Why the Black Lives Matter Movement Needs to Die

“…good intentions may do as much harm as malevolence if they lack understanding.” 
– Albert Camus, Philosopher

Photo: New York Times

Photo: New York Times

The Black Lives Matter movement needs to die. There I said it. Now that I’ve gotten that over with and depending on your view, the shock or gratitude is sinking in. Before you label me an Uncle Tom or Don Lemon, I’ll explain why I think the Black Lives Matter or BLM movement needs to die. I’ll start by saying that I do NOT believe that cops should target minorities, particularly black people, with extreme prejudice. Nor do I believe black people deserve to die at the hands of police officers when our hands are in the air, our backs are turned to the officers, and our disposition poses no immediate threat to ourselves or others. There has been too much damage done to the BLM movement at this point to salvage its name, but its aims should be taken up by new leadership under a new name and better organization. I’m not saying I have all the answers, but I have identified many problems that highlight why this current incarnation of a millennial pseudo-black power movement is doomed to fail.

The first problem I have with the Black Lives Matter movement are its methods. Marches by African-Americans in the present day no longer have the same impact as they did when the civil rights leaders of the 60s marched to display to the world the frustration and pain of a disenfranchised people desiring for their voices to be heard. Honestly, when was the last time a march led to any meaningful change for the black community? As a people, we protest far too often to be taken seriously when we gather to march from point A to point B.  It seems like every time the wind blows and our feelings are hurt, we need to march. We march for current issues while also marching several times a year in cities across the country to commemorate other historic marches that were actually successful in their goals. We have essentially become a people prone to anger parades with rage-filled hearts and bitterness on our tongues.  The problem is no one lines the streets to view what has unfortunately become a pageant of ebony frustration.

Our marches no longer invoke change and no longer invoke others to aide our cause. The marches are often juxtaposed with riots and looting, though the “formal BLM protesters” will say that they weren’t involved in the rioting aspect of a protest, as seen in the Baltimore protests in 2015 when a CVS was burned and looting occurred. Some in the movement point to a Martin Luther King Jr. quote which says, “A riot, is the language of the unheard.” Counter to this, further study of Dr. King reveals that he was speaking of an understanding as to why some in the black community rioted during the Civil Rights Movement, but he himself held firm to non-violent tactics. If the BLM movement wants to be viewed as progressive and wants its tactics to be seen as constructive rather than destructive then it must divorce itself of those who loot, riot, and leave the ashes of small-businesses in their wake. The only image the country should see are the tear-stained faces of mothers and the trembling lips of fathers who have lost another child to a system that routinely discriminates against people of color.

The second reason I believe the BLM movement has failed is because there has been a cacophony of voices in the media and in the general public that sees the movement as doing more harm than good. Fox News in their usual bigoted vitriol describe the BLM movement as a hate group. Right-wing zealots screamed bloody-murder when Beyoncé vaguely represented Black Power during the 2016 Super Bowl halftime show. And Donald Trump has only increased the animosity by promoting violence at his rallies where protesters have been expelled and violently struck for disrupting Mr. Trump’s speeches. The unmerited bias is to be expected by those whose ears are attuned to the dog-whistle politics that promote discrimination between the races. However, the BLM movement’s protesters have grossly underestimated the followers of the GOP’s leading candidate and have disrespected the candidacies of Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton.

True, Senator Clinton’s husband did more harm than good to the black community with his failed incarceration policies, but at the same time there is a time and place to be heard that doesn’t distract from the overall message that the BLM movement wants to make. The phrase “you know a leopard by its spots” is also applicable when considering why some in the movement choose to protest at Donald Trump rallies. Donald Trump promotes bigotry and misogyny, no change could come from protesting there as all in attendance are fervently for the very things the BLM is against, and the attendants have shown time and time again that they will react violently against Trump protesters.

