Tuesday, May 29, 2012

My Neighbours

We live next door to an elderly black couple who have apparently lived in every house in our neighbourhood at some point over the last 30-40 years. They often sit out on their porch with a friend and chat about whatever in a heavy Southern accent which sometimes requires effort to understand.

Today, while going around posting posters asking for help in finding our missing cat I had an incredibly educational experience through talking to those same neighbours. As I was handing over a "Lost Cat" poster to the old lady (unfortunately I've never spoken with them long enough to get their names) one of the old guys suddenly stood up and directed our attention to the nearby intersection. There a fairly aged vehicle was being flanked by two, loudly-lit police cars.

Inside the surrounded car were three black teenage boys, each of which was pulled from the vehicle separate from his fellows. The neighbours started to talk about what led up to this, surprising me with just how well they pay attention to literally everything that happens on our street. Apparently the car had been going up and down the road and had been changing passengers all morning. As the last boy was removed from the car a police officer had him bend over the hood and spit something out of his mouth. The neighbours friend, looking on through thin-framed sunglasses, just muttered, "They're riding dirty."

What we had witnessed was a drug bust, and my neighbours were certain the police had been tracking it all morning. While listening to them explain the situation from their viewpoint I acquired some insight into inner-city black culture and the image of city police for the minority. They spoke of what they know of police salary, how the police acquire bonuses by making arrests, and even why there were three cars, one pulling up later in the event while the arrests were taking place. They pointed out that the occasional black guy on a bike was more than likely scoping out the bust, probably because he had stake in whatever deal was going down. There were comments about what will happen to those boys when they go through processing and how they should have been spanked during their upbringing by their parents instead of the GRPD.

At one point the friend of the neighbour made a statement about how he'd now have to walk around the other side of the block just to get home. I asked him if he really thought that they would stop him. He looked at me, smiled weakly, and said that they probably wouldn't. The old lady turned around and looked at us both murmuring, "You don't need that harassment!"

I was alarmed at the thought of such a thing, and I was left pondering the larger picture. These are people who are incredibly fearful of what I would normally take for granted as just another routine police event. They saw the police as cold-hearted wage slaves out to nab certain "types" so that they can treat themselves to a steak dinner through a rather grim incentive system. They saw the boys as unfortunate fools who weren't raised properly, weren't shown the error of foolish life before it was too late. Now those boys are victims of a system designed to do them great harm both physically and mentally. I witnessed the true plight of neighbours, people, human beings living in my town, in the United States, as insecure about their well being as someone in a war-torn, third-world country. No matter what some people might say black people have it extremely hard even still. Why does it have to be like this?!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Marvel's The Avengers

*Please don't read this if you have not already seen the film*

An eclectic band of beloved superheroes, smoothly delivering clever scripting from the pen of Joss Whedon, strike out to sort their differences while saving the world from a mad god-being and his fierce alien-allies. This basically describes what you're going to experience if you wisely choose to see The Avengers, but it totally fails to prepare you for what is truly one of the greatest comic book movies of all time. 

The build up for this film has been historical as much as it has been tremendously epic. Marvel Studios stepped up and delivered something magical with a commitment I believe to be completely necessary from such an entity. They had faith in what they were doing, they hired amazing talent to create and execute memorable silverscreen wonder, and they brought it all together to give 2012 a titanic, true to the four-coloured spirit of superheroes, comic book movie. Many thanks and congratulations to those clever folk. 

I expected to see the film late Saturday night, but I was fortunate to receive a text message from a friend with a spare ticket for a 12:01am 3D showtime. Going in I knew that I would be viewing a film I have been waiting for, along with all of my fellow comic book geeks, since Iron Man and long before. Being a geek/nerd who has had the pleasure, and sometimes the displeasure, of seeing many comic book films I felt that I knew what to expect, especially since I spent the minutes before the start time thinking over bits from the previous Marvel films. What I witnessed over that 143 minutes was something stunning, unprecedented, and gloriously delivered. I saw a group of fantastical individuals bearing their super gifts and curses together, united against a brutal enemy. After the movie faded away and as the credits rolled one thought shouted through my mind, it worked!

The Avengers took the pieces laid out over the last few years and assembled (heh, heh) them into something that exceeded my expectations and surprised my guessing inner-fanboy. The characters felt complete, complimenting and contrasting in just the right ways to make me give a damn and respect them for what they do. Captain America was truly a man out of time, but they didn't beat that point to death by having him emo around, talking about how great things were back when. Iron Man was a cocksure genius with wonderfully human flaws in his shiny power armour. Thor was the powerful god he'd always been, a bit more humble and desperately seeking to make a connection with his damnably frustrating brother. Bruce Banner/The Incredible Hulk was the nervous, geeky scientist-type one would expect except he went from a fear of his lack of control towards a purposeful use of his inner-monster. Hawkeye and Black Widow were wonderfully human non-supers trained to be the best soldier/spies they could be while carrying the burdens of their past transgressions upon their shoulders. Then there was Nick Fury and SHIELD. Fury was a man who had the weight of the world on his back and watching him you could feel that. SHIELD was as impressive as it always seems in the panelled world of the comics, revealing some gadgets which weren't completely surprising but still incredible to behold.

As great as it was to witness all of this play out, the film was not without new surprises and hints at the future of Marvel's film efforts. I would urge anyone who sees this film to stay until the end of the credits. The icing on the cake, so to speak, really lies there, if you know anything about the greater Marvel Universe.

Having stated all of this I feel that I must give The Avengers the rightful rating of five out of five. It's a film that was worth waiting for, and it is as amazing as any fan would have hoped it could be. Go see it as soon as you can!