13th (2016) Review

13th_filmScore: 5/5

“We may have lost the sheets of the Ku Klux Klan, but cleary when you see black kids being shot down… we didn’t clear this cancer.” – Charles Rangel

Slavery was abolished when the United States ratified the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865.

The 2012 film “Lincoln” focused on how Abraham Lincoln and his cohorts got the amendment passed by Congress in 1864. Director Steven Spielberg portrayed it as a major step towards full equality for all Americans, and there is no doubt it was.

But Constitutional amendments have consequences. The First protects all forms of speech including hate speech while the Second could not keep up with the rapid evolution of firearms. In Ava DuVernay’s “13th,” the consequences of the Thirteenth Amendment are explored.

The first section of the amendment reads (emphasis the film’s):

Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Today, one out every four Americans – a statistic from the film – is incarcerated; roughly 2.3 million people. According to the Prison Policy Initiative, 40 percent of those 2.3 million are African American even though they only make up 16 percent of the population. DuVernay uses “13th” to argue that because of 14 words, the United States became prison happy.

DuVernay demonstrated her filmmaking mastery in “Selma” but this documentary proves that she is one of the most articulate and informed filmmakers working today. Any filmmaker would have focused on the broader theme of mass incarceration without exploring the elements that contribute. DuVernay not only explores these elements, but she lingers on them just long enough for the rage to boil over.

With the slaves free there was a lack of available labor to rebuild the economy of the south. In addition to share cropping, white southerners also began arresting blacks for minor crimes so that they could be used as free labor. These arrests of black men created the myth that they were uncontrollable criminals, barely human.

But the fear doesn’t stop at that stereotype. “13th” contributes the massive prison population to Richard Nixon’s “law and order” campaign which planted the seeds for Ronald Reagan’s war on drugs. These are not new facts. Students of politics and history as well as the average stoner know that the war on drugs targets people of color more than whites.

But the film brings a larger context to this. The masterminds behind these campaigns knew exactly what they were doing – I will not specify because the anger needs to be experienced. These were not crusades for security and morality, they were diabolical strategies to consolidate the white vote for the Republican Party.

But politicians, regardless of their political affiliation, have to be tough on crime. Democrats like Charles Rangel and the Clintons supported harsh crime legislation because it became the new norm. Some even went as far as coining the term “super predators” – people who were beyond rehabilitation.

With an issue as heavy as mass incarceration it’s easy to end with resolution or at least hope. In “The Hunting Grounds” which tackles campus sexual assault, it ends with the growing support that victims have. There’s already outrage over the justice system and how it treats people of color. Institutions that were staunch opponents of these reforms are now becoming more flexible as the mood changes.

But DuVernay is too smart to let them slide. A professor from UC Santa Cruz makes it clear that history shows that when the establishment takes the lead in reforms, it usually leads to more repression. It leads me to think of Lyndon Johnson.

In addition to passing the Civil Rights Act, Johnson also initiated a war on poverty. He crafted his strategy with the help of both experts and the poor. This plan and the legislation that came from it came to be fittingly known as “The Great Society.”

“13th” is currently streaming on Netflix.

The Birth of a Nation (2016) Review

the_birth_of_a_nation_2016_filmScore: 2.5/5

“Birth of a Nation” is the story of Nat Turner and the slave rebellion he led. It is also the title of a 1915 DW Griffith film.

The Griffith film is incredibly racist, implying that African American men were sexual brutes who wanted nothing more than to ravage white women. But the women of the south are saved by the Ku Klux Klan, which means the country is saved – according to Griffith.

By giving his film the same title, director and star Nate Parker has turned the tables. Now, the white slave owner is the lustful predator and the black woman the victim. The heroes in this “Birth of a Nation” is the band of brothers led by Nat Turner (Parker).

Sometimes a film comes out at just the right time and “Birth of a Nation” was a long time coming. The century after Griffith’s film has been filled with racially charged violence and prejudice with whites being the main perpetrators. Romantics thought that it would have all ended when the country elected its first black president, but those tensions just became more veiled.

