Delayed Reaction: ‘Boy A’

Boy A is a British film that came out in 2007, but one I just saw the other night. Its title refers to a court practice of hiding the identity of a child defendant – Boy/Girl A, Boy B, and so on. After all, there is always the chance that they will be released as an older teen or young adult – out back into the world after being deemed “rehabilitated,” and no longer a harm to society. (It should also be noted that, while it completely stands on its own, the movie’s plot seems to share some similarities with the horrific James Patrick Bulger case in Liverpool of ’93.)

Andrew Garfield plays our Boy A, and he is amazing. I mean, indescribably so, although this did not come as a surprise. It’s intriguing to me that an actor who has excelled at so many smaller, dramatic, and emotionally heavy roles will be the new Spiderman in the reboot series. (I’m sure he’ll do a great job, but it’s just a whole other world of showbiz.) I hope that no one forgets how heartbreaking and impressive he was in Never Let Me Go (his performance being the best part of the film) and The Social Network (for which he was robbed a Best Supporting Actor nod at the Oscars), and Boy A, which he received a BAFTA for.

Garfield’s characters real name, as a child, is Eric Wilson. We first meet him during the opening scene of the film where he is about to be released from prison. His rehabilitation worker, Terry, asks him what his new name will be to embark on his new life. Already, we know one thing: Eric’s past life cannot be known; it’s a huge, dangerous secret. And then we come to know another thing, as Eric responds with grateful smiles and nervous laughter, “I can’t make up me mind!”: Boy A is innocent. Or, at the very least, no longer a harm to society, fully rehabilitated.

He chooses to be called Jack Burridge, and off he goes into the world of 9 to 5, new friendships, and a brand new romance (with much help from Terry all the way).

As Jack starts his new life and tries to neglect his old one, the audience does not. We are instead in a position where we see Jack’s new, stable life paralleled by his childhood and the crime he was imprisoned for. The reveal comes steadily but surely, the flashbacks eloquent and paced very carefully. We see Eric failing at school, his mother dying of cancer, his father wretched and verbally abusive, being bullied and beaten up by older kids, and then finally befriending Philip – a clear troublemaker with an unusually rough demeanor for a kid. Nonetheless, he likes Eric and he stands up for him. The crime that is committed is perceived to be carried out by the both of them, equally, but the flashback scene to the actual tragic incident doesn’t fill in all the blanks for us. We find out what happened, realize that Philip (as predicted) was the leader in the crime, but we do not find out which crime Eric is guilty of – assisting in the murder of a schoolgirl, or never stepping in to stop it.

The way the film unravels, it seems as though Garfield’s portrayal of the adult Eric (now, of course, Jack) is supposed to speak to his involvement in the crime. Jack is quiet, easily flattered, surprised by other people’s kindness and yet very kind himself, nervous but gentle, naive and literally sheltered, desperate to love and even more desperate to be loved. There is nothing about him that yells “murderer,” but there is definitely something that whispers “follower.” For an actor to go off of a child’s uncomplicated performance and come up with all of this, continuing the journey of this human being in such a complex way, is truly remarkable to watch.

Garfield may have us rooting for him, but the film is not as sympathetic. Though Jack starts out leading a very positive second life (in which he even saves a little girl from a car crash and becomes the town hero), the media gets word of his new identity and the whole country seems to be ravenous to snatch it away from him. The story shoots off from one about a rehabilitated child criminal to one of a young adult running from his past and from the public that wants him to pay. It’s a story about one’s privacy, and if one deserves it after being tried for a very serious crime before he could be considered a teen. It’s a story that makes us question if second chances in extreme cases like these are really possible, and if so, for how long?

No matter what the answers are, or if there even are any, this film – beautiful and delicate when it could have easily been exploitative and harsh – is worth the watch.

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“Remain Silent No Longer”: Rage Against the Polanski

I’ve written a lot about Roman Polanski since he was arrested – after 30+ years – for raping a 13-year-old girl back in the 70s. So now that he chose to speak out for the first time this weekend, it just seems right to “Rage Against the Polanski” once again. Because after all, “Polanski” has become a machine in itself – made up of pompous, privileged and delusional supporters in Hollywood and Europe who seem to think Polanski is above being punished for committing rape.

The main reason? “It was so long ago!” The other reason? Well, let’s let Polanski explain that one to us:

“I can remain silent no longer because the request for my extradition addressed to the Swiss authorities is founded on a lie,” writes Polanski, who blames Marina Zenovich’s HBO documentary Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired for stirring up career-mongering LA prosecutors into acting on his long dormant case.