The protesters have also interrupted Bernie Sanders, and one can simply google Bernie Sanders and Civil Rights Movement to see that he has a history of promoting equal rights before most of the young BLM movement protesters were even born! These tactics only serve to bring negative attention to the BLM movement when all of the headlines read ‘Protesters interrupt the rally of (insert politician here) and below the caption is an image of 4-5 black people frozen in time with their mouths open and their brows furrowed with rage. This should NOT be the image the public associates with the BLM movement.

The BLM movement has also been damaged in the media because of its name. I know the name means well, but it has been distorted and bastardized to the point that police departments and unions across the country have come out in full force against the movement. Politicians and the ignorant public alike have even started “all lives matter” responses even though the BLM movement was never about black supremacy or Black Nationalism but about championing the equality of black lives.

Perhaps the gravest issue with the Black Lives Matter movement, which also relates to its name, is the amount of violence that blacks perpetrate against other blacks. How can the BLM movement expect America to respect the sanctity of a black life, when we often don’t respect the lives of those with the same skin color? Chicago, Detroit, Atlanta, and Birmingham: these four cities have a rampant problem with black-on-black homicide. Weekends with low murder counts are celebrated in Chicago, a city of a large black population in which the poor black population is destroying itself every week. The BLM should equally throw its weight behind promoting black people respecting the lives of other black people with the same fervor they expect it from law enforcement. Richard Sherman of the Seattle Seahawks is quoted as saying, “”I dealt with a best friend getting killed, and it was [by] two 35-year-old black men. There was no police officer involved, there wasn’t anybody else involved, and I didn’t hear anybody shouting ‘black lives matter’ then.” The BLM movement must raise its voice in equal volume and outrage over black-on-black crime as it does over white-on-black crime.

Sad to say, it may all be too late as the BLM movement has already aligned itself and championed those who don’t do the cause any justice. Remember Michael Brown who was gunned down in Ferguson, Missouri by a white police officer? His story sounds like a rallying cry for the movement, but if you are to study the events leading up to his shooting and death, you’ll see that Michael Brown wasn’t behaving as a productive citizen in society. I won’t go into all of the details here, but I say this to make the point: if you’re going to make someone an angel, make sure they don’t have any demons in their past. A lot of people don’t know that Rosa Parks wasn’t the first black woman to refuse to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, but a woman by the name of Claudette Colvin was. The NAACP and other civil rights leaders refused to use her as a symbol of injustice due to the fact that she was pregnant by a married man. If you are striving for equality, make sure the faces of the movement can withstand the public scrutiny of their private lives.

This brings me to my last point on a need for the immediate end to the Black Lives Matter movement, and it’s the fact that the movement lacks real leadership. If you research the original leaders of the movement, you’ll see the names of two people who were born in the early-mid 80’s. In order for this organization to be successful, the leaders of the first civil rights movement will need to help beyond lending a voice to thousands of screams. Dr. Cornel West, for example, is a participant in the movement, and young African-Americans gravitate to him because he’s Ivy-league educated, charismatic, highly intelligent, and most importantly, he’s black too. The problem is Dr. West has really done nothing substantial to advance the goals and message of the Black Lives Matter movement. The true leadership needed already has a structure but has been silent in recent years when it comes to major civil rights issues concerning black people.

The NAACP should be at the forefront of the fight with their senior leadership leading the charge, pressing corporations and big business for their support in the fight for equality, and simultaneously promoting non-violence in the black community.  The movement doesn’t need Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson as the nation as well as the black community has grown tired of their voices and their insistence to be the token voice of an entire people. The message is important, but those currently leading the BLM movement have no vision for getting there beside hashtags and marches. Walking and tweeting can only promote change so far, it will require senior leadership and support from benefactors with deeper pockets than the frustrated college students who want change but can’t afford what is necessary to accomplish real change in the 21st century.

I don’t have all of the answers on how the movement should be led, what its defined goals should be, or even what name if any should be used when calling for the sanctity of black lives to be upheld and respected. I do however see that this current incarnation does not work, it has failed black people, it has failed in the media, and its name has been distorted to the point that some view it as hateful. Regardless of who leads the movement within the black community, there is still work to be done.