The refusal to acknowledge the tension coupled with unrest which resulted from a quick succession of police shootings of unarmed African Americans seem to have led up to this moment in cinema.

But that was only how it was marketed. What I saw was a much different film.

The real Nat Turner – as well as the Nat Turner of American lore – was a man who had visions of God telling him to free the slaves and annihilate the white race. By omitting that characteristic of Turner, what is left is a one dimensional hero figure – Beowulf. Parker’s Nat Turner is actually a divine figure. But he isn’t motivated to free the slave, instead he is motivated to protect women from lustful men, slavery for Parker’s Nat Turner almost becomes an afterthought.

In fact, everything that should have been explored in a film about one of the most controversial moments in American history appeared to be treated as afterthoughts. Never mind the complex relationships between free blacks and slaves, rich whites and poor whites and every other possible combination of those four groups. Never mind the intersectionality of race and class. Never mind the economics of slavery. What is important is Nate Parker – yes, I did that on purpose.

It becomes clear that Parker never wanted to make a movie about Nat Turner, instead he wanted to make a movie that would get Nate Parker more name recognition. It’s infuriating to think that “Birth of Nation” talks such a big game but walks such a small and self-serving walk.

The film that needed to exist should have been a character study within an origin story of the root of racial tension – or one of them at least. We need a film to come out that will help us cope with the ugliness that is racial prejudice so we can finally understand each other. If that’s why you want to see “Birth of a Nation” prepare to be disappointed.

Remember the Victims: How Hating Rapists Won’t Prevent Sexual Assault on College Campuses

Illustration by Signe Wilkinson (Philadelphia Daily News)

In the wake of news that Brock Turner, the former Stanford student who raped an unconscious woman, was released after serving three months of a six month sentence outrage filled the air.

This outrage is not new. Its origins stem from news of the trial that took place earlier this year.

Turner was found guilty of all three felony charges which included assault with the intent to rape an unconscious person and sexually penetrating an unconscious person with a foreign object.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Turner could have potentially served up to 10 years in prison. Instead Judge Aaron Persky sentenced him to only six months in county jail. “The punishment does not fit the crime,” said one district attorney in a statement.

The outrage of Persky’s leniency added to Turner’s father referring to the assault as “20 minutes of action,” were enough fuel for the country’s outrage to last into the summer.

Now in September, the news that Turner will only serve half of his sentence before going back home to Ohio has revived this outrage.

Outrage is good, especially when it comes to these kinds of issues. As a result of the Stanford case a massive movement has formed to recall Persky. The judge answered this movement by removing himself from all criminal cases, however this most likely fell upon deaf ears.

But in all this outrage is there room to remember the victim?

This case is more than just Turner, the impact his actions had on the public do not compare to the impact they had on the victim.

In media we’re supposed to respect the privacy of the victims of sexual assault. This is a part of our ethics because they’re suffering should not be the reason they become known. Unless they publicly speak out, we respect their anonymity. That is why in her victim impact statement she said her name in newspapers is “unconscious intoxicated woman, ten syllables…”

We don’t know her name and we’ll most likely never know it. But because of this person, thousands are calling to recall a county judge and our laws may change.

California state legislators have also introduced a bill that would establish mandatory minimum sentencing for sexual assault of an unconscious person. I have conflicted feelings about this bill and the New York Times published an excellent piece that reflect these feelings.

I reject the argument that harsher sentences will scare others from doing the same on the fact that even though we imprison drug dealers, people still sell drugs.

Turner’s sentence also brought up the issue of white privileged with many saying that if he were darker and poorer, he would be in prison right now. These concerns were voiced in a Los Angeles Times op-ed written by a New Orleans-based lawyer.

But even when our outrage is put into legal motion, it still proves to be wild.

Buzzfeed News reported that armed protestors were waiting outside Turner’s parents’ house. Many of the protestors held signs that read “Castrate all rapists.”

