic French establishment.

His son is an expert Indian chef, who turns out utterly delicious food.  Madame Mallory can’t stand this new competition and fights back.  Her and “Papa” go at it and the hilarity begins!

Without giving the plot away, all I can say is that this is a deliciously satisfying movie.  Everything works, no wasted words, scenes, music, or dialogue.  Rich colors, superb acting, fitting musical score and a tight script.  Oh, and everything Helen Mirren is in is outstanding!  This is one great movie!  GREAT!

Another “MARVEL-ous” entry, perhaps the best of the Marvel Comics collection of movies.  This movie is shockingly great!  It works best for me as a COMEDY and MORALITY play, but of course there is action and special effects galore.  Chris Platt is the hero.  Glen Close, John C. Reilly, Vin Diesel, Zoe Saldana and Dave Bautista are all outstanding.  Platt plays Peter Quill aka “Star Lord”, who leads a crew of intergalactic misfits on a hunt for a mysterious all-powerful orb.  The music, as in the other films on this list, fits p-e-r-f-e-c-t-l-y!
I tell you, this is what movies should be all about:  humor, creativity, action, messaging—and in this case, a high moral message that leaves you feeling great at the end!! GREAT.

You may not have heard of it—it only stayed in the local theater a week or so, but this is one of the best, most entertaining, funny movies of the year!!  Jason Bateman is a 40 year old who finds a loophole in a middle school spelling bee and competes for the championship.  Nearly everything he’s in is good , especially THE CHANGE UP—see it if you have not—so I knew this would probably be good.  It is GREAT!

Scarlett Johansson is a college student in Taiwan who is kidnapped and force to be a mule of for a Chinese drug lord, who sews a bag of a new drug—CPH4—that causes the human brain to increase its capacity (humans only use 10% of it—this new drug can get it to 100%).  She gets kicked in her just opened stomach and some of the drug enters her bloodstream.  Then look out!
This is a French-made sci-fi film shot in Taipei, Paris and New York.  It’s a really good movie.  Though  the end is a little weird, it’s well worth watching. Not bad.

You know…it’s okay!  In 2048, after “the big war” leaders create futuristic world designed to maintain peace by taking all humanity, all emotion and all color away.  There is no romance, no love, no kissing, no competition, no nothing, except a contented community.   The apparent utopian society starts to unravel as we learn more about it.  A young man, under the tutelage of Jeff Bridges, escapes and strives to return the world to its former humanity.  Watchable, not bad.

2012-2013  MOVIES:  (listed simply as “GREAT” “GOOD TO GREAT” “NOT BAD” or  “BAD”
GREAT:  Philomena, 42, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook, Side Effects,

 Argo, Walter Mitty, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Draft Day

The Avengers, Moonrise Kingdom, Life of Pi. The Great Gatsby, Die Hard 5, Safe Haven, Emporer, Olympus has Fallen, Place Beyond the Pines, Mud, We’re the Millers, Rush, Gravity, Her, American Hustle, 12 Years a Slave, Captain Phillips, Divergent, 50 to 1, Captain America, Bears

Skyfall, Les Miserables, Looper, The Cabin in the Woods, Django Unchained,
The Master, Zero Dark Thirty, Cloud Atlas, Burt Wonderstone, Pain and Gain, The End, The Way Way Back, Two Guns, Elysium, Insidious, The Wolf of Wall Street, Anchorman 2, The Monument Men, Robocop, Son of God, Heaven is Real, God is not dead, Noah, Neighbors. 

SPECIAL NOTE—all the “religious” movies were really, really bad.  Truly sinful!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Charlie Chaplain--so much more than silent screen superstar!

Charlie Chaplain.  The image those two words conjured up in my mind was always that of the funny mini-mustached “Little Tramp" who waddled with a cane in a bowler’s hat.  It was not until I saw The Great Dictator on Turner Classic Movies that I learned how supremely talented, and more importantly how supremely PRINCIPLED Mr. Chaplain was. 

Charlie Chaplain stood tall for peace in the face of war.  He wrote, directed, scored and starred in The Great Dictator, which parodied Hitler and the Nazi’s in 1940.  This was at a time when Britain and the U.S. were reluctant to become involved.  They tried to discourage Chaplain from releasing this controversial movie, which in reality was a soaring political, moral and philosophical statement.  
By standing up for what he KNEW to be right Charlie Chaplain bucked power, he bucked public opinion, he bucked governments.  He was the FIRST entertainer, if not the first major public figure, to stand up to Hitler, fascism, injustice and the inhumanity of greed, human exploitation and war.
Below appears his rousing final speech, one of the best you will ever see.  Mr. Chaplain essentially states his purpose for making this movie in his plea for love, charity, compassion and justice, which will create peace and happiness for all. 
Charlie Chaplain is in fact a prophet, proclaiming human morality as the one and only sure path to peace and prosperity.  His speech applies as much today as then, and will tomorrow, too. 
To be sure, his is not the only voice for truth.  But I guess my discovery that such an intergalactic vocal statement came from the superstar of silent film made it all the more impactful.    
To actually see this incredible speech please go here Charlie Chaplain final speech in The Great Dictator.

"I'm sorry, but I don't want to be an emperor.  That’s not my business. I don't want to rule or conquer anyone.  I should like to help everyone - if possible - Jew, Gentile - black man - white.  We all want to help one another.  Human beings are like that. We want to live by each other's happiness - not by each other's misery.  We don't want to hate and despise one another.  In this world there is room for everyone.  And the good earth is rich and can provide for everyone.  The way of life can be free and beautiful, but we have lost the way.

Greed has poisoned men's souls, has barricaded the world with hate, has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed.  We have developed speed, but we have shut ourselves in.  Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want.  Our knowledge has made us cynical.  Our cleverness, hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little.  More than machinery we need humanity. More than cleverness we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost....

The aeroplane and the radio have brought us closer together.  The very nature of these inventions cries out for the goodness in men - cries out for universal brotherhood - for the unity of us all.  Even now my voice is reaching millions throughout the world - millions of despairing men, women, and little children - victims of a system that makes men torture and imprison innocent people.

To those who can hear me, I say - do not despair.  The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed - the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress.  The hate of men will pass, and dictators die, and the power they took from the people will return to the people.  And so long as men die, liberty will never perish. .....

Soldiers!  Don’t give yourselves to brutes - men who despise you - enslave you - who regiment your lives - tell you what to do - what to think and what to feel! Who drill you - diet you - treat you like cattle, use you as cannon fodder.  Don't give yourselves to these unnatural men - machine men with machine minds and machine hearts!  You are not machines!  You are not cattle!  You are men!  You have the love of humanity in your hearts!  You don't hate!  Only the unloved hate - the unloved and the unnatural! Soldiers!  Don't fight for slavery!  Fight for liberty!

In the 17th Chapter of St Luke it is written: "the Kingdom of God is within man-- not one man nor a group of men, but in all men! In you! You, the people have the power - the power to create machines. The power to create happiness!  You, the people, have the power to make this life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure.

Then - in the name of democracy - let us use that power - let us all unite.  Let us fight for a new world - a decent world that will give men a chance to work - that will give youth a future and old age a security.  By the promise of these things, brutes have risen to power. But they lie! They do not fulfil that promise. They never will!

Dictators free themselves but they enslave the people!  Now let us fight to fulfil that promise!  Let us fight to free the world - to do away with national barriers - to do away with greed, with hate and intolerance.  Let us fight for a world of reason, a world where science and progress will lead to all men's happiness. Soldiers! In the name of democracy, let us all unite!"



Saturday, August 09, 2014