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Hot Takes: Crack (Netflix 2021)

Imagine if we had treated Black people on crack the way we’re treating white people on opioids. 

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1. America owes Black people everything. If you can watch Crack and not be completely disgusted with every politician who made this happen, from Reagan to Clinton, Biden to Rangel, Bush to O’Neill, we don’t have anything to talk about politically. Your fundamental understanding of America’s relationship to Black people is fatally flawed and there’s no middle ground for us to come to.

2. There’s no understanding of mass incarceration, the militarization of local law enforcement, cash bail, asset forfeiture, police brutality, or any other reform of the justice system without an understanding of how crack is the foundation for all of it. Every problem we recognize today that relates to the justice system was either created or hugely exacerbated by the crack epidemic.

3. I went into Crack with a basic understanding of the big building blocks of the epidemic. Cocaine was expensive. Crack (which is just cocaine without the salt, and that makes it able to be smoked) was cheaper and could be sold more easily. Crack was more addictive because the high was immediate. Cocaine made its way to the US from Central America. The system overpoliced crack because it was Black people doing it and left cocaine alone because it was white people doing it. I didn’t know the details. 80s US History isn’t my area, so I was honestly shocked that the United States government let cocaine into the country because they were more concerned with making sure Nicaragua had a government they liked than they were with Black and Latino families ripped apart by crack cocaine. Just when you thought you couldn’t loathe this country more, you find another piece of the puzzle.

4. I had no idea crack was that profitable!!! I knew a lot of people made a lot of money, but I didn’t know there were regular guys out here buying motels and movie theaters with their crack profits. How did they pay for it? With a bag of cash? When you hit millions of dollars a day, don’t you have to launder that cash? How is that much cash changing hands and no federal agency blinks?

5. I highly recommend listening to the episode of You’re Wrong About on crack babies either before or immediately after you watch Crack. Full Disclosure: You’re Wrong About is currently my favorite podcast because the topics are immaculately researched. The one on gangs also ties in well with this documentary, because “gang warfare” really exploded with the rise of crack in the inner cities. In case you couldn’t tell from the title, everything you think you understand about crack babies (or how gangs operate) is completely wrong, and the narrative you’ve been fed is based on racist white people using crack and guns to justify their irrational fears of Black people.

6. Black people have every reason to mistrust the healthcare industry in this country. We talk about the history of gynecology and the Tuskegee Experiment, but I didn’t know doctors and nurses were turning in mothers addicted to crack who were asking for help!! They really went baiting Black women into telling them they were on crack so they could lock them up for getting their babies hooked on crack in the womb (spoiler alert: those babies weren’t even addicted to anything).

7. There’s no smoking gun, and therefore, the US government doesn’t feel they owe us anything. This country refuses to take responsibility for anything, but we should add crack to the list of ills because America created the circumstances that led to crack destroying a generation of Black families. The Reagan administration concentrated wealth into the hands of few while unemployment soared (and Black unemployment was double the national rate). There were no jobs and no money in the inner cities, and then crack showed up. It was a fast way to make money so you could feed your family and keep a roof over your head. More crack showed up because the CIA either assisted or ignored the planes and planes of cocaine being brought up from Nicaragua, planes that had been full of guns and supplies we supplied to the Contras to take back the Nicaraguan government. More crack meant more money which meant more dealers which meant turf wars. Turf wars meant shootouts and deaths of innocent bystanders just going to the grocery store, all of which the police ignored because they were stealing from the dealers and selling crack themselves or taking payoffs from the kingpins…until a cop died and then it was war on our communities for an epidemic the US Government created.

8. Imagine if we had treated Black people on crack the way we’re treating white people on opioids.

9. It’s a short, brisk, 90-minuted documentary, but it could’ve used another 90, or perhaps a series to really dig into the chapters it sets up. The documentary doesn’t do enough to debunk the myths of crack babies who grow up to be superpredators. I want to hear more from the reformed addicts and dealers — how did they escape crack while so many others didn’t? How did that one guy make it out of the hood and become a neuroscientist while his friends were selling crack? The Iran-Contra Affair gets more detail than I expected and I can’t believe I learned that whole story in school without the added detail that we let drug dealers send planes full of cocaine here — I want more about that. I want more detail about how the media helped create this and I want more attention to the politicians who destroyed our community because they were trying to one-up each other to be toughest guy on the block. It’s a heavy documentary, but it’s a good overview of crack and how we’re still feeling the repercussions of America’s costliest war ($1 trillion and counting).