Let me be clear when I say that those who commit sexual assault do need to be punished. Though Turner’s punishment by a court of law was light, it does not give out a free pass for any forms vigilantism.

It is also a diversion from the fact that castrating rapists will not stop people from raping.

Hating Brock Turner doesn’t change anything. It’s easy to hate the perpetrator of a crime. It’s easy because no further action is needed past being angry. But being angry, threatening perpetrators and giving them harsher punishments won’t stop people from getting assaulted.

As a brother of two sisters, I know that being outraged — though comforting — will not make college campuses safer for them. I want a solution.

The only way we can find a solution for this problem is if we actively try to prevent it ourselves:

– Teach children about intimacy and nonverbal communication when discussing consent. “no means no” and “yes means yes” is the spine of understanding, but real communication between partners are the ribs.

– Stop telling girls that its their responsibility to prevent their own assault.

– Teach everyone that if they see a sexual assault taking place, stop it. People forget about the two Swedish students who did the right thing and held Turner until the police arrived.

– Make the victim’s letter required reading in middle schools and high schools for all students. Not since King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” have such powerful and eloquent words needed to be remembered.

– Most importantly, as Ken Burns said, “If someone tells you they’ve been sexually assaulted, take it effing seriously and listen to them.”

There’s more to add but I can’t name them all. But it just goes to show that there are more productive ways to prevent campus sexual assault than being just mad about it. Our anger needs to fuel our advocacy for a plan.

I’ll Be Seeing You

If you haven’t noticed, I have not posted a review during the summer.

This May I left the Express — and journalism — to take a job as a Social Media and PR Consultant for Sacramento City College’s Foundation. This new chapter in my life has made it difficult for me to regularly update my blog.

It pains me that I am unable to continue critiquing films and writing articles because of my new position. But it does not mean that I will be gone forever.

I will continue to chase interviews with Social Media personalities and collaborate with Vanessa Nelson, my most trusted of photographers. I am also hoping that after my work with the Foundation is complete that I will return to a publication.

In the meantime, as Billie Holiday (and many others) have said, “I’ll be seeing you.”

We Cannot be Afraid

Richie Compton, left, and Eric Winger kneel at a makeshift memorial for the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting outside of the Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center on June 13, 2016. (Jacob Langston/Orlando Sentinel)

Yesterday, around this time, I woke up looked at my phone and found out that there was a shooting at a nightclub in Orlando, Florida. When I showered and dressed, I went to the living room and turned on CNN.

It was then that I found out why I can no longer be afraid.

49 people were killed and 53 were wounded, making it the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. But then I also found out that the nightclub, Pulse, was a gay nightclub, making it the deadliest incident of violence against the LGBTQ+ community according to the Washington Post.

The shooter, who I will not dignify by mentioning his name, is reported to have called 911 and pledge to allegiance to ISIS some time before the shooting. The terror group also took responsibility for the shooting. This also makes it the deadliest terror attack since Sept. 11.

The liberal wing calls it an act of hate directed towards the LGBTQ+ community. Terrorism is only an afterthought and that this shooting stands as yet another reason why the country needs stronger gun-control.

The conservative wing focused on the terrorism aspect. Not wanting to upset their evangelical base, they consider the attack on a gay nightclub being only an afterthought.

I believe that homophobia and radicalism go hand-in-hand in this specific instance. Both were major motivations for the shooter. Depending on whose Twitter feed you look at, it’s an either/or situation. Both sides of the political spectrum want to portray it as being black and white.

It is not. There are a myriad shades of gray, each differing in a complex series of context and motivations.

Considering a lot of people were killed for no reason, this of course shouldn’t matter at all. But during times of relentless sorrow, we try to find reason where there is none. It’s the healing taking effect in real-time.

I will not discuss how Florida’s gun laws played a part in this attack. I have written at length my views on gun-control and I will not do it again. Instead, I will focus on the motivation: homophobia.

