The Manhattan Project--2016 A to Z Theme

Always a work in progress--welcome to my blog...

Friday, October 7, 2016

Is Boycotting the Right Thing? (#BOTB Results)


       Rarely do I support boycotting as an effective way of making a statement, but there are those instances where I think it's worth consideration.  One such instance might be in regard to the film opening today (10/7/2016), The Birth of a Nation.

The Birth of a Nation (2016 film).png
Theatrical release poster (photo credit Wikipedia)
 
       Though rumors of this film had been wafting my way in recent months (I don't keep up with the film industry much these days), The Birth of a Nation was fully brought to my attention in a recent report on 60 Minutes which was aired on October 2nd.

        Since I don't want to delve too deeply into this, for those who want more information on the controversies surrounding this film I'd recommend viewing the 60 Minutes interview or checking out the Chicago Tribune article regarding the interview.    However let me touch upon the points that concern me the most.

         For the sake of clarification for any who might be unfamiliar with the film, this new film has essentially nothing to do with the 1915 D. W. Griffith silent epic of the same name that celebrated the origins of the Ku Klux Klan.  The 1915 film being a racially offensive film to a great extent, I was surprised that anyone would think a remake would be a good idea.  But the new film is not a remake.  Instead it's a depiction of the Nat Turner slave uprising of 1831 which occurred in Virginia--a story that I find almost equally offensive since it involves what I would consider mass murder.

       Granted that some deem Nat Turner a hero since he was leading a rebellion against the injustice of slavery, there are likely more who would disagree with that assessment.  Arguably, Nat Turner's rebellion was almost at a parity with the Manson family murders.  No matter how one views it, both incidents were devised with an intention to incite action through violence.  My comparison would likely raise the ire of some of the defenders of Nat Turner's conspiracy, but to me murder is murder.  Turner and his cohorts viciously and indiscriminately killed men, women, and children in their beds and wherever else they could find them.   The reprisals by the white community against innocent blacks not involved in the Turner rebellion were equally reprehensible.  In its totality the entire episode is a horrible blot on the history of the United States.

        Nate Parker, the film's director who also plays the lead role, stated in the interview that he used the Birth of a Nation title in order that people would forget the Griffith film.  To me, this reeks as a bit of revisionist history thinking.   Though perhaps not a great film in the eyes of many, the 1915 film is a big part of film history.  The film was a box office success by today's standards and even then was a topic of great controversy due to the racially charged subject matter and the insensitive stereotypical depictions of black people.   Relatively few today have seen the film and would even likely be interested in seeing an old silent film over two hours in length.  But it is history and should be remembered in that context.

          The Nat Turner story might be equally obscure to many people today even though there have been a number of books and articles written about the subject.  Most famously William Styron released his controversial best selling Pulitzer prize winning The Confessions of Nat Turner in 1967.  I bought the book a year or so after it was released and read it when I was a high school senior. It's still a highly regarded book well worth reading if you have not done so yet.

          A film version of the Nat Turner story was overdue, but I question the motivation cited by director Nate Parker.  In his interview he states that he hopes that Nat Turner's story will inspire resistance through a "riotous disposition toward injustice" and further saying that the film is not a call for violence, but he would like it to be a call to action.

          This sounds fine in theory, but how does this read to young people who might be inclined toward action in the sense of violence and societal disruption of a highly negative manner.  We already have plenty of racial tension in parts of our country and in the minds of certain segments passionately charged groups that feel they have little to lose in doing harm to others with whom they might feel disgruntled.  Nate Parker might have highly idealistic motivations in his hopes for what his film inspires, but the inference that I got from his words is something that might not be good for our country.

          Sure, it's only a movie and might not amount to much of anything.  Still I'm not particularly thrilled about seeing a big box office return for this film considering what I've heard from its director.  I think the film should be boycotted in theaters and any monetary gain be minimized by avoiding adding to the enrichment of those who made the film.  I might see it if it comes to Netflix or television, but that is about as far as I would go.