The Civil Rights movement didn’t end with reforms in the 60s and 70s, nor did it end with the election of the nation’s first “black” President, President Barack Obama. The Civil Rights movement will not be complete until the words of this country’s Declaration of Independence apply to all citizens, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” The journey to equality is complicated and will be paved with trials and complications, but we must press on. Martin Luther King, Jr. is quoted as saying, “Perseverance is a great element of success. If you only knock long enough and loud enough at the gate, you are sure to wake up somebody.” Problem is, I don’t think the Black Lives Matter movement should be knocking at the gate.

Marsalis Jones is a frequent contributor for the topics of film and politics.


Blockbuster Now Means ‘Billion’ and That Should Scare You

It’s that time of the year again! The Fall football is at its midpoint, every man worth his salt is squeezing the last few uses out of his grill, and the action-packed, special-effects heavy films have disappeared from your local cinema once again. The summer of 2015 has come and gone with the box office franchise titans of The Avengers: Age of Ultron and Jurassic World each crossing the coveted billion-dollar threshold. When a film makes over a billion dollars at the box office, it looks great to studios, fans love it, and it solidifies the film in the pantheon of great, successful movies.

Unfortunately everything is not as it seems when looking at the billion dollar club, which may ultimately lead to a bursting of the box office bubble. The lack of creativity in blockbuster films is ultimately going to hurt the industry as it creates more and more brain-dead fans with each passing summer. The massive box office hauls don’t reflect an impending crisis, but a close examination of the box office records on website boxofficemojo.com, illustrate that a troubling trend has started to emerge.

The first takeaway that could either mean boom or bust for Hollywood and movie fans is that currently only twenty-three movies have broken the coveted $1 billion mark and most were released in the 21st century, with the exception of Jurassic Park (1993), Titanic (1997) and Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace (1999). Secondly, only three of the films are non-sequels:  Titanic, Frozen, and Alice in Wonderland (2010); illustrating a growing trend in Hollywood to go with what you know, rather than betting big on original content. And lastly, the top 2 films, which are the only ones to ever gross over 2 billion dollars, have both been directed by James Cameron, Avatar ($2.7 billion) and Titanic ($2.1 billion).

Furious 7 kicked the year off with a bang grossing over a billion dollars worldwide before the summer movie season even began, as fans flocked to theaters eager to see how the series would handle the real life death of its star, Paul Walker. The summer season was predictable, however 2015 might be shaping up to be the biggest year for Hollywood as it is on track to beat the records set in 2012, which saw an incredible four movies break the 1 billion dollar mark. Believe it or not, there could be a total of seven, yes SEVEN, films that break the 1 billion dollar mark this year. Furious 7, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Jurassic World and Minions, yes Minions, have already grossed over a billion dollars internationally and there are still three films left that could also gross over a billion dollars: Spectre, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part II, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  

The trailers for Bond 24, Spectre, look as sharp and stylish as Skyfall, and anything less than a repeat of the success of Skyfall would be a disappointment. Skyfall is the only film in the Bond franchise to break a billion and also won Adele an Academy Award for Best Song. With its director and team of writers returning, Spectre is all but guaranteed to continue the success of its highly entertaining predecessor, even if Sam Smith’s recently released theme song is a bit of a letdown. But who can top Adele?

The Hunger Games Franchise has gone the Harry Potter and Twilight route and split its final book into two films with the finale being released in November.  With The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 being the last film in the series, it could potentially have a larger turnout and even greater returns at the box office, than the previous three films in the franchise. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 made $1.3 billion and The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 made $829 million, both of which had the highest gross of any film in their respective franchises. Studios realize it’s in their best interest to make as much money as possible when releasing the final film in an adapted series, and whatever adaptations are coming down the Hollywood pipeline, you can expect the trend to continue.