It is true that the ideology – which is not at all Islam – shared by groups like ISIS and others condemn homosexuality as a sin on par with murder. The fact that the shooter adhered to this strict ideology of Islamic holy texts is a factor in his prejudice. According to the shooter’s father, he became enraged after seeing a same-sex couple kiss in public. This happened a few months before the attack. However, Islamic extremism is not the only faucet of homophobic rhetoric.

“The United States can’t forget to tackle the ways that homegrown ignorance and anti-LGBT rhetoric and violence still contribute to the marginalization of our fellow citizens,” wrote Karren Attiah in an op-ed for the Chicago Tribune.

As has been abundantly clear in many instances, members of the conservative wing are to blame for the normalization of anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric and discrimination. Attiah also points out in her op-ed that Florida senator Marco Rubio created a “marriage and family advisory board” that supports conversation therapy. Congressman Devin Nunes (R-California) voted against prohibiting job discrimination based on sexual orientation in 2007 and for a constitutional amendment defining marriage as being between a man and a woman. North Carolina governor Pat McCrory signed into law a bill that bans transgender people from using public restrooms that corresponds with their gender identity. As many companies like PayPal and Deutsche Bank have halted plans to create hundreds of jobs in the state.

Yet all of those politicians have either released statements or tweeted about the Orlando shooting. Most of them offering condolences and thoughts and prayers. Whether they are aware of their own hypocrisy or not we’ll never know.

The shooter’s father also posted an online video saying acknowledging that homosexuals are sinners, but that it is up to God to punish them – I guess that makes it better.

Though this country has made great strides towards equality for all marginalized groups, including the LGBTQ+ community, there are still deep biases and prejudices that exist and Orlando reminded us all of that.

After the Supreme Court made same-sex marriage the law of the land, there were still a few holdouts. As chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, Roy Moore ordered that the ruling be ignored and that the ban on same-sex marriage continue. Kim Davis, the county clerk of Rowan County, Kentucky, refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. When Davis was jailed for ignoring the ruling, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee jumped on it as a means to strengthen his national profile.

Thankfully all three of these people were brought to justice. Moore has been suspended from the bench and awaits a hearing before the state’s Court of the Judiciary. Davis is allowing her office to issue licenses to same-sex couples but without her signature. Huckabee, who unsuccessfully ran for president in 2008 and 2016, is no longer a part of the equation. All together, these three individuals represent a culture’s unwillingness to accept change.

But LGBTQ+ rights does not stop after marriage equality. According to the Human Rights Campaign 28 states still allow housing discrimination based on sexual orientation while 30 states still allow it based on gender identity. Twenty-nine states still allow public accommodations to discriminate based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Thirty-five states still do not have legislation that address discrimination against LGBTQ+ youths in public schools.

If this were a race of people or specific ethnic group, it would be unacceptable by the mainstream culture. But somehow a majority of states still believe it’s acceptable to look at us and say we are second-class citizens.

The shooter was raised in an environment and society that normalized homophobia and transphobia. As a result 49 people were killed.

It is fitting that the 70th annual Tony Awards were broadcasted on Sunday. Theater has always been a haven for outcasts, and LGBTQ+ youths know a lot about being outcasts.

“Your tragedy is our tragedy,” said Corden with the entirety of the theater community behind him, all with little silver ribbons.

In addition to James Corden’s touching tribute at the beginning of the broadcast, the most powerful moment was during the opening number when children stood in the spotlight, then darkness, and when light flooded the stage, they all turned out to be the acting nominees.

There are a lot of emotions that we’re experiencing and the hurt may never go away. But we cannot be afraid. If we’re afraid, the extremists and bigots wins. We cannot let them win. We’ll keep holding our parades and waving rainbow flags. We’re going to do these things because it’s who we are and also because it infuriates them.

We have the freedom to be who we are and they hate that. They also hate videos like this:

They never win. So let’s not be afraid.

Hillary Clinton makes stop at City College before June 7 primary

Originally posted on saccityexpress.com on June 6, 2016

Additional reporting by Maxfield Morris.