         The current buzz about Oscar accolades for the film might fade because of Nate Parker's past rape accusations (you can read the stories about that on the internet).  I hope the Academy carefully considers promoting the status of this film by nominating it for any awards.  Not that I want to see this film disappear, but I don't know that it should become a big deal or an inspiration either.

         But maybe I'm wrong about this.   I'm just going by Nate Parker's interview and the articles I read after hearing that interview.   I was not impressed by what this actor/director had to say.  And not that I want to see the film disappear or be banned, but I don't want it to become a big influence to those disaffected citizens who could be inspired to do the wrong thing.

         In closing I'll leave you with this quote from Vinson Cunningham, an African-American staff writer for The New Yorker magazine who previously served as a staff assistant at the Obama White House.  Mr. Cunningham said in a fine New Yorker article:
 "The Birth of a Nation" isn't worth defending.   Nate Parker's retelling of Nat Turner's rebellion does not succeed as art or as propaganda.
         In the final analysis it's up to you and the public to decide.

Battle of the Bands Results



         My previous Battle of the Bands featured versions of the Grace Jones/Astor Piazzolla song "I've Seen That Face Before".   The outcome of this Battle somewhat surprised me as I was afraid that the unique vocals of Kovacs might not sit well with many voters.  I was wrong about that.  The Kovacs version was appreciated by many of you, but the Brady Harris Band had nearly an equal number of fans.

         I liked the version by Kovacs immensely.  Initially I was a bit iffy about the vocals, but it didn't take long for me to start getting into her jazzy style.  Since there are a number of live performances on YouTube of Kovacs performing this song I got a range of her abilities.  Sharon Kovacs is an excellent jazz vocalist.

        However, from the standpoint of extended listening preference, I much prefer the approach taken by the Brady Harris Band.  As some voters also agreed, this version seems especially haunting with the backing vocals, solid bass line, exquisite guitar work, and nifty reverse tape effects.  This version has a British invasion flavor somewhat reminiscent of Peter and Gordon and other such groups. 

        Although I adore what Kovacs does with this song, my vote goes to the Brady Harris Band.  And as is often the case, I am in the minority.  It wasn't an overwhelming decision, but clearly Kovacs is the favorite with most of the voters.  But barely...

Final Vote Tally:

Brady Harris Band           11

Kovacs                                13

Next Battle October 15th

          I'm going to continue my series of songs with themes that I'm relating to the upcoming presidential election.  Again the topic will be just a general question relating to the election and nothing contentious from my perspective.  Oh, but those comments can be interesting and fun.  Stayed tuned to this blog for some more Battle of the Bands excitement.

       Have you seen the 1915  film The Birth of a Nation and if so, what do you think of it?   Will you see (or have you seen) Nate Parker's new film The Birth of a Nation?    Do you consider Nat Turner a hero?    Explain your reasoning why or why not.  

And to take us out, here is an alternate live version of Kovacs singing "I've Seen That Face Before"






41 comments:

  1. Hopefully it's viewed as an object lesson - violence begets violence. Let's learn from the past and move past that.

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    1. Alex, we should learn from the past, but we shouldn't engage in revisionist history. I want to know the history that actually happened and not history according to an agenda that wants us to see it their way.

      Lee

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  2. Yes, I have seen the 1915 film version and one does need to look at it from a historical perspective. It revolutionized the American film industry and was a huge hit costing $2 to see it...in 1915! It also caused major controversy and brought the resurgence of the KKK which is horrible. I am never one for. Censoring so one has to view that film for the time it was made and the director who made it. I had no idea what this current Birth of a Nation was about and wondered, at first, if they actually made a remake of this 1915 film and wondered why. Now I know it is not a remake and only knew a little about the controversy. You wrote something brilliant here and, when I get a chance, i will view the 60 minutes interview. I am never one for glorifying something that was wrong and violent and make it sound like it was justified. I agree with what you wrote here....it is not right and, although I will see the film, I will learn a lot more about the history of it before I watch the film.