Oh, of course. The Wanted and Desired documentary from 2008…Which, as illuminating as it was, didn’t exactly vilify Polanski as much as it should or could have. It was fairly balanced as far as “telling both sides” goes. And it even ended with a close friend of the director’s saying – oh so poetically – how Polanski became “wanted” in the U.S. after he fled his crime, and then “desired” in France/Europe (but particularly France, with their odd glamorization and defensiveness of him). This seemed to me as if the documentary might be ultimately glorifying Polanski as some sort of misunderstood but irresistible legend – which sounds a hell of a lot better than “pervert-turned-fugitive who fled his rape crime.”

You can download Polanski’s full statement here. It’s basically everything you’ve already heard from the “Free Polanski” crowd but with added melodrama – as Polanski highlights the “injustices” of his case with the prefaced statement in bold, “I can remain silent no longer because…”

Best part:

I can remain silent no longer because I have been placed under house
arrest in Gstaad and bailed in very large sum of money which I have
managed to raise only by mortgaging the apartment that has been my
home for over 30 years, and because I am far from my family and unable to
work.

Aside from the fact that I just don’t give a…, this heap of “boo-hoo-poor-me” B.S. completely contradicts Polanski’s opening sentences: “I have had my share of dramas and joys, as we all have, and I am not going to try to ask you to pity my lot in life.” No. That’s exactly what you’re doing. And that’s exactly what everyone in support of you has been doing since September.

And ahhh yes. The media is just “out to get” Polanski. To make an example of him. Yeah. That’s it. Sure, the media loves it. But what really happened is that the U.S. finally ARRESTED him for his RAPE CRIME. I mean, some people agree with me on this, right?!

Oh, and then this happened on indieWIRE:

While I object to people who suggest that Polanski never did anything terribly wrong—he did—I do think that at his advanced age he bears little threat to anyone and has been punished, served time, and should be able to break out of this impasse. Was he a libertine and a reprobate, did he behave criminally and break the law? Yes. I’d like to see him cop to what he did. But this case is old and cold. There must be a way to fix this.

By the way, The Ghost Writer was one of Polanski’s best, sharpest, most personal films in a long while. I want to see him make more films.

Really, Anne Thompson?

And with that, I’ve unfortunately exhausted most words that I can muster up for this argument. All I have left to say is this:

I can remain silent no longer because Roman Polanski is a rapist who never served time for raping a 13-year-old girl; because I don’t care how old he is, or how long ago it was; because as The New Yorker explored, Polanski relished girls who were minors and showed no remorse for raping or engaging in sex with them; because someone needs to put his old, perverted, privileged, “above-statused” ass in jail already; because anyone who still thinks Polanski is either innocent or should be “let go” of the case needs to seriously reevaluate themselves; and because reallywhat’s not to understand?

Jane Velez-Mitchell: ‘Wearing a Bikini on Spring Break is Asking for Rape’

Listen. I didn’t ask for HLN to be on when I turned on my television after work today. And I didn’t want Jane Velez-Mitchell’s awful show, Issues with Jane Velez-Mitchell, to be on either, mishandling the topic of rape.

The “issue” at hand was the number of young women who have been raped in Daytona Beach while on Spring Break. The tacky, insensitive graphic on the bottom of the screen read: “SPRING BREAK RAPES!” in screeching italics. The sorry-ass-excuse of a “debate” going on behind the graphics was far worse.

Given that I have apparently been the sole outraged Tweeter of this show (believe me – I searched for it), and am probably one of five people in the country watching it this evening, let me fill you in on the highlights (or lowlights):

  • A female psychologist (the most educated-sounding of the three on the panel) explains that women have a hard time coming forth with a rape crime because it is “the only crime where you are forced to participate, and you feel the shame of participating.” While “participate” is probably not the best verb choice, it’s still a good stab at meaningful insight.
  • Host Jane Velez-Mitchell’s response? Word for word: “Listen, I don’t like to blame the victim, BUT…” As she goes on to – seriously – say, “If you’re scantily-clad, wearing nothing but a skimpy bikini, I mean…You’re making yourself vulnerable.” (OH. MY. GOD.) Then she claims that everyone has to “respect the gavel” as she holds one up and goes to commercial break. (Since I don’t watch, ever, I’m assuming this is some kind of gimmick.)
  • Random ex-frat-boy-looking dude on the panel’s response after the commercial break? He was going to say the same thing Jane said, but did not out of fear that he’d be attacked because, as he says with dripping sarcasm…Are you ready? “These women are SUPPOSEDLY wearing this ‘burka’ of shame…” (Oh. And then my conscience imploded.) REALLY, dude?! A BURKA of shame? You somehow managed to offend both rape survivors and Muslim women who wear the burka in one short sentence. Kudos.
  • Psychologist woman shakes her head. Old random dude makes generic “Where are the parents?” argument, and everyone snickers at him for thinking parents would ever be present on Spring Break.
  • Final verdict from Jane: Her life experience as a “recovering alcoholic” makes her credible, of course, on the subject of drunken black-outs. And since you CAN “function” and yet “not remember” what you did the night before, this makes for a very fuzzy rape crime case. And again, she says it:”I’m the LAST person to blame the victim, but.” And then something that’s supposed to sound like logical thought spews out of her mouth.
  • Final verdict from ex-frat boy dude: “Listen, we can’t stop rapists from committing rape. But we can reduce the number of rapes that occur by women not walking around scantily-clad and drinking so much on Spring Break.” (Um…excuse me?! Who the hell bred this jackass?!)