Former Secretary of State and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton takes the stage in the North Gym. Photo by Zachary FR Anderson | Managing Editor | zachanderson.express@gmail.com

Outside the North Gym, hundreds of people waited to hear Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speak at Sacramento City College Sunday, June 5 — two days before California’s June 7 presidential primary.

Clinton took the stage between 6 and 7 p.m. as Rachel Platten’s “Fight Song” (Clinton’s official song) played. She was introduced by Congresswoman Doris Matsui, who also worked in the White House during Clinton’s tenure as First Lady to former President Bill Clinton. Matsui reminisced about when her husband, Congressman Bob Matsui, died, saying that Hillary Clinton was the first to call and offer her condolences.

The former Secretary of State’s speech focused on domestic policy. She shared emotional moments with the crowd regarding her time as a senator from New York during the Sept. 11 attacks as well as her experiences running the State Department during the 2011 siege on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan that resulted in the death of the infamous terrorist.

Focusing on connecting with the state’s voters, Clinton applauded California’s diversity calling it, “…as big as a country and as diverse as one, too.”

Supporters listen to Congresswoman Doris Matsui (D-Sacramento) introduce Hillary Clinton in the North Gym. Photo by Zachary FR Anderson | Managing Editor | zachanderson.express@gmail.com

During her speech, Clinton applauded President Barack Obama for “digging us out of the ditch,” referring to the president’s efforts to strengthen the economy during the Great Recession.

“It is a fact that the economy does better when we have a Democrat in the White House,” said Clinton, who also indicated that the recession began during the presidency of Republican President George W. Bush.

Clinton also criticized Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, on key issues, such as his ability to be a responsible and reliable as commander in chief.

“Here’s somebody who in the last few weeks has insulted our closest allies,” said Clinton, “has praised dictators like [Kim Jong Un] in North Korea. Has advocated pulling out of NATO, which is our strongest military alliance. Has said in very cavalier [fashion] that he doesn’t really mind if other countries get nuclear weapons, including Saudi Arabia.”

Other politicians at the event also voiced their concerns regarding the business mogul’s ability.

“…All you have to look at is what’s happening in this country in the past week with this guy Trump,” said Sacramento mayoral candidate Darrell Steinberg, “calling out a judge because of his Mexican heritage and saying he can’t be impartial, applying the same logic to any Muslim judge. This is dangerous.”

Steinberg was referring to Trump’s recent comments regarding the federal judge overlooking the California lawsuit against Trump University, Gonzalo P. Curiel.

Steinberg endorsed Clinton as the next president.

“She’s eminently qualified,” said Steinberg. “She’s going to be respected around the country and around the world.”

Sacramento mayoral candidate Darrell Steinberg greets Clinton supporters outside the North Gym. Photo by Zachary FR Anderson | Managing Editor | zachanderson.express@gmail.com

Nancy McFadden, Gov. Jerry Brown’s chief of staff, took a lighter approach. She compared Trump to the “Harry Potter” villain Voldemort by referring to him as “He who must not be named.” She justified this by saying that Trump likes hearing his own name.

“Who puts their names on steaks?” McFadden joked to the crowd that roared with laughter.

Before Clinton addressed the standing-room-only crowd, the first to speak was former United States Ambassador to Hungary Eleni Tsakopoulos Kounalakis, a Sacramento native. Other speakers included Assemblymember Kevin McCarty, Congressman John Garamendi and Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson.

Though knowledge of Clinton’s campaign making a stop in Sacramento had been released over a week earlier, the location remained undisclosed. It wasn’t until Thursday, according to Public Information Officer Rick Brewer, that the Clinton campaign contacted City College officials about holding the event on campus.

California residents registered as either Democrats or with no party preference may vote in the Democratic primary Tuesday, June 7.

