Wednesday, February 24, 2016

ABC 's American Crime: Did Taylor Blaine Kill Wes Baxter in Self-Defense?

I don't mean to suggest that the TV serial American Crime follows the path of legal procedurals like Law and Order. It doesn't.  Instead, American Crime relies heavily on audience psychological and emotional reactions to portray a homophobic, hypocritical society in which its troubled anti-hero Taylor Blaine has just shot and killed Wes Baxter, a member of the Leyland private school basketball team. 

I'm really interested in seeing where creator/director John Ridley is going with the legal aspects he's depicting here.  I have to say, the legal drama interests me as much as the psychological torment of the victims, the moral dilemmas of the enablers, and the apologists who try to reconcile all of it. 

Real life doesn't come with labels like 'liberal'  or 'conservative' -- people apply those later, and the labels are only occasionally accurate.  Yet, the shooting in Episode 7 of Wes Baxter and the violent response of Eric Tanner to his attacker puts the self-defense arguments to the forefront. And it is here where liberal and conservative views collide.  Will the self-defense issue be taken on or will it be set by the wayside? 

 Wes accosted the disturbed, battered, and confused Taylor outside the school and threatened to kill him.  Taylor happened to have with him the revolver he’d stolen.  Was the threat posed by Wes sufficient to sustain a claim of self-defense? I’m guessing this will be one of the claims made in the new episode.  

Undermining any claim of self-defense, however, is the scene where Taylor finally uses that notepad he’s been carrying around and jots down some names.  Among that list of names is that of Wes Baxter.  It is some kind of hit list? Premeditated murder is a far different matter than involuntary manslaughter or self-defense.

 Who are the good guys? Who are the bad?  By the same token, is Eric Tanner? a victim or perpetrator of violence as he’s attacked by an enraged sex partner in a desolate location.  Eric fights back and survives the attack. We don’t know about the other guy, his attacker, last seen writhing in pain in his car. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

FX Channel : People Versus OJ Simpson

The second episode of FX Channel's People v. OJ Simpson wasn't as good as the first one, my full recap of which can be seen here: Episode One 

I expect there will be better to follow.  In this second episode, the car chase was obligatory but it went on almost as long as the real thing. I watched a few hours of the real thing when I'd returned home from my job that day.  This second episode added some scenes which you couldn't get from watching the real thing.

Throughout the car chase, Simpson is depicted as having a revolver to his head the entire time, crying and whining and say gee whiz oh my how can this be happening to me?  Well, you slaughtered two people, dummy, and you were being treated like a crown prince.  This celebrity treatment is made very clear in the episode and that is good.  My opinion of the suicidal scenes is that they were exaggerated, and I wonder now about Jeffery Toobin's book upon which the series is based.  There is often a chasm between book and film so likely Toobin didn't exaggerate or dramatize as the FX production did.

Here's the thing though.  Simpson might have thought of killing himself (if only) but a better guess is that he had a flair for the dramatic and was already trying to present a defense for himself. He was a very public guy, accustomed to being worshiped, very full of himself (and rightly as a football player) and also very violent and given to self-indulgence. Short way to say that I found the suicide scenes very fake, prolonged, and maudlin.  The love-fest among his family and friends while he's piling down the highway with AC was also gag-producing, though you may forgive close members of his family, who would be certainly bereft.

Anyway, the car chase over, we can get on with the story, an interesting one from both a legal and a social standpoint.  The Johnny Cochran character is well cast and John Travolta does a highly entertaining Robert Shapiro.  Kardashian?  He looks good, real, nice job there and a good mock-up of the Kardashian brand.