July 4th 2016, the 240th birthday of The United States of America was just like any other day away from work for me. I sat immobile for an unhealthy amount of time focusing my eyes on my energy inefficient plasma TV. Today I watched the first two episodes of Bill Simmons new show Any Given Wednesday, the entire HBO miniseries Show Me a Hero and the found footage horror movie The Gallows. Instead of annoyingly texting my friends my unrequested opinions on them, I figured I would send them into the internet where no one will read them.
As I waddled into my home early this morning wearing the same clothes I put on two days earlier to spend the weekend at my friends air-conditioned house, I noticed a sharp pain in my left big toe. A weekend of heavy drinking left me with a full body hangover and a surprisingly painful toe injury that I haven’t been able to determine the cause. I assume I hurt it in my sleep or stumbling around inebriated by cheap vodka. Regardless, it meant I wasn’t going to be doing a lot of physical activity but I wouldn’t have spent my day any differently if my body wasn’t dehydrated and if my toe wasn’t swollen and throbbing.
Last week I started my free month of HBO Now by creating an account to watch season 6 of Game of Thrones. Now that I am caught up on the chaos of Westeros, I am exploring what else the app has to offer.
My neighbor just shot off a firework that probably cost half my monthly salary.
I wanted to check out Bill Simmons’ poorly named show since it began two weeks ago. I have been a fan and follower of Simmons for a few years now and generally enjoy his view on sports and pop culture. Now he is able to turn off the filter that prevented him from maximizing his potential at ESPN. F-bombs and criticisms of sports leagues that don’t have contracts with HBO were aplenty. Episode one saw a clearly drugged up Ben Affleck conducting a curse filled rant about deflate gate. Simmons also made multiple references to the underused Kevin Garnett sound clip “ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE!” The second episode had a great conversation with Simmons, Mark Cuban and Malcolm Gladwell. The conversation between the three intelligent men who are heavily involved in the sports world was fun to listen to, I just wish the banter could have lasted longer. In his first two episodes he has had Charles Barkley, Ben Affleck, Mark Cuban, Malcolm Gladwell, and Bill Hader on as guests. That is an impressive lineup and accurately depicts the kind of people Simmons likes and what the content of the show will be like, but it also gave off a vibe of a guy who called in a favor to his famous friends to appear on his new show. Overall, I enjoyed it and it will likely get better as time passes as Simmons and his crew become more comfortable.
Any Given Wednesday total run time: 59:33
It is now dusk out and my neighbor has begun his own firework show finale by spreading his patriotism across the sky.
After conquering Bill Simmons, I continued my quest through the HBO Now app. In my gaze across the horizon of thumbnails, I saw a mustache wielding Oscar Isaac for Show Me a Hero.
David Simon and Oscar Isaac have been my jam for a while now. After watching The Wire and Generation Kill, I will forever watch everything David Simon is involved in. Oscar Isaac has impressed me more recently with his performances in A Most Violent Year and Ex Machina.
This miniseries tells a true story about a political fight over public housing in Yonkers, New York in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Nick Wasiscko (Oscar Isaac) was elected as mayor of Yonkers in 1987. He was only 28 years old at the time making him the youngest mayor ever of Yonkers and the youngest mayor in the United States at the time. His mayoral campaign focused on the public housing issue that had the entire city riled up. A federal judge ruled that the city of Yonkers was misusing public funding to gentrify minorities and low-income families. The judge stated that Yonkers needed to create hundreds of public housing units and he forced the council members of the city to decide where they were going to be built. This turned into political chaos for the council members as their predominately white upper middle class voters were against the public housing. Wasiscko ran on the idea of appealing the court’s ruling and took the mayor’s office from a longtime incumbent.
Before Wasiscko was even fully moved into the mayor’s office, he was informed that the appeal was denied and his entire campaign was undercut. He then suffered a brutal two year term were the majority of the voters hated him and the council for not stopping the public housing even though it was out of his control. The city needed to build the housing or Yonkers would have gone bankrupt in 22 days due to fines imposed by the courts. Wasiscko’ s hands were tied, there was nothing he could do and he was not reelected because of it. He began to see the merits of the public housing and became a supporter of them towards the end of his term of mayor and after he held the seat as mayor.
