Gangster Squad

The film, Gangster Squad, came out in theaters in the beginning of the year and just came out on DVD this week. I was very excited when this movie came out and disappointed when I wasn’t able to make it in theaters. It seemed like a tribute to the old school gangster films with a modern flare, which would really make for a great movie. However, this film simply came up short. The lack of depth in the main characters and the inability of the plot to surprise the audience kept this movie from being really spectacular. That said, it wasn’t all bad and if you are just looking for a fun new movie, this one will do.


The Good:

If this film did something right, it entertained its audience. Although the plot was predictable, it was still fun. You can basically tell the story yourself based on watching the previews that told you it was about a couple of cops that had to throw their badges away to take out a mob boss. Another good thing about the movie was the action aspect. The shooting scenes, where there are bullets flying everywhere, were pretty cool and the special effects were decent.


The Bad:

As I said before, the characters were very shallow. There was supposed to be a love connection between Emma Stone’s character and Ryan Gosling’s. Although the two would make a very attractive offspring, I just didn’t feel the love connection. Also, I think the director wanted to present an internal struggle within the cops and them struggling with the fact that they must use illegal means to catch someone who breaks the law. But there just wasn’t enough character development for me to care.


Gangster Squad had the potential to be a great movie, but there just wasn’t enough done with it to bring it to the blockbuster level. Still, if you were like me and wanted to see it before, I would still see it. It’s still an okay movie, just not great.


Grade: C


Verdict: Watch if you are bored and want to see a different type of action movie, but don’t cancel any plans to watch it.

Civics Issues 3

I have spoken a lot about the core of the issue of affirmative action in the workplace and the college admissions process. There are a lot of sides to this issue, and a lot of moral and legal questions that surround it. These questions have boiled up to another Supreme Court case today that is awaiting a ruling: Fisher v. University of Texas. This is a tricky case that will certainly have an impact no matter the ruling on all college admissions processes. Here are the details on the case:


Abigail Fisher, a Texas native, filed a law suit in 2008 against the University of Texas at Austin. She was denied admission to the school and claims to have been denied the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th amendment. She claims that because of her race, she was denied admission into the school. This claim is very hard to prove, but Fisher has a good case. At University of Texas, there is a program which requires the automatic acceptance of students who went to high schools in the state of Texas and who graduated in the top ten percent of their graduating class. If Fisher was in the top ten percent of her class, she would have been accepted automatically. However, she was in the top TWELVE percent of her class. Very close, but failing to make this cutoff means she is subjected to many factors of the regular admissions process such as merit, grades, service acts, and of course, race. Fisher had good grades (Barely missing the cutoff for automatic acceptance), had a good resume, and her SAT scores were right in the median range of scores for accepted applicants at the University. It seems like, even though she didn’t make the cutoff, that she should have been admitted for she fit all the criteria for the admissions process. She was denied and has pointed to the only factor in admissions that gave her a disadvantage: her race.


The University argues that their admissions process is fair based on the previous ruling of Grutter v. Bollinger. This ruling simply states that schools are not allowed to set quotas for each race in admittance, but can admit a “critical mass” of a certain race. This critical mass is defined as a large enough number of a certain racial group in the college that would allow individuals within the racial group to feel as though they are not alienated. In essence, schools can predetermine how many people of each race they want to admit, but can put preference on a certain race in admissions if they feel they have not reached a such critical mass. To many, a critical mass is just another name for a quota, but proponents of the critical mass theory say that with a critical mass, individual achievement still remains a constant factor of admissions throughout the whole process while quotas may simply focus on race.


Fisher’s lawyers are arguing that the critical mass theory is bogus and is just backward logic to define what is actually a race quota. They also argue that by putting preference on someone in admissions based on their race, schools are not affording each person equal protection under the law. It seems as though Fisher’s side is making an argument saying that the current law in not fair and unconstitutional while the University is saying that they are just following the rules set by the previous court’s ruling. In the oral arguments, it was said that the Justices wished to hear more from the University’s side that justify using affirmative action, but found the University’s answers lacking.

Potential Rulings

Full Fisher: The court will overrule the Grutter v. Bollinger case and will make affirmative action unconstitutional in the college admissions process. Schools will have to use other factors to determine how diverse a student can make the University other than race.

Full University of Texas: The court will rule that the current Affirmative Action policies are constitutional and that schools may continue using race as a factor of admission. This would say that Affirmative Action is not against the 14th Amendment.

No Standing ruling: The court may also dismiss the case. Before they can rule on the constitutionality of the issue, they must determine if Fisher has standing in the case. This means that Fisher must prove that she is directly effected by the actions she is accusing the University of. That is, she must prove that race was the only factor that denied her entry into the school. This case has passed through the lower courts without this ruling, but experts say it is still possible, and would essentially be a victory for the University because affirmative action policies would not change.