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    1. Birgit, I have the 1915 film on DVD and have watched it a few times. It's interesting in respect to its age and the view of history that it presents. Kept in perspective, it's worth remembering.

      I don't know that I've written anything brilliant, but I appreciate that compliment. However, I was stunned and disappointed in what Nate Parker had to say about what he was hoping to accomplish as well as his view of Nat Turner as a hero for blacks to look up to. Young blacks look up to so many of the wrong people like some of the rappers and others who go against the grain of law and societal norms.

      The Nat Turner story is worth telling, but I don't think the actions of Nat Turner should be admired or emulated.

      Lee

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  3. Hi, Lee!

    For a while there I thought that our losing streak had come to an end and you were going to report that your ears matched mine in your latest battle. No such luck. Maybe next, time, good buddy.

    I saw the original BOAN silent movie in the late 60s when it was offered for study as part of a film history course at college. I don't remember much about it. I do not intend to see the new film. I am deeply concerned about anybody or anything that incites violence no matter how noble the cause, including presidential candidates who weave into their campaign rhetoric thinly veiled threats against their opponents.

    Enjoy your weekend, good buddy Lee!

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    1. Shady, I took a couple of film classes in college and it was an mind-opening experience that introduced me to so many films and insight on how to appreciate film art. Loved those classes!

      Lee

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  4. I don't get to watch 60 minutes here in the UK, but enjoyed reading your most interesting post.
    I actually got the winner in the BOTB.
    Enjoy your week-end.
    Yvonne.

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    1. Yvonne, you seem to often pick the winners of BOTB, but that must be your good musical ear at work.

      Lee

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  5. I do really enjoyed Brady Harris, Was a very close vote so congrats on that. Good battle!

    I think boycotting can have far-reacing effects especially when it affects sales and profits. I'm not opposed to boycotting at all.
    I have no intention of seeing the new Birth of a Nation. And I certainly have no desire to see the original. I see enough racial violence and injustice on the news every night.

    Michele at Angels Bark

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    1. Michele, the original silent film is certainly not for everyone, but it makes for an interesting view from the past--a somewhat long tedious view for many though I enjoyed watching it. But I like old films.

      Lee

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  6. Never even heard of the silent film. If the film was just a film telling the story, okay, but if the director wants to ignite crap and use it as propaganda then pfffft. But then when you really look at movies, America makes plenty of war movies that glorify war. That is mass murder on a huge scale in most cases. The people who would be ignited by it are most likely sheep anyway, if it wasn't that film, it would be some other stupid thing. But this sounds like it is a propaganda tool. Why anyone would want to bring such a tale to the screen only can be propaganda or to stir crap up to further their career, i.e. another form of propaganda.

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    1. Pat, many films are intended to deliver the message of some agenda. Sometimes they are good, but I guess that also depends on which side of the issue you are on. Nate Parker seems genuine about his enthusiasm for his message, but I think it could have a bad effect on those who are less inclined to approach issues with an intellectual mindset.

      Lee

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  7. I've seen clips from the 1915 film but have never seen it in its entirety. I will probably see the new movie when it comes out on DVD. I don't want to make decisions based on accusations in the media. You state your case well, sir. I have two points: 1. Charles Manson was not a slave. 2. Nate Parker was acquitted.

    Love,
    Janie

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    1. Janie, I don't know that I would say that anything I saw or read about the film would be an accusation from the media, but then again they all have some agenda. Mostly my concern was brought about by what Parker's own words were. That's what caused me to read a bit more about his background.

      As to your points: 1) It's generally maintained that Manson suffered a difficult upbringing that included abuse. Sure, he wasn't a slave, but he was a product of a bad childhood. Aside from that though, he developed his own misguided vision that he believed to be his spiritual call to violent action that would in turn incite a larger action in society. Not that I'm defending Manson's actions--they were horrible--but the end result was a rampage of murder.