If you’ve been keeping up with the news, you would already know that the ticket pre-sale for Star Wars: The Force Awakens is already breaking records and crashing websites, with all this hype James Cameron might want to share some elbow room in the even more exclusive 2 billion-dollar club. Yes, I’m calling it now and saying that I believe Star Wars: Episode 7 will ultimately bring in over $2 billion at the global box office. The hype this movie has received from three trailers is utterly astounding. Star Wars purists know that Episodes 1-3 were ill-conceived excess, and with a solid cast that brings back almost everyone from Episodes 4-6 and directed by fanboy favorite JJ Abrams, the force will be strong with this release.

With all of the hype and press around the box office results, the problems with the movie industry are still there, and chief among them is the sequel machine that has gripped Hollywood by the balls, throat.  Every film I’ve mentioned of potentially hitting the billion dollar mark in the remaining months of this year is a sequel, and not just any old sequel either. Although Bond is a behemoth of a franchise unto itself, this year’s movie will mark the 24th film in the franchise and it’s expected to break a billion. Furious 7, the seventh film in the Fast & Furious franchise, took its seventh try to hit that coveted mark. The Avengers: Age of Ultron was both a sequel and a continuation of a greater franchise. Disney even has plans to turn Star Wars into a franchise on steroids, with three more planned Star Wars sequels, a spinoff AND a theme park addition. Sequel fatigue is bound to set in and the outlook for the future is bleak. The last film with an original idea to hit the billion dollar mark was James Cameron’s Avatar in 2009, and even Cameron is working on three, potentially four more sequels to Avatar.

This new trend of striving for the billion-dollar mark is pure Hollywood greed at its finest. No longer is debuting at number 1 the big prize, nor remaining number 1 for several weeks, the ultimate goal is to cross the beloved 1 billion dollar threshold and many studio heads are clamoring for another Avatar or Titanic. The blame can be placed on both big Hollywood studios and summer movie fans. It’s a cyclical process of the beast feeding itself and will only stop with a series of massive flops on the level of Disney’s dismal John Carter.

Disney’s John Carter is the stuff of legends that is still talked about in Hollywood as a cautionary tale of excess and what happens when big bucks are bet on a new franchise that ultimately flops. 2012’s John Carter cost Disney $263.7 million to make and only grossed $284 million globally. A budget of a quarter of a billion dollars and you can see that Disney was swinging for the fences. The film’s colossal failure ultimately cost Disney chairman Rich Ross his job. Disney naturally did what any great business does after a great financial loss, they turned right around and did it again in 2013 with The Lone Ranger. The creative force behind the billion-dollar Pirates of the Caribbean franchise made The Lone Ranger with a budget of $225 million and the film only earned $260 million globally. Two films that cost Disney almost a half a billion dollars to produce, only earned $56 million…combined.

Disney is perhaps the only company with pockets deep enough to sustain the practice of spending large amounts of money on films and ultimately having them fail. Their purchase of Marvel Studios in 2009 and Lucasfilm in 2012 for $4 billion each shows that they’re willing to take huge risks and stock their stables full of franchises that all but guarantee the company to have a huge return on their investment. But at what cost?

The Lone Ranger and John Carter were supposed to kick off franchises, but ultimately disappointed critics and fans alike. With ticket prices rising on a yearly basis, films that are supposed to be fun, family fare, end up being disappointing and costly to the studios and moviegoers alike. The root of the problem can be traced back to money and the need for the ever more lucrative sequel to a sequel.

Sequel fatigue will set in sooner than we think, and it won’t be because the summer movies are no longer entertaining and full of Michael Bay-esque explosions, but because fans will ultimately tire of seeing the same characters on the screen every summer. Let’s face it, the last truly big summer blockbuster without a sequel would have to be 2010’s Inception and before that we’d have to go back to 1996’s Independence Day, which also has a remake in the works. Neither of those films hit the billion dollar mark and they did what great summer flicks are supposed to: create dialogue among viewers and entertain not just in that moment, but also for years to come. Nearly 20 years later and Independence Day is still a heck of a ride and is one Will Smith’s best performances. Bill Pullman’s speech in Independence Day is the Gettysburg Address for action movies.