Please let me know how YOU think the court should rule. The last blog will talk about the potential impacts of the ruling of this case and how affirmative action (or lack thereof) will effect college admissions in the future.






Skyfall does not win at all

In a little more than a week, the latest installment of the James Bond series will be released to DVD for your viewing pleasure. Except viewing this film was anything but pleasurable. Lets get a little background here. The James Bond series was recharged with the release of the film Casino Royale starring a new actor to play Bond: Daniel Craig. Craig acted the Bond part perfectly making Casino Royale an instant hit. Then came the mediocrity of Quantum of Solace that was really a plot set up movie. Everyone thought the next Bond movie would be in-your-face and fantastic. But this movie was simply disappointing.


The best way I could describe how this movie failed was that it simply wasn’t a James Bond film. It WAS a good action film, just not a James Bond film. Lets look at what makes a movie uniquely Bond: It needs a dark villain who tries to gain money or power somehow. It needs Bond to come up with a plan that outsmarts the villain. Bond needs to be hardcore, confident, and unwavering in his demeanor. And above all, there needs to be a Bond girl (I am not sexist by promoting this. I am simply stating that the movie is geared toward the male audience and based on every single other Bond movie, a Bond girl is to be expected.) Why did this movie fail in my mind? It didn’t do ANY of this. 1. The villain’s character was just made to spite Bond, and he was not witty at all. He had no motives or depth or plan to take over the world. 2. Half the movie was about Bond’s internal struggle with his past and his duty to his country. I don’t care what Bond is struggling with on the inside, I just want to see him take out the bad guys. 3. Bond is outsmarted at every turn and is beat down by the villain. Bond should never be portrayed as vulnerable, and the “master plan” to catch the villain should not be to just sit and wait and shoot him. 4. There was no strong female character attached to Bond, therefore there was no romance, a key element of every Bond movie.


All said and done, I was terribly disappointed by this movie and was hoping for a lot more out of it. Leaving the theater, I did not feel as though I had just watched a movie that belonged to a series I know and love. At best, Skyfall was a decent action movie with lots of explosions and a cool intro song by Adele. If for some reason you were on the fence about the movie and were going to wait until it came out, you are just wasting your time. I would not recommend this to anyone who wanted to watch a James Bond movie.


Grade: D+

Verdict: If you weren’t excited enough about this movie when it came out to see it right away, don’t see it at all. Please.

This I Believe Draft

Like most people in America do today, I believe that no person should be deprived of opportunity based on race. However, I also believe in the compliment of that statement in that no person should be given an opportunity based on race as well. This a political debate happening in Washington today, coined by the phrase “Affirmative Action”. Our government currently allows employers to put preference on an employee of minority race for a position over non-minorities regardless of merit so that the company can be diverse and look as though it is non-discriminatory. This issue of Affirmative Action is also pertinent to the life of a high school student trying to get into college. It seems like more than just a year ago when I was filling out my college applications and writing all my college essays the night before the application was due. The counselors told me to mix my applications between safe schools I knew I could get into, moderate schools, and “reach” schools that I probably wouldn’t be accepted by. As I filled in these applications, there were certain things all of them had in common. Name, age, birthdate, GPA, all of which made sense to me, except one: race. Why must race be a factor of me getting into the school? As I went through my research of these schools, I became even more disturbed. I wished to apply for merit scholarships that I felt I earned from my hard work in high school. Every school had a list of at least a dozen scholarships to apply to, but I rarely qualified for more than one. Most of these scholarships were for “diverse” students from “diverse” backgrounds. You must be African American, or Hispanic, or Native American, or Pacific Islander to apply. Why could I not apply? Why do others have to opportunity to get this scholarship money, or have a better chance of getting into this school over me? If I was not a white male, I would have had more opportunities in the college application process, regardless of my high school merits and accomplishments, and I believe that is wrong. I believe affirmative action is a process that schools and employers use to promote equality through inequality. I believe that depriving someone of an opportunity because of their race is just as immoral as giving others special opportunities because of their race. I believe the notion of affirmative action is immoral because I believe in true racial equality.

Political Hack of the Week

Political Hack of the Week:


It was only a matter of time until I found something to rip apart and rant about. This week’s chapter of American Political crap is Obamacare, and this one is good. New estimates came out this week stating that the number of Americans that will be hit with the “tax penalty” for not having the proper insurance when Obamacare takes effect in 2014 is nearly double than the previous estimates. When the bill was being debated on the floor of the congressional houses, it was estimated that nearly 4 million people would be hit with Obama’s mandate and be forced to pay a penalty for being uninsured with healthcare. A new estimate shows that number is to be over 6 million now.