      2) O.J. was also acquitted. Many people have been acquitted because of a good defense or whatever. I don't know for sure whether he was guilty or not, but it seems the victim stood by her story until the day that she committed suicide. Parker's acquittal and insistence on his innocence is why I didn't want to go into the rape issue, but this is one aspect of the story that might taint his Oscar chances. My biggest concern was in what Parker said about his film in respect to how he hopes it will be received. He stated his aim with some eloquence, but still I inferred a deeper message from his statement. And to hold Nat Turner up as a hero is abominable in my thinking. There are so many more figures in black American history who are worthy of being raised up as heroes.

      Lee

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  8. I never even heard of that slave rebellion. And if we did learn about it in school, I don't remember. I've never seen either Birth of a Nation movies, nor will I.

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    1. JoJo, it's unlikely that students in a K-12 classes would hear about the Nat Turner rebellion unless it was a very focused high school class about American history. Probably similar with college classes. There is no real reason to focus on the issue unless one is studying a history of slavery.

      Lee

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  9. While I am not a fan of war, I struggle with the slave rebellion against their masters as murder but the colonies' rebelling against the British rule as a revolution.

    Both are clearly acts of violence that resulted in deaths. Is it that the latter was successful that is the difference?

    In any event, I have grown so tired of the Hollywood trend to rewrite history to push their unrelated liberal agendas that I don't find myself going to many movies these days.

    Although, to those that go to the film, I would go with the expectation that they reveal that Nat Turner was a GLBT who was bitten by a radioactive boll weevil, which explains his awesome powers.

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    1. Larry, the rebellion of the colonists against British rule was a relatively drawn out thoughtful process that involved much discussion among those involved. The Nat Turner rebellion was a passionate quest inspired by the visions of one man who incites others who probably have little in mind other than revenge. I see less of a moral grounding in the slave uprising as it was attempted. Done in other ways it might be more defensible and come to think of it I think that was done in the War Between the States. Bludgeoning families in their beds while they sleep does not send a particularly good message.

      I get immensely frustrated when I see a Hollywood account of a historical topic where they alter the truth in order to propagate their liberal thinking. History provides interesting and compelling stories without movie makers trying to turn it into something else.

      Lee

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  10. Thank you for a very informative post, on a subject I will confess to being mildly curious about. I can't see anyone in today's Hollywood making- or anyone in this PC nation taking it- for historical accuracy. They might celebrate the carnage, but not look at the cause. I fear you may be right about this encouraging the same kind of BLM crap going on across the country already- and I don't think we need have any more causes for riots.

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    1. Plus the people that in their comments say they never heard of Turner or the 1915 film scares me- even though I live with onesuch...

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    2. CW, from what I've read the story presented in the film is historically accurate to a great extent, but I do think they focus on a certain glorification of the brutal acts that occurred. Turner's motivations might have been noble in regard to the injustice of slavery, but his actions were base and evil. If he had organized an actual army and offered terms to the opposing side and actually fought their army then I think a legitimate claim to revolution and rebellion in the name of justice would be defensible. The actual slaughter that occurred was wrong and probably had no positive outcome for either side of the argument.

      I'm not surprised that few people know the 1915 film or the Nat Turner story. A good many people now won't even watch a black and white film let alone one with no audible dialog and that runs something like 3 hours.

      The Nat Turner story is not something that is of particular importance in context of American history overall so it's not taught in history classes. Styron's best selling book was released nearly 50 years ago and likely is not read by that many people now. This film is the first mention that I've heard about Nat Turner in many years.

      Lee

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  11. I found the choice of movie title confusing since I was aware of the original even though I have never seen it. I'm no expert on Nat Turner, but I did some research on the incident while writing a historical novel. It's a horrifying story, yet slavery is a horrifying story on a much more massive scale. Mixed feelings here, but I have no urge to go see the movie.

