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Match Play is a golf/suspense novel. Dust of Autumn is a bloody one set in upstate New York. Prairie View is set in South Dakota, with a final scene atop Rattlesnake Butte. Life in the Arbor is a children's book about Rollie Rabbit and his friends (on about a fourth grade level). The Black Widow involves an elaborate extortion scheme. Doggy-Dog World is my memoir. And ES3 is a description of my method for examining English sentence structure.
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My newest novel, Happy Valley, can be found here.

Wednesday, February 11

Fury & Black or White

On Netflix I finally caught up with Brad Pitt and Fury and watched it on a Saturday when Rosalie was at 4-Paws caring for all her feline charges. I was pretty sure she wouldn’t have wanted to see it, and I was so right. I’ve seen many war films all the way back to my childhood when I watched Gary Cooper in Sergeant York plink off Germans in WWI, Robert Taylor and John Wayne battling the Japanese in Bataan and Sands of Iwo Jima. That was before films were allowed to show graphic scenes of the horrors of modern warfare. And every war film thereafter became bloodier and bloodier and more and more horrific. I thought Saving Private Ryan was about as graphic as I cared to see, but now I can honestly say I’ve seen the epitome of war films depicting the horror and brutality and dehumanizing of people killing other people, of the traumatizing effects such brutality can have on those who must participate in such action. In Fury there are no clear lines drawn between the good guys and the bad guys. All the participants seem to be bad guys. Even the best of them, Sgt. Don “Wardaddy” Collier (Brad Pitt), is evil when he instructs his new, young tank-mate, Norman Ellison (Logan Lerman), in the need to kill Nazis. He forces the boy to take a pistol and shoot a captured German soldier in the back. Collier is the father-figure in his tank “family.”
But his “children” have devolved into barbarians who would rape and pillage and kill and destroy in the name of warfare. If Director David Ayer wanted to convince us that war is evil, he’s done an admirable job. Our televised proximity to the conflicts in the Middle East have made us all aware of PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder) from which too many of our young combatants suffer. The tank crew in Fury, led by Sgt. Collier, had it before we even knew what to call it. Fury was a furious assault on our senses and our sensibilities.

The reviews of Black or White were mixed—as many goods as bads, as many blacks as whites. I felt strangely uncomfortable through the entire movie. My discomfort had to do with the film’s depiction of black families as seen in the grandmother’s extended family living with her and across the street with her daughter. Rowena (Octavia Spencer) was a successful businesswoman and the grandmother of the biracial 7-year-old Eloise (Jillian Estell,who has to be the cutest, most adorable little girl the screen has seen since Shirley Temple). Elliot (Kevin Costner) is a wealthy lawyer and the grandfather of Eloise. And the central conflict in the story is the battle between Elliot and Rowena over custody of Eloise. Should she live with her grandfather, with whom she’s lived since she was born, or with her grandmother, who believes that Eloise would be better off with her than with the drunken Elliot. To further complicate the issue, the child’s father is there in court with Rowena, his mother. But Reggie (Andre Holland) is a crackhead loser who, according to Elliot, essentially raped his 17-year-old daughter who died when giving birth to Eloise. Back to my discomfort. Reggie is seen as unrealistically bad, a conniving ex-con who speaks in "ain't”s and “He don’t”s, and when asked in court how his daughter's name is spelled, he stumbles with "Loeez." His oh so strong, intelligent, successful black mother would never have raised him to be what we see in the film. And her extended family of nieces and nephews and cousins and siblings are just too extensive and stereotypical, especially when they all show up at Elliot’s house for a backyard pool party. I’m surprised that director Mike Binder didn’t have them eating watermelon and grits at this party. What else caused my discomfort? We learn at the beginning that Elliot’s wife has just been killed in an auto accident, the woman who apparently did almost all of the raising of their granddaughter Eloise. And we see Elliot drinking oceans of Scotch, morning, noon, night, in the car going to court, almost everywhere. And from the extent of the bar in his house, he’d been drinking like this for a long time, not just after the death of his wife. I find it hard to believe that he's be able to function either as a lawyer or a child rearer. So, does Rowena have a good case for taking Eloise away from him? You bet. Should the little girl be given to her crackhead father? Never in a million years. Should you go see this movie? Yes, but don’t look for any enlightenment about racial bigotry.
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