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Ten Great Movies: The California Experience

Originally posted on saccityexpress.com on May 15, 2016


California is where the world goes to make it in the movie business. The narrative of “making it” in Hollywood is ingrained into the very fibers of every wide-eyed drama student’s brain. But as native Californians, we know there is so much more than the façade that is Hollywood.

The California Experience is not one known idea. It is a collection of individual stories, that when forged together in tenacity and ingenuity, define the Golden State. The idea of California goes beyond the artificial world that Los Angeles socialites portray. Californians are as diverse as the landscape.

Though many movies have been set in California, few have been able to capture the spirit of its people. Here are 10 of them.

“Boyz n the Hood” (John Singleton, 1991): “Boyz n the Hood” quashes the stereotype that everyone in inner city Los Angeles is a thug. Tre Styles (Cuba Gooding, Jr.) had caring parents and good friends. The only thing that makes the police view him as a thug was that he was born in a neglected neighborhood, educated by neglected schools and born black. When Tre’s USC-bound best friend Ricky is shot down in the streets, his brother (Ice Cube) seeks vengeance and murders his killers that same night. The next morning, no reporters cover the three murders, Ice Cube’s character realizes that America “don’t know, don’t show and don’t care what happens in the hood.”

“Boyz n the Hood” is free to watch on Amazon Prime with a Starz subscription.

“Chinatown” (Roman Polanski, 1974): California could not sustain a population of almost 39 million without the complex system of canals and reservoir that make it a land of plenty. In the early 20th century, Los Angeles became too big to be sustained by the L.A. River, and the mayor realized that enough water from Owens Valley could be transported to the city via aqueduct. What ensued was the inspiration for Polanski’s “Chinatown.” It is true that agriculture is king in California, but food can’t grow without water, ergo, whoever controls water is king. Regardless of which resource is most important, what it all condenses down to is greed. If “Chinatown’s” antagonist–L.A. water department head Noah Cross (John Huston)–wasn’t so greedy, then he wouldn’t have been driven to deny water to the farmers of the North Valley, which would have created a domino effect in which most of “Chinatown” would not have happened.

“Chinatown” is free to watch on Amazon Prime with a Starz subscription.

“El Norte” (Gregory Nava, 1983): As xenophobia (unfortunately) takes center stage in the political conversation, I find myself thinking about how we benefit from the fruits of migrant workers. The myth that undocumented immigrants benefit from our tax dollars without contributing anything is blown out of the water in “El Notre.” When thugs kill Enrique and Rosa’s father, they decide to travel to America to seek a better life. The most chilling part of their journey is their mile-long crawl through a sewer when they are suddenly attacked by a swarm of rats. But the rats are not the only danger they faced during their epic journey, Enrique and Rosa came to America seeking a better life, but instead found a land that hated them. It is not until Rosa dies that she finally finds a home.

“El Norte” is available to rent on Amazon Prime and iTunes.

“The Endless Summer” (Bruce Brown, 1966): On the last day of every year of middle school, my classmates and I would all pile into school buses and go to Refugio Beach. In the mornings it was foggy and the water was a dark turquoise, I always remember thinking that I wanted a shirt with that color. When the sun was out, the water still cold, but I still stand by the statement that the best beaches are in Santa Barbara. It is true, that the objective of many surfers is to find the perfect wave and yes, they will literally go the ends of the earth to find it. Bruce Brown’s documentary only follows a group of surfers on their quest. But as far as audiences were concerned, they could have been searching for Shangri La and “The Endless Summer” would have been just as fun and great as it is now.

“The Endless Summer is streaming on Netflix.

“The Grapes of Wrath” (John Ford, 1940): It is a sad truth, but many who come to California seeking success will never find it. When the Dust Bowl destroyed the Midwest–known as America’s “breadbasket”–millions made the epic trek to California with the belief that work was limitless. When the Joads arrive, they quickly discover the truth that it was all a lie. Though the film adaptation ends with more hope for the future than the original John Steinbeck novel, the boundless impact the Okies had on the California landscape and economy is brought to life with the same spirit and anger.