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    1. Tamara, slavery was horrifying and so was the civil war which was a just cause used to end slavery. No slavery was ended with the chaotic rampage led by Nat Turner. In the end more harm came from that action than good. Nat Turner as a hero makes little sense to me.

      Lee

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  12. In high school, I found a book about Nat Turner in the library. I'd read a bit, put it back for the next day. Over that time, I realized how this man morphed, became a monster. Beginning to end, it was horrifying.
    I also saw the Birth of the Nation (1915), expecting nothing. Watching just 5 minutes was enough.
    Don't need to see the new Birth...attempts at glorifying Nat Turner is a sin.

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    1. Susan, the 1915 film has to be watched from a historical perspective because if judged by today's standards as entertainment it doesn't make the grade. It's just too primitive for most modern day viewers to sit through for long. However for it's day it's an amazing achievement. Just that fact that this film is 100 years old is kind of amazing to consider. The film started conversations that continue today, but there have been so many societal changes since the release of BOAN1915 and that's hard to dispute.

      Many people in arts have tended to glorify criminals over history. People crave stories that will excite and inspire them. Maybe inspiration some come from other real heroes.

      Lee

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  13. Well said, Lee. There are no heroes in any of the cases I see here and to glorify them for any reason only deepens the wounds and causes more victims. I appreciate the links you provided and certainly wouldn't waste time, money or precious thought on slime or slander which incites or advocates violence in any form.

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    1. Diedre, if interested in the film I think it is worth watching, but not in the theaters. Paying for ticket is like voting for its worthiness. And the story from a historical perspective is worth consideration, but from the standpoint of the director's seeming motivations I wouldn't want to encourage him in any way.

      Lee

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  14. Hollywood also alters history to create a more interesting story line. In the otherwise well-done TV series on Rome, the writer imagines Cleopatra being impregnated by a Roman soldier, then presenting the baby to Caesar as his son. The rest of the series is more or less accurate in its history, so a viewer might be deluded into believing all of it.

    GWTW was a great film and remains one of my favorites because it presented an accurate history of the devastation of the South after the Civil War. It was also presented from the plantation owner's view, so the reader could appreciate that he would have to find the views of other citizens and slaves elsewhere.

    Possibly, we need to require a rating for historical films as to their accuracy and balance.

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    1. Jack, some dramatic license is fine as long as it doesn't alter the story in general or try to portray fictionalized aspects of the story in order to serve an agenda. A few shortcuts in presenting a story in order to expedite reaching the more important parts is often necessary to make the story more interesting.

      I think a rating system for accuracy and balance is a fantastic idea, but it would probably be misused if placed in the wrong hands. Of course if someone doesn't know history in the first place and doesn't want to learn more about it, then the fictionalized accounts for entertainment will serve their purposes for the masses who aren't interested in truth and education. Sadly I think many fit into this group.

      Lee

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    2. Good point. Who would appoint the ratings board? However, I think it would be better for those who bypassed history to stay ignorant of it rather than to get it skewed for entertainment purposes or worse: advocacy agendas or political purposes.

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  15. LEE ~
    Another fine Battle! The artist I voted for lost but a 2-vote victory margin is excellent. I would be happy with that every single time.

    Boycotting is actually a very effective means for change outside of violent revolution. In fact, it's the BEST means. (Look at how quickly Target walked back its transgender crap and started building new "universal" restrooms for the freaks!)

    The only problem with boycotting, of course, is getting the apathetic and amoral Americonned Sheeple unified enough over an issue to organize a boycott.

    If We The People had stopped flying on commercial airlines as soon as the TSA and their intrusive methods were brought in, that entire police state nonsense would have disappeared in a week to ten days! Too much big money lost by the airlines would have caused our masters to re-think that DHS intrusion faster'n you could say, "The money changes everything."