Score: 8/10

 

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Movies

Hot Takes: Black Widow

This isn’t Natasha’s story the way most origin stories would be.

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I don’t want to give spoilers in case you don’t want them, so we got three parts here.

The Good / Random (No Spoilers)

1. This is a good ass origin story! They’re so formulaic in superhero movies, but this isn’t that.
Captain Marvel  – accidentally gets superpowers, learns how to use them, kicks butt.
Spiderman  – accidentally gets superpowers, learns how to use them, kicks butt.
Captain America – intentionally gets superpowers, learns how to use them, kicks butt.
Iron Man – spends a bunch of money making superpowers, learns how to use them, kicks butt.
Black Widow – a child trafficker gets tracked down by two of his former slaves/spies/assassins.

2. Where do spies be getting all this money? Natasha is an orphan. Did she just steal a few billion dollars and stash it somewhere to be spending on identities and jets and whatnot? It’s not like the Avengers draw a paycheck. Falcon could barely keep his little fishing boat in business.

3. Florence Pugh is hilarious and, no shade but shade, a better Black Widow than Scarlett. I’m so excited for her.

4. I want smaller Marvel movies. We have consistently leveled up the danger from saving a city to saving a country to saving a planet to saving the universe to now probably saving all of the dimensions of the universe. Where do you go after that? Let’s make it small. Black Widow is an exercise in taking the stakes down and I hope they keep moving in that direction. Every Marvel movie doesn’t need a huge scene culminating in hundreds of explosions where the universe is saved for another day. Let’s get the Marvel road trip buddy comedy, the Marvel bank heist, the Marvel family drama. Black Widow is a mashup of all three, and it’s done really well.

5. There are only like three men in the whole movie who have more than a minute of screentime and you love to see it.

6. For me, action scenes have a heightened sense of danger when it’s a bunch of regular people chasing each other in cars and kicking ass without flying through the sky or blasting out neon projectiles. In that way, Black Widow feels more like a Bond movie or a Bourne movie than a Marvel movie and I’m very much here for all of that.

The Annoying (Mild Spoilers)

7. Because these are real people who can DIE and those are my favorite kinds of action movies, it really takes me out of the film when these real, non-enhanced humans survive ridiculous things or put themselves in absolutely fatal situations with no regard to their own safety. If you can’t survive a gunshot, you’re not going to squat in the open door of a helicopter while it’s being sprayed with bullets — two bullet holes appeared on Yelena’s left and then three appeared on her right, but she’s right in the doorway getting hit by nothing? How many car crashes can Natasha not only walk away from but also fight an adversary immediately after? My dad has ten broken bones from a car crash he was in a couple of weeks ago, but she walking away from cars that rolled over? I don’t like that.

8. Atomic Blonde has some of the most realistic fight scenes I’ve ever seen in a female action movie and the fight choreographer talked about how they designed those scenes to accurately portray how a woman (or anyone with less muscle mass) would take advantage of their surroundings. Black Widow cannot pummel someone the way Captain America can because she’s not as strong. It doesn’t really matter though. It’s Marvel. We didn’t watch it for accuracy, and the fight scenes are all the same. However, when Natasha fights Yelena, they both utilize everything around them from dishes to curtains and it just made me wonder why they don’t always have Natasha fight that way.

9. Neither of these things would matter as much if the writers hadn’t made Yelena (hilariously) point out that Black Widow is a regular person compared to the other Avengers. If you’re going to highlight the fact that your cast is just humans who get shot, get broken bones, and then get ibuprofen, then you shouldn’t write action scenes for invincible heroes.

The Response to “It’s Too Late” Criticism (Mild Spoilers)

10. We watch movies about actual dead people all the time, so I don’t get what the big deal is. Tammy Faye Baker is so ridiculous she might as well have been written by Marvel and I’m gonna see that movie on opening night.

11. It’s right on time, but the marketing sucks, because it’s too focused on Natasha. Marvel has incorrectly assumed the public cares enough about Natasha to want this movie even though she’s dead, or that we like Scarlett enough to see this movie even though we know the resolution of the character. But Natasha and Yelena have the same origin story — it’s just as much Florence Pugh’s movie as it is Scarlett Johansson’s. This is the new Black Widow’s origin story, not the dead one’s.

Score: 7/10 

 

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Hot Takes: Zola

Taylour Paige is a star.