“The Grapes of Wrath” is available to rent on iTunes.

“Milk” (Gus Van Sant, 2008): As California goes, so goes the nation. Since the 1970s, the LGBTQ+ community’s home base was the Castro neighborhood of San Francisco, and Harvey Milk was known as its mayor. His efforts as a civil rights leader and the spirit of San Francisco’s liberal community started the gay liberation movement in the 1970s. Gus Van Sant photographs San Francisco with magnificent style and awe, transporting audiences back in time to when anger fueled protest. The scenes of crowds marching through the Castro seem like archive footage from the era, and the score by Danny Elfman pays tribute to Tony Kushner’s “Angels in America.” Milk believed that politics was theater – and it is – but he also believed that to be free you have to fight, which is what he did.

“Milk” is available to stream on HBO Go and HBO Now.

“Monterey Pop” (D.A. Pennebaker, 1968): During the early hours that marked the final morning of the Monterey Pop Festival, director D.A. Pennebaker used the audio from Country Joe and the Fish over images of the hippie attendants awakening and rising with the California sun. They’re drifters, slackers and most likely higher than the B-52s over Vietnam. To them, the festival was just another way to turn on, tune and drop out as Timothy Leary put it. Little did any of them know was that they were witnesses to pop culture history. To many, the Monterey Pop Festival was a beta release for Woodstock. But some – including music writer Rusty DeSoto – would argue that Monterey Pop was much more important to the development of pop music than Woodstock. Monterey Pop is where many of rock ‘n’ roll’s most influential artists, like Janis Joplin and Otis Redding, would be introduced to the world.

“Monterey Pop” can be bought through Amazon or on the Criterion Collection website: https://www.criterion.com/films/720-monterey-pop.

“Orange County” (Jake Kasdan, 2002): Though Shaun (Colin Hanks) thinks that Orange County isn’t the best place for an aspiring writer to live when compared to the intellectual world of Stanford, he realizes in this film that his friends and family are his inspiration and that stupidity and shallowness are everywhere.

“Orange County” is available to rent on Amazon Prime and iTunes.

“Sideways” (Alexander Payne, 2004): One of the benefits of California’s diverse range of climates is that it has become an excellent region for producing wine. Napa is the most famous, but I – along with Alexander Payne and author Rex Pickett — would argue that the best California wines comes from the Santa Ynez Valley. “Sideways” is a tragicomedy that follows two middle-aged men’s journey through Santa Barbara’s wine country. Payne treats the Santa Ynez Mountains with the same delicacy and sexuality that Federico Fellini used for Italy in his films, creating a fantasy world. Even the natives seem too good to be true. Miles (Paul Giamatti) meets a Maya (Virginia Madsen) who shares his enthusiasm for wine but with greater passion. Maya’s speech about the life of wine is so beautifully crafted, the audience can feel Miles slowly falling in love with her. In that moment it didn’t matter what they were drinking – as long as it wasn’t Merlot.

“Sideways” is free to watch on Amazon Prime with a Starz subscription.

“Topaz” (Dave Tatsuno, 1945): During World War II, Japanese-Americans living on the coasts were taken out of their homes and sent into the interior. No doubt this dark chapter in American history had a great effect on the Japanese American residents living in California. One of these Americans was Dave Tatsuno, who illegally documented his time in the Topaz camp in Utah to make this film. There’s nothing extraordinary that happens in Topaz; it’s mostly daily life. But after the initial shock has worn off, it becomes clear that Americans have the ability to make the best out of the worse situation. Their country told them that they were enemies of the state, but when there are children smiling and ice skating, playing in the snow, and holding baseball games it becomes abundantly clear that they are not enemies.

“Topaz” is available to watch in black and white on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KboirnCzius.

Honorable Mentions:

“Almost Famous”

“Bottle Shock”

“The Debut”

“East of Eden”

“The Graduate”

“Harold and Maude”

“The Right Stuff”

“Stand and Deliver”

“Tortilla Soup”