    But the sheeple are so brainwashed and confused that it's very difficult to get them off their asses to do much of anything really positive. It makes me sick.

    ~ D-FensDogG
    'Loyal American Underground'

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    1. POSTSCRIPT:
      Lee, considering how many of your thoughts lately have been focused on this upcoming presidential election, I'm surprised you haven't weighed in on the TWO blog bits I've published about it at FERRET-FACED FASCIST FRIENDS.

      I've nailed down the facts there, even though some people still seem to be sitting in a foggy mental corner about this. As I said, this ain't even Laundromat Science. Sheesh!

      ~ D-FensDogG
      'Loyal American Underground'

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    2. STMcC, I expected Brady Harris to win this one because the Kovacs vocals, but the outcome is fine since I picked two equally appealing versions.

      I don't really get overly involved in boycotts, but there are some products I avoid because of what they represent to me. Some boycotts have worked but usually there is no interest for the reasons you cited.

      I'd forgotten that you had started posting on FFFF again. I'll have to check out some of those posts.

      Lee

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  16. I remember the D.W. Griffin classic because we studied in college so I have been moderately interested in how this would compare. However, since I have not been to a movie theater since THE PERFECT STORM (which was filmed here in my town and my boyfriend had a small appearance in it) I am ot in danger of spending any money on it.

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    1. Kathleen, we don't go to the movie theater anymore either. Easier and cheaper to stay home and watch on TV. I'm not one of those who feels the need to rush out on opening weekend to see a movie. I can wait patiently for it to be released on DVD--and usually I'm disappointed so I'm glad I didn't pay theater prices to see it.

      Lee

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  17. I hadn't heard of Birth of a Nation so your blog post was really interesting and informative. I probably go to the movie theater 1-2 times a year. So much easier to watch things at home and so much cheaper.

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    1. Sailor, Hollywood has enough money to waste without me adding more to line their pockets. I'd much rather be at home to watch a movie and not have to drive after I've watched it.

      Lee

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  18. I can't believe the director used the same name in the hopes of people forgetting the original BOAN! Whether he likes it or not, that film is a very important part of both cinematic and American history, and won't be reduced to an obscure footnote just because of a new film 101 years later. People are also overwhelmingly advised to not use very famous titles for their books and films. You wouldn't title your story about a hurricane Gone with the Wind, for example!

    The original BOAN is a difficult film to watch in the modern era, but I'm glad I decided to revisit it last year instead of letting my first viewing of it in 2006 remain my one and only experience. I got a lot more out of it the second time around, in large part because I'd already gotten that uncomfortable first viewing out of the way.

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    1. Carrie-Anne, completely agree. The original BOAN is an important part of U.S. film history and should be remembered. I would be more receptive to Parker's film if he had not used this tactic of attempting to muddy film history. And though I think the Nat Turner rebellion is worthy of cinematic retelling, I do not think that Nat Turner deserves to be elevated to some kind of hero status.

      Lee

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  19. I have a hard enough time going to see films that I like, let alone controversial films. So you can rest assure, I will give this one a miss.
    Kovacs win. Yea! - Sorry I'm so late in commenting. What is wrong with me?
    PS - I like the live version you supplied to.

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    1. Jeffrey, What's wrong with you? Maybe the same thing that's wrong with me. There are a few good live versions of the song by Kovacs on YouTube.

      Lee

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Go ahead and say something. Don't be afraid to speak your mind.
I normally try to respond to all comments in the comment section so please remember to check the "Email follow-up comments" box if you want to participate in the comment conversation.

For Battle of the Bands voting the "Anonymous" commenting option has been made available though this version is the least preferred. If voting using "anonymous" please include in your comment your name (first only is okay) and city you are voting from and the reason you chose the artist you did.

If you know me and want to comment but don't want to do it here, then you can send me an email @ jacksonlee51 at aol dot com.

Lee