Great movies, summer blockbusters included, should have repeat watchability 5, 10, 20 years after their release. Avatar came out in 2009 and holds the top spot in global gross, but when was the last time anyone watched Avatar? Even its Academy Award Best Picture Nomination is mocked and the film hasn’t been out for 10 years. The same could be said one day for the movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that is about to enter Phase 3. Will movie fans honestly want to watch Chris Evans as Captain America in 15 years, or care to see Thor: The Dark World, in 25 years once the movie is on its third or fourth reboot?

Perhaps the only silver lining that can derail the Hollywood greed machine is tentatively scheduled to arrive in theatres in 2017, Avatar 2. It was reported by the late composer and frequent James Cameron collaborator, James Horner, that James Cameron has enough material for 4 more Avatar sequels that he is trying to squeeze into three. What happens if Avatar 2 or 3 is a colossal flop, will that change the commercial culture of Hollywood? Highly unlikely as studios will adjust and cut budgets by a few tens of millions of dollars for a year or two and will be back to their grotesque budgets just in time for Michael Bay’s Bad Boys 6 or Transformers 17.

There has to be a change, but the only change that comes in Hollywood is a two-word phrase that is both beloved and feared, something different. Inception, District 9, World War Z, were films that were loved and were wildly different from the norm, and yet only Inception is the only one that makes the Box Office Top 100 of all-time list. The greatest films don’t always come with big budgets and even larger box office returns, and year after year we have at least one gem that everyone simply loves. Who DIDN’T see Guardians of the Galaxy last year and didn’t think “WOW, that was fun!” Though Guardians is a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it had all of the elements of what a great summer blockbuster should be: fun, energetic, funny, and wild ride from start to finish. The only hope we have of not being taken hostage by the billion dollar juggernauts every summer is when creative directors like: Christopher Nolan, Neill Blomkamp (District 9), Guillermo del Toro, Spike Jonze (Her and Where the Wild Things Are), Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights and There Will be Blood), Quentin Tarantino and others put out films that speak to the human soul, entertain, and are just pure fun without all the fluff.

The creative minds in Hollywood as well as the fans will have to change. Hollywood will have to go back to its roots and cherish the spectacle and wonder of film and filmmaking.  Only independent filmmakers seem to cherish the art form or filmmaking and the beauty in telling a story for the large screen.  Even if the industry itself doesn’t change on its own it can still be forced to change. You and I have the power of the purse. If movies with original stories and characters that aren’t left open for a sequel start becoming the summer blockbusters, Hollywood would quickly follow suit to keep up with the change in consumer preference. But who am I to judge, I purchased two tickets for the first showing of Star Wars: The Force Awakens the moment Fandango sent me an email saying the tickets were available in my area. There are some billion-dollar, franchise sequels you just can’t resist.



What NOT to do on Independence Day: A Transformers 4 Review

Ahh Independence Day, that great American Holiday sponsored by Bud Light and Kingsford charcoal is upon us once more. Between barbecuing, swimming at the lake, and drinking, a lot of us will often find ourselves at our local movie theatre to see our favorite actor save the world from whatever supernatural species is hot this year. 2014 is no different and we have been blessed (burdened) with yet another Transformers movie from the orange-filter, low angle king himself, Michael Bay.