This is not a huge proportion of the population, however the new study also shows that over 80% of those hit by the penalty will be middle class: the middle class Obama has vowed to protect. The middle class that is the beating heart of our country. The middle class that, if making less than $200,000 per year, Obama promised not to raise taxes on. But this mandated penalty isn’t a tax, right? Wrong. How else could a mandate from the government that forces each American to buy insurance be constitutional unless the Supreme Court rules that it isn’t a “mandate” but is however a “tax”. To me it is all just a sick game of broken promises and the stretching of constitutional power. Nowhere in the constitution does it allow the government to mandate people to own health insurance. Sure, most states require one to buy car insurance, but that should be allowed because driving a car is optional and a privilege given by the government. Obama’s entire premise on Obamacare is that healthcare shouldn’t be a privilege, but a public commodity. I just don’t understand how it is constitutional to make people pay health insurance or be hit with a harsh penalty (or “tax”).

The last time we saw an expansion of social federal power like this was when FDR set in all his New Deal policies. I also don’t understand how middle class Americans can be for Obamacare when Obama himself said he wouldn’t raise taxes on them, and yet between 4-5 million middle class Americans will be hit with this “tax”.  Maybe I skimmed over the part of the Constitution that allows the government to restrict personal freedoms in creating a coveted “National Healthcare System” that won’t provide any real benefits to Americans than they have right now. I welcome comments, especially those who disagree. I take a one-sided stance on this because I simply can’t comprehend the logic to the other side to it. Please let me know what you think.


*Image and Content from the Huffington Post and Associated Press


Work In Progress 1

This speech assignment is an interesting one to me mostly because it is so vague. We have to find an artifact of civic engagement and talk about it for 3-4 minutes. I plan on writing myself some guide questions based on classroom discussions in order to make this speech. Some questions I have come up with are:

How does the artifact promote civic engagement?

Who would identify with the artifact? Who wouldn’t and why?

What argument is the artifact trying to make?

Is the argument implicit or explicit? Is it effective?


Thats what I have so far and I believe that I can talk about all those points and fit a 3-4 minute speech. I Wanted to find an artifact that was after WWII (because that seems to be the norm for propaganda and civic engagement artifacts) but I didn’t necessarily want a contemporary artifact so I found a gun control poster from 1981 that was formed in response to John Lennons murder. I liked the topic of gun control because the debate over it is pretty much the same and as alive today as it was in 1981. The poster lists stats of  the number of handgun deaths in 1980 in other countries, then lists America’s total which is  almost 100 times the others. Then it says God Bless America in a mockery of our national pride. The poster wants the viewer to assume that because America has more handgun deaths, that we need more handgun control. This is however a simple, yet great, logical fallacy. The poster compares U.S.A. to countries like Israel and Sweden, countries that have a significantly smaller population than the U.S. and therefore the “total number of handgun deaths” is an invalid statistic. It wants the reader to assume that because there are more handgun deaths, we are a more murderous country, which in fact is false. Just because handguns are more popular of a murder weapon here doesn’t mean that other countries have a smaller murder rate and that they are “better” than the U.S.

This propaganda poster is very interesting in the sense that at face value, it is intrinsically motivating. But just a small amount of thought into the numbers and the true argument that the poster makes, destroys its credibility and makes it for me, an ineffective poster. The purpose of the poster is simply to get people to support gun control laws and be more involved. I don’t think I will have any trouble with this speech aside ffrom the conclusion. Anyone have any suggestions on how to end it?


Where do I even start with this movie? Going into it I knew it was an 80s movie but by the title I had just assumed it was a standard movie narrative with a happy ending. I was way wrong. Even though it was not what I expected, I loved the movie. I think it was perfectly made by Spike Lee and it really helped convey his argument to his audience.

I think his argument was simple in that he just wanted the audience to think about what the right thing to do is when it comes to racial inequality. I don’t think he advocated a certain point of view, and he did a fantastic job making a film that was not bias toward a solution. However, he produced a film that, although obviously fictional, had a documentary feel to it and allowed the audience to form their own opinions on what “the right thing” truly is.

Some people criticize his “broken” plot style, and his over emphasis on bitter and seemingly worthless arguments, but I believe that these were purposeful techniques that added to the quality of the movie and contributed context to his theme. The “all over the place” camera style and plot line were created by Lee to create the feeling of chaos in the environment of the film, and chaos in the mind of the audience. I believe his cinematographic style alludes to the fact that the issue of racially equality is chaotic as well.

All of the empty rhetoric, and crude language in the film are not only contributing factors of the film’s message, but are completely necessary for the film to get the correct message across. Without it, the severity of the issues presented would not be as intense and the overall mood of the film would not be the same.

Lee’s Do The Right Thing is nothing short of a cinema masterpiece and is deserving of all the awards it received.