Conclusively, ladies, beware: If you go on Spring Break and drink, wear a bikini, go to the beach, travel without your parents, or do anything that you would normally do while on Spring Break – you are partially to blame for being raped if this tragically occurs. Well, at least according to Ms. Jane “Send Females Back 70 years” Velez-Mitchell and her Broski.

I realize that this is opening myself up to a debate from men and women alike, with opinions of either “females should not be blamed for their rape” (my point of view) or “well, there are certain cases where they’re kind of asking for it.” Believe me, I’ve heard every argument that could ever enrage me on the subject of rape, but the point I’m making here is how tactlessly, insultingly, and plain disgustingly the topic was approached on this show. That’s the thing.

She ended the debate by saying, “Thank you panel! Great insight.” And then her producers cut to the newest, sensational story about a kidnapped woman. Oh, and a Jesse James/Sandra Bullock update. Such a sensitive and meaningful handling of the subject of rape, Jane. You should really be proud of yourself. (See, bro? That’s how you do sarcasm.)

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Excuse me, the Frat-like dude’s actual burka comment was: “the psychological BURKA that these women are forced to wear, why shouldn`t they be able to dress scantily — as scantily clad—” And then he was interrupted. The dripping sarcasm was still there though, might I add.

I tried to get this as word-for-word as possible whenever quotation marks were used, but this post was written in the heat of the moment before I had an official transcript. Thanks to Zelda Lily for making me aware of such a thing on her blog! If you’d like to read for yourself, here’s the official CNN transcript of the show.

If you just can’t bring yourself to read through it, here’s something else that should be noted – also left out in this original “heat of the moment” post. Jane Velez-Mitchell says (and this is pulled directly from the transcript):

“OK. I think that there`s a difference between a woman who`s walking alone on a country road being abducted and never seen again, as we see happen so often. A woman who is at home, like the beautiful Tennessee anchorwoman, minding her business, where some creep breaks in and rapes her and kills her. And these women, who are drinking excessively on the beach, wearing G-strings, and engaging in hypersexual behavior, like doing that dance where they`re simulating sex. I think that we have to distinguish between those two groups of women.”

There it is in a nutshell, folks: Some women really DON’T deserve to be raped, and some women kind of DO. According to Ms. Velez-Mitchell.

I appreciate anyone who has commented on, retweeted, or blogged this.

Just a Thought on Amanda Knox

AP Photo/Luca Bruno

I would like to make it very clear that this post is in no way my saying that I believe Amanda Knox is guilty for the murder of Meredith Kercher. I want to make that known because, basically, I don’t know whether she’s guilty or not. The more I read up on it, the more conflicted I feel.

Rather, I’d like to bring up some questions that have been concerning me:

  1. What if Amanda Knox was not white? (Meaning: Black, Hispanic, etc.)
  2. What if Amanda Knox was unattractive? (Meaning: not pretty.)

Yes, of all the questions to ask about this case, these are the ones I’m asking. Because frankly, the media is not addicted to this story only because they seek out justice. Sure, that’s part of it – Americans think she’s innocent and should not spend 25 years in Italian prison, and Italians are convinced she’s guilty based on evidence that really isn’t evidence at all and think she should rot in prison.

Americans, in the meantime, are adamant that this is a patriotic issue. “Italians hate Americans” is one of the reasons you hear constantly about why Amanda Knox has been such bait for the Perugia government.

So Americans can’t stop talking about how much they love her and want her innocence proven, and Italians can’t stop talking about how much they hate her and know she’s guilty. If Amanda Knox wasn’t a seemingly-wholesome and pretty white college student, would our media still be so hung up on her case? And likewise, would the Italian media still be so obsessed if they couldn’t say things like, for instance, she has “the face of an angel, but the eyes of a killer”?

Again, not saying she’s guilty or not guilty. I’m also not saying that I don’t feel sorry for her, because honestly it is eerie to see a girl my age (also in love with Italian culture) going through all of this, sentenced to 26 years in a foreign country, with the possibility that she may not be guilty at all. I don’t know how to feel about the crime, but I know how I feel about the media’s obsession with it.

Our media has been called out on spending too much air time on white females who are murdered or go missing. (See: “missing white woman syndrome”.) So if Amanda Knox wasn’t white, young, and beautiful, would the intrigue and passion for the case all but disappear? Or is it really an issue of patriotism and justice?