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WhiskeyGrinder's Journal
WhiskeyGrinder's Journal
January 28, 2019

NYT: Why Do the Oscars Keep Falling for Racial Reconciliation Fantasies?


Hard to excerpt -- lots of good stuff here.


Not knowing what these movies were “about” didn’t mean it wasn’t clear what they were about. They symbolize a style of American storytelling in which the wheels of interracial friendship are greased by employment, in which prolonged exposure to the black half of the duo enhances the humanity of his white, frequently racist counterpart. All the optimism of racial progress — from desegregation to integration to equality to something like true companionship — is stipulated by terms of service. Thirty years separate “Driving Miss Daisy” from these two new films, but how much time has passed, really? The bond in all three is conditionally transactional, possible only if it’s mediated by money. “The Upside” has the rich, quadriplegic author Phillip Lacasse (Cranston) hire an ex-con named Dell Scott (Hart) to be his “life auxiliary.” “Green Book” reverses the races so that some white muscle (Mortensen) drives the black pianist Don Shirley (Ali) to gigs throughout the Deep South in the 1960s. It’s “The Upside Down.”

Any time a white person comes anywhere close to the rescue of a black person the academy is primed to say, “Good for you!,” whether it’s “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “Mississippi Burning,” “The Blind Side,” or “The Help.” The year “Driving Miss Daisy” won those Oscars, Morgan Freeman also had a supporting role in a drama (“Glory”) that placed a white Union colonel at its center and was very much in the mix that night. (Denzel Washington won his first Oscar for playing a slave-turned-Union soldier in that movie.) And Spike Lee lost the original screenplay award for “Do the Right Thing,” his masterpiece about a boiled-over pot of racial animus in Brooklyn. I was 14 then, and the political incongruity that night was impossible not to feel. “Driving Miss Daisy” and “Glory” were set in the past and the people who loved them seemed stuck there. The giddy reception for “Miss Daisy” seemed earnest. But Lee’s movie dramatized a starker truth — we couldn’t all just get along.

By this point, you might have heard about the fried chicken scene in “Green Book.” It comes early in their road trip. Tony is shocked to discover that Don has never had fried chicken. He also appears never to have seen anybody eat fried chicken, either. (“What do we do about the bones?”) So, with all the greasy alacrity and exuberant crassness that Mortensen can conjure, Tony demonstrates how to eat it while driving. As comedy, it’s masterful — there’s tension, irony and, when the car stops and reverses to retrieve some litter, a punch line that brings down the house. But the comedy works only if the black, classical-pop fusion pianist is from outer space (and not in a Sun Ra sort of way). You’re meant to laugh because how could this racist be better at being black than this black man who’s supposed to be better than him?

Money buys Don a chauffeur and, apparently, an education in black folkways and culture. (Little Richard? He’s never heard him play.) Shirley’s real-life family has objected to the portrait. Their complaints include that he was estranged from neither black people nor blackness. Even without that thumbs-down, you can sense what a particularly perverse fantasy this is: that absolution resides in a neutered black man needing a white guy not only to protect and serve him, but to love him, too. Even if that guy and his Italian-American family and mob associates refer to Don and other black people as eggplant and coal. In the movie’s estimation, their racism is preferable to its nasty, blunter southern cousin because their racism is often spoken in Italian. And, hey, at least Tony never asks Don to eat his fancy dinner in a supply closet.

January 23, 2019

Stu Lourey (son of Tony, grandson of Becky) wins DFL primary

SD11 (Pine and Carlton counties, and a little bit of St. Louis County) is having a quick-turnaround special election to fill the spot vacated when (now former) Sen. Tony Lourey was tapped to be HHS director by the Walz-Flanagan team. Stu Lourey beat Michelle Lee last night in the special election DFL primary. Special election is February 5. Lourey will face 11B Rep. Jason Rarick.


January 6, 2019

'Surviving R. Kelly' Documentary on Lifetime Details Sex Abuse Accusations


By Jacey Fortin

For more than two decades, the R&B singer Robert Kelly, who performs as R. Kelly, has faced accusations of sexual misconduct and abuse.

This week, a six-part documentary on Lifetime is taking an expansive look at the allegations against Mr. Kelly, a chart-topping artist whose history has invited extra scrutiny in recent years.

The series, “Surviving R. Kelly,” includes testimony from several women who accuse the singer of abuse, as well as commentary from Mr. Kelly’s critics, including the founder of the #MeToo movement, Tarana Burke, and the singer John Legend.

The six episodes, each an hour long, cover the long history of allegations against Mr. Kelly. They feature women who described being controlled or abused by him, often when they were teenagers, as well as associates and relatives of the singer.

In addition, a private screening of the documentary was shut down by threats last month. The series itself was devastating. We must do better in general, and by girls and WOC in particular.

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