Michael Bay and the gang have decided to reboot within the currently established timeline and swaps out the screaming, panting Shia Labeouf for the angry, panting Mark Wahlberg as inventor, Cade Yeager in “Transfomers 4: Age of Extinction.” After three movies of Autobot victories and what appears to be a vanquished Decepticon threat, Bay and writer Ehren Kruger have created a villain out of Frasier—ahem—Kelsey Grammer as he tries his best to do a Ron Perlman as Hellboy sans makeup impression throughout the movie. Grammer’s character, Harold Attinger, runs a black-ops mission under the umbrella of the CIA known as “Cemetery Wind” and is charged with eliminating the Autobots as America no longer needs aliens to fight its battles. But wait, Bay has obviously grown tired of only one villain and has Attinger using an interstellar bounty hunter with similar Autobot physiology to help kill the Autobots. You read that right, America hates alien robots and enlists alien robots to eliminate other alien robots. ‘Merricuh. The double villain strategy works in “Transformers 4” about as well as it did in Sam Raimi’s “Spiderman 3”… or Marc Webb’s “The Amazing Spiderman 2.” (Hollywood, just look at any Spiderman film to see if more than one villain per movie is overkill) Grammer’s Attinger is in business with Stanley Tucci portraying Michael Bay’s version of Steve Jobs as CEO Joshua Joyce, whose company is making its own Transformers for the government. Nonsense ensues after Wahlberg finds Optimus Prime, blah blah blah… explosions…corny jokes…crazy angles. Then the movie ends. No it doesn’t. After sitting there for what feels like two days and what should be a movie reaching its conclusion, Bay decides to take the rest of the movie to Hong Kong to appease the future juggernaut of world cinema, China.

I left out plot twists and cliffhangers for those who still want to see the movie, but I assure you that “Transformers 4” is the loudest, and most exhausting movie that I have ever seen. I walked into the theatre with my large Frostee and small popcorn, confident that I could handle the 2 hour and 45 minute run time. Nope, I was out of my league, I felt like the boy in this YouTube clip on the Sling Shot Ride when the film crossed the 2 hour mark.

Like that little boy I was sure I could handle it but after two hours of explosions, screams, terrible plot and character development, I found myself slipping in my movie seat softly whispering Janice, Janice…

A summer blockbuster with a 2 hour and 45 minute run time should be full of awesome explosions, special effects and characters you can love and look forward to seeing again in two years, yet as the film crossed the 2 hour mark I didn’t care if Marky Mark and his teenage daughter lived or died at the end. I know that statement comes off as harsh, but there is nothing in the way of character development that will make an audience member like or care about the plight of Mark Wahlberg’s family. The action sequences have become the glue that holds this franchise together and even they have begun to lose their luster as robotic aliens can only do so much to excite after three movies. There is nothing that can save this movie, the subtitle “Extinction” is appropriate as this movie killed off any fun leftover from the previous three.

It’s a sad day when playing with Hasbro’s new line of movie tie-in Transformers actions figures sounds more exciting than watching this and any future installments of Optimus and the gang on the big screen. Michael Bay is a director who plays chicken with himself, lining up his red and blue semi-trailer truck from 2011 against 2014, seeing just how much he can best himself in explosions, crashes, and deciding if he wants a blue or orange filter this time around.Michael Bay has sadly become the poor man’s James Cameron. His films make tons of money, but unlike Cameron, Michael Bay’s movies beat you to death with action sequences and crazy angles and then beat your mother for good measure too. Summer blockbusters are supposed to be fun and exciting, unfortunately Michael Bay didn’t get the memo and I won’t get three hours of my life back.

Even with all of the warnings I’ve given you about the movie, some of you will inevitably still want to see it either tomorrow or in the coming weeks, so let me suggest an alternative if you truly desire the “Transformers 4” experience.

1) Buy 20 bags of Laffy Taffy candy.

2) Buy 10 packs of firecrackers.

3) Get a blender and a friend and go sit in your living room.

4) Turn on the blender.

5) Get your friend to read the jokes for the next three hours while occasionally setting off firecrackers.

There, you’ve just seen “Transformers 4: Age of Extinction”. Here’s to hoping the next film will be called Transfomers 5: Dead.

MJ’s Ruling: Macbeth’s words on life are perfect for summing up “Transformers 4,” “It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”