I hate politics. This miniseries is a perfect example of how politics can stall government actions. But I do enjoy watching story arcs involving politics. The Wire and Game of Thrones focus on politics and that is what makes the shows so interesting. It makes for great TV but it is disheartening to know that the games of ego and power are what run the world.
Without spoiling too much of the show I want to focus on my main take away from the show.
The fight against the public housing has very noticeable racial under tones and this was in New York just 25 years ago. In fact, similar public housing issues like this one are still happening today. I know several Fox News watching conservative republicans who believe racism only exists in the world today because of the liberal media and that most of the racism is against white people, not minorities. “We elected a black president, how can America be racist?” I would urge those people to watch this show. Racism runs deep and is often unconscious. Sure black people aren’t enslaved anymore, they aren’t segregated in public buildings, but gentrification towards minorities (especially black people) still exists. This true story showed how defiant and difficult white people made it for low-income (mostly minorities) to get adequate public housing. I was alive while this was happening, racism is still being weeded out today. As a white middle class male, I truly do believe racism is still a huge problem in society and shows like Show Me a Hero expose that sobering reality.
Show Me A Hero total runtime: 6:23:40
After indulging in sports banter, political upheaval and racism, I figured I would end the day with a horror movie. Also found on the HBO Now app, The Gallows has a thumbnail that attracted my weary eyes. An attractive girl with a noose around her neck with a red filter.
I knew nothing about this film, but it is obviously a horror movie, a genre I have admittedly enjoyed exploring recently. Similar events lead me to watch a bad horror movie on Netflix called the Lazarus Effect which has a thumbnail that features an attractive Olivia Wilde with a red filter. I guess I like scared attractive girls with red filters.
I saw the run time for this movie is only 80 minutes so if it is terrible, at least it wouldn’t take long to get through. The movie has a promising plot and is a good idea for a horror movie. It starts out with an old home camera footage of a high school play (The Gallows) with a time stamp on it, October 29th 1993. The video shows a student standing on the gallows with a noose around his neck and the gallows floor board opened which hung and killed the student. That is super brutal and legitimately scary.
Spoiler Alert (for Show Me a Hero).
I understand that Show Me a Hero is based on a true story and many people already knew the outcome, but I didn’t and I feel that helped my enjoyment of the show. So read the rest of this paragraph at your own risk because I am going to reveal the ending of the miniseries. Nick Wasiscko kills himself on October 29th 1993. I understand there is no connection between Wasiscko and The Gallows but I thought that was a pretty strange coincidence that two of the three things I watched involved a plot that based around a death on October 29th 1993.
Obviously this accidental student death by hanging during a school play fucked up the psyche of the town and the school. Despite this, the school decides to perform the same play 20 years later in 2013. Again, that is a cool plot for a horror movie but this movie sucks. It is a found footage film which is a technique that is over used in modern movies most of which do not utilize the style well. In fact, the only two movies that I have enjoyed that use this technique are The Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield. In this film, the camera is either extremely shaky or very steady which makes it difficult to watch. It also doesn’t make any sense for the characters in this movie to be filming everything at all times which takes me out of the world the film makers tried to put me in. I really believe if this film was shot in a conventional way it would have been a good horror movie.
Alongside the plot, the other aspects of the film I like were the characterization and some very creepy scenes. Most of the characterization is heavy handed portrayed through the lens of high school students, but one differentiating feature for each character that I believe is well done is the shoes the characters are wearing. Being a found footage film, there are a lot of shots of the ground where the characters are interacting and you can only see their feet. It sounds weird, but I feel that the footwear the characters are wearing is the only genuine characterization aspect of this movie. I learned more about the characters based on what shoes they are wearing than most of the dialogue. With so many shots of their feet, this had to have been a conscious effort by the film makers.
The other shining moment for this movie is some of the creepy imagery. Without giving them away, there were 3 shots in this movie that are extremely creepy and frightening, one of which involved the thumbnail used for this movie. Overall The Gallows sucks, but it had potential to be a respected unique horror movie.
The Gallows total runtime: 1:20:44
There you have it, that is a rundown of my dangerously immobile day. All three of these shows/movies have a total runtime of 8:43:57, almost 9 hours.