Monday Morning Critic 7.12.2010 – Milk, LeBron James and Mel Gibson

Every Monday morning, InsidePulse Movies Czar Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings an irreverent and oftentimes hilarious look at pop culture, politics, sports and whatever else comes to mind. And sometimes he writes about movies.

All this weekend, from Friday forward, has seen the web and sports talk go crazy with discussions of one man and one decision that’s going to define the rest of his career and perhaps his life. And for all the talk, and all the condemnations from everyone not on ESPN (outside of Bill Simmons, for once the voice of the sane and rational amongst the LeBron nut-huggers at that network), I think something’s being missed amongst all the talk of legacy and loyalty. What we witnessed on Thursday evening from LeBron James during “The Decision” on ESPN was not the worst thing in the world; far from it.

It was the action of a guy who’d gotten sick of playing on teams that could never win because of him and going to a team that could win because of the assembled talents of guys who had this planned out for years (and played everyone, from the suits in the NBA to the sports media) like the absolute clowns and suckers they oftentimes are. I can understand why he did what he did in going from the Cavaliers to the Heat, even if I thought the way he did it was perhaps the most insensitive manner possible, but I think we’ve seen something above and beyond an athlete turning his back on his home town team to ride someone else’s coattails to athletic immortality.

We’ve seen an athlete go from being a global marketing icon, and rather beloved for the kind of man he was, to being perhaps the most singularly hated and despised athlete in professional sports in the span of 60 minutes. Think about the all ink about LeBron, the insane amount of negativity coming from Cleveland and the resultant bad taste left in people’s mouths from one incident and we have an instance where an athlete’s image has self-imploded of his own doing faster than Mel Gibson can insult a minority group.

Think about it: How many athletes are viewed in a more negative light than LeBron is right now? Not many.

O.J Simpson killed two people and is in prison for a strong armed robbery.
Cade McNown was an insufferable prick to everyone.
Michael Vick ran a dog-fighting ring.
Kobe Bryant was accused of sexual assault
Rae Carruth tried to have his pregnant girlfriend killed.

And yet … they never had the backlash that LeBron is currently experiencing. Hell, everyone likes one of the least likeable guys in the NBA a bit more than they did a guy whose only crime was genuflecting in front of the whole world that he could never be an alpha dog, just a follower, and that he was ok with letting Dwayne Wade win him a couple rings in the name of “legacy.” Loyalty is a fickle thing and you can bet that at the end of his career Cavs owner Dan Gilbert would’ve shipped him to the Clippers if he could to save some cash. It’s a nasty hypocrisy only available in sports in that we expect players to be loyal to the end and yet as soon as something is beneficial to the owners we expect them to go along with it for the “good of the team.”

I can’t stand it; if my boss wanted to cut my pay or he was going to fire me I’d be upset and yet to hear all the usual sorts of mouth-breathers talk about how they need to do it “for the team” makes me kind of sick. They’d be angry if their bosses did it to them and yet when it comes to a professional athlete doing what he has to do to do the same thing it’s suddenly different. In this context I understand completely what LeBron did, if only disagreeing with his method.

I understand LeBron’s decision but it was easily the least classy thing an athlete has done to change teams in perhaps the history of sports. But the heat he’s experiencing is a bit excessive, I’m willing to admit, but people were rioting in Cleveland because of it. Think of it. The only times people riot are for egregious court decisions and championships. LeBron may be a one of a kind talent but this is perhaps a one in a kind backlash to match. But then again, maybe thinking about it like this is perhaps the reason why I didn’t get into the good colleges.

Random Thoughts of the Week

With the fall from grace, so to speak, of LeBron James it’s interesting to see that Mel Gibson’s final fall is official. Why? Because now you can listen to the horrible stuff he had to say at your leisure.

It’s kind of been amazing that he had two of his biggest, most massive hits right before the storm that became his life. The Passion of the Christ and Apocalypto were both big hits that got insane amount of critical praise, the former being one of the biggest grossing films of all time and the latter one that garnered serious Oscar consideration. And then … Mel decided to get a DUI with a “hilariously” over the top anti-Semitic rant to totally foul up his life. And then … he decided to tell his ex-girlfriend some of the vilest things possible to the point where she taped it (and then conveniently sold it).

You know what we’re witnessing? The absolute dissolution of one of the last great movie stars of our time. And it’s spectacularly sad, too, but you know what the amusing thing about the situation is? That this wasn’t all that shocking, in fact someone probably $100 on betting that it’d be The Road Warrior who would completely foul things up on the way down from superstardom. It’s sad in a way; Gibson may have been a bit of a loon but he always delivered when it came to his movies.

Chris Rock said a while back that there are movie stars and then are just people who are really popular. Mel Gibson was one of the people that were undeniably in that rare air of being a movie star and it’s remarkably sad to see him fall. The movie world as we know is changing and The Hangover and Twilight were the canary in the coal mine that started it all. The era of the movie star being able to open a film with massive box office returns on name alone is nearing an end. When Will Smith fails to open up a summer film based on his name alone it’ll be officially over. Right now these are its dying days much in the same way Studio 54 was the vanguard of the disco dance movement. As we see that the movie star is truly a dying breed, with big names demanding huge checks for what’s become more about marketing than star power. It’ll be interesting to see how they all fall when the trappings of fame slowly disappear.

A Movie A Week – The Challenge

This Week’s DVD – Milk

One of the things that annoy me is that people automatically give great reviews and scores to a film based on a lead actor’s performance in and of itself. Mediocre to good films with brilliant lead performances are the norm but unfortunately it’s hard for a lot of people to just call it like it is as opposed to want to lift an entire film based on one performance. Milk is one of those films.

Following the tale of Harvey Milk (Sean Penn), the first openly gay elected official in the U.S and A, we see Milk go from being just another gay dude in San Francisco’s Castro Valley to a City Councilman after years of political activism. Bucking the liberal establishment who ran candidates deemed “gay friendly” more than running openly homosexual candidates, the film is your standard political biopic but with one notable exception: Sean F’n Penn.

For all the shenanigans that comprise his life, Penn is in the short handful of guys you could call the best actor of his generation. And he doesn’t just play Harvey Milk, he gets all of his mannerisms down cold. It doesn’t hurt that he looks like Milk, too, but the archival footage after the film makes Penn’s performance all the more impressive. Gus Van Sant also cast a lot of people who looked eerily similar to their real life counterparts.

The rest of the film isn’t that good. It’s a solid three star film, don’t kid yourself, but it gets elevated because of how good Penn is in many people’s minds. It’s the same thing that Iron Man and Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl had; a singular brilliant performance in a lead role making you forget that it’s an above average film. There’s nothing special, story wise, but Penn is good enough that you almost don’t see it.

Mild recommendation.

What Looks Good This Weekend, and I Don’t Mean the $2 Pints of Bass Ale and community college co-eds with low standards at the Alumni Club

Inception – Christopher Nolan takes a break from Batman to do some crazy sci-fi stuff.

See It – Nolan is on the streak of a lifetime as he has not made a bad film yet. I don’t see this being his first.

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice – Nic Cage trains Jay Baruchel on how to be a sorcerer. Alfred Molina is his mortal enemy. Wackiness ensues.

See It – It’s the same crew as National Treasure, which was a fun film if not a brilliant one.

Do you have questions about movies, life, love, or Branigan’s Law? Shoot me an e-mail at and you could be featured in the next “Monday Morning Critic.” Include your name and hometown to improve your odds.

Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings his trademarked irreverence and offensive hilarity to Twitter in 140 characters or less. Follow him @MMCritic_Kubryk.

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