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1. TS Madison needs more film roles, stat. I didn’t even know she could act (yes, she was basically just being TS Madison, but Julia Roberts built a whole career of just being Julia on screen).

2. Personal preference, but I don’t love indie movies where you feel like the director needs to constantly remind you that they’re in control of the vision and that you’re watching an indie movie. Zola is a good story on its own — that’s why the Twitter thread went viral in the first place. It doesn’t need a lot of “filmmaking” to make a watchable film, and yet Janicza Bravo made sure to remind us through long, broody driving shots and visual interjections of meaningless filler in no way integral to the plot, that she’s the boss and she’s making an indie movie. I don’t like that.

3. Taylour Paige is a star. Taylour Paige’s body is also a star. Additionally, Taylour Paige’s face is a star. That ballet training and that Debbie Allen instruction really came in handy because the way she moves is magnetic. She can just walk through the scene and command attention. Also, the way she can tell microstories with her face! The entire film is one big showcase for Taylour’s tiny facial expressions.

4. Riley Keough (Elvis Pressley’s granddaughter, for those who don’t know) successfully walks that tricky line between doing a Blaccent and doing “white girl who knows Black people” and I feel like she must have actually put in work and research to pull that off successfully where so many others fail miserably.

5. Colman Domingo’s vague African accent maybe not as successful? Also, I just looked him up to see where he was from (Philadelphia, dad is from Belize) and he’s gay. He has a whole husband and everything, so what a nice Pride Month bonus on the very last day.

6. Wow, what a surprising collection of ugly penises.

7. Greg from Succession is hilarious. I love that he’s basically playing Greg from Succession again, but the trailer park version. I wouldn’t mind if his whole career was various incarnations of Greg from Succession.

8. If I had never read the Twitter thread, I probably would have enjoyed the movie just a *smidge* more, because I was waiting for the next tweet/plotpoint to come in whenever the director was seemingly trying to fill time. I felt like she was writing an essay with a word requirement and she was trying to hit the threshold with empty space. If Zola needed to be an hour and ten minutes, then that’s what it needed to be.

9. Sex trafficking is scary. The biggest difference between the Twitter thread and this movie is the way Bravo more accurately depicts how terrifying it is to be pimped and to be under the control of a man who is using you for money. I don’t remember being afraid for any of the characters on Twitter. I was afraid for everyone involved while watching the movie.

10. If your pee looks like Sunny Delight, bitch drink some WATER.

Score: 7/10 

 

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Hot Takes: Luca

Vespas aren’t that great. And it do be a lot of assholes riding them.

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1. Disney said, “Let’s make the gayest movie we can make that won’t be boycotted by Pat Robertson and One Million Moms.”

2. Disney also said, “Let’s make Call Me By Your Name but fishy, and let’s make The Shape of Water but the cartoon version.”

3. Disney also also said, “Let’s make a really good score!!!”

4. The big takeaway here is, if you’re different and everybody hates you, all you have to do is be good at some type of sporting event and you’ll have instant acceptance. I don’t know how you go from wanting to murder people to inviting them over for dinner, but whatever the trick is, somebody should’ve taught it to me in 7th grade as well.

5. Grandma is a boss. I bet she got some landmonster knocking the scales off that ol fishpussy every weekend.

6. If you win a triathlon as a relay with two other people against a little girl who is doing all three legs herself, should you really be bragging all the time about how great you are??? Somebody should’ve punched The Villain a long time ago.

7. One Arm Daddy kinda hot. I love when the gays are in charge of creative direction. If I was still writing Nifty Fanfic, I would definitely put Smart Hulk and One Arm Daddy in some smut together.

8. Vespas aren’t that great. And it do be a lot of assholes riding them.

9. So, we see in movies what we want to see, and if I take off the Pinkwash Lenses, there’s no queer coding in Luca, which is actually refreshing. A lot of times movies will have characters that we know are gay, without actually confirming they’re gay, so it’s like representation without representation. I hate that, because it’s pandering to an audience without actually giving that audience any content. Luca is just good storytelling about being an outsider, and watching it as someone who was an outsider at that age makes me want to tell gay jokes about it. This could also be a story about Black students integrating schools during segregation or poor kids being bussed to fancy districts or women enrolling at the Citadel.

10. There should be more movies pitched toward boys that show emotion in friendships and closeness between guys. Little boys can have feelings too, and I got misty thinking back to the little boy I was who wasn’t allowed to show any. Good job, Disney.

Score 8/10

 

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