The Trial of the Chicago 7: Sorkin Cares Not for Truth – Oscar Netflix Review

A true story of one of the most insane trials, only not true.

SUMMARY

In August 1968, Vice President Hubert Humphrey was set to be nominated as the candidate for the Democratic Party. Eight activist leaders from various groups were in attendance when a riot broke out: Abbie Hoffman (Sacha Baron Cohen), Jerry Rubin (Jeremy Strong), Rennie Davis (Alex Sharp), David Dellinger (John Carroll Lynch), Lee Weiner (Noah Robbins), Tom Hayden (Eddie Redmayne), John Froines (Daniel Flaherty), and Bobby Seale (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II). After Richard Nixon becomes president, Attorney General John N. Mitchell (John Doman) tells prosecutors Richard Schultz (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Tom Foran (J.C. MacKenzie) to prosecute the eight as a way to punish their protests. Aside from Seale, who is the only black Defendant and the head of the Black Panthers, the defendants are represented by ACLU lawyer William Kunstler (Mark Rylance) and Leonard Weinglass (Ben Shenkman). When the trial begins before Judge Julius Hoffman (Frank Langella), what follows is one of the most bizarre trials in US History.

Oooh, Eddie Redmayne glare.

END SUMMARY

So, the story of the Chicago 7 (or 8, depending on if you count Seale) is one of those things that’s almost too crazy to be true. Much like the Scopes Monkey Trial, the trial of the Chicago 7 was never meant to be anything like actual prosecution. It was a political move by everyone involved except, perhaps, for the judge. Many of the witnesses, questions, and even actions by the lawyers were abnormal for any trial. Part of it, and something that the film does somewhat capture, was that the people on trial were largely doing this as a way to emphasize their message. Since this was 1970 and public perception was beginning to turn against the Vietnam War and almost all of them were part of anti-Vietnam groups, this publicized event was an easy soapbox and they mostly used it just to put on a spectacle, and, by court standards, it was a hell of a spectacle.

Strolling into your Federal Trial like it’s a fun day out.

Unfortunately, apparently Aaron Sorkin didn’t think it was interesting enough, because he decided to screw around with it massively. So much of this film heavily fictionalized the events to make them more palatable, but also to try and remove some of the ambiguity from the trial. After all, we have to be rooting for the Chicago 8, regardless of the fact that they were a group of very diverse people whose only common ground was their desire to end the Vietnam War. Some of them did advocate violence as part of their mission, even though the film tries to make them all appear to be completely peaceful. The timeline of many parts of the story is completely rewritten in order to keep certain characters around longer. The most notable one is that Bobby Seale, whose dismissal from the trial resulted in the Chicago 8 becoming the Chicago 7, is kept in the trial for an additional 2 months so that there can be a scene announcing the death of Fred Hampton. In the film, Hampton is constantly at Seale’s trial, whereas in reality Fred Hampton was working on other stuff the entire period before his murder. I do think it’s interesting that two films (the other being Judas and the Black Messiah) involving the murder of Fred Hampton are nominated for Best Picture, but this one forces it it.

That said, Yahya Abdul-Mateen is great in the movie.

My dislike of heavily fictionalizing stuff like this comes from the fact that it’s done to make a story easier on the audience. Hell, they even make Richard Schultz much more affable towards the defendants than he was in real life. It’s even more annoying in court films because there is a literal transcription of this entire trial that can be used as a source. Instead, Sorkin focused on trying to make it an easily consumable morality tale in which the good guys win and everyone is now united on that page. 

Pictured: A guy who would not have stood at the end of the movie.

The performances in the film are solid, particularly Sacha Baron Cohen as Abbie Hoffman, who is both a stand-up comic narrating parts of the film and also one of the sassiest people to ever be put on trial. Frank Langella is great as the overly irritating and often infuriating Judge Hoffman, because he makes him easy to hate without falling into a stereotypical racist judge character. 

Not the worst Judge I’ve seen, though.

Overall, it’s not that it’s a bad movie, it’s that it personally irritates me by its choice to inaccurately portray these events just to make it easier to pick a side. History is complicated, and our obsession with making it more black-and-white just makes people think less when dealing with reality.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

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Aquaman – A Review in Rime

By The Grouch on the Couch

Well, the Grouch and I saw the film. While I was going to write a review, he felt particularly inspired and decided to go ahead and do the entire thing in a parody of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

My rebuttal shall be in the form of short limericks. I don’t promise that they’ll work.

 

There was an aquatic superhero

Long mocked for powers and logo.

Producers they decided,

To make him badass through Khal Drogo.

aquaman - 1arthur
Which… yeah, kinda works.

 

But fortune favors not the brave but wise,

And wisdom doth DC lack

For though his hot body might carry a film

This dialogue breaks his back.

 

I start with a story summary

As clear as a winter morning.

And so you assholes don’t complain,

HERE’S YOUR SPOILER WARNING.

aquaman - 2warning

Aquaman, or Arthur Curry,

was born from the strange love

Between a queen from Atlantis below,

And a lighthouse keeper from the world above.

aquaman - 3kidman
Batman Forever was the better superhero film for her. Think about that.

But happiness is forbidden,

When you tell a hero’s genesis,

So soon she was forced to return,

And bear Prince Orm, Arthur’s Nemesis

aquaman - 4orm
They have very different opinions on facial hair.

Following the Justice League’s

Victory in their movie,

Aquaman’s a public hero

That makes the fangirls, and guys, woozy.

 

The opening action sequence

Is actually quite glorious

A bulletproof man fighting normal people

And emerging, smiling and victorious.

aquaman - 5mana
The normal men who try to fight a demigod.

Arthur saves a submarine, the target which

Sea pirates would acquire.

He meets the leader, called Black Manta,

And earns his eternal ire.

 

When Arthur returns to the surface,

He finds Mera, Atlantean Queen

Who tells him his half-brother

Has grown up to be quite mean.

aquaman - 6amberheard

Orm wishes to destroy the surface,

Because the movie needs a plot,

And he needs the support of other sea-kings,

For reasons I forgot.

 

Arthur tries to beat him in a fight

Using their aquatic power

But Orm is slightly stronger

Cuz it’s only been an hour

aquaman - dolph
Dolph Lundgren is one of the other kings. As it should be.

So Mera stops Orm’s fratricide

And says Arthur needs to Quest

For the First Trident of Atlantis

While each ogles the other’s chest.

 

What follows is a fetch quest

That takes a f*cking hour,

And of course the twist is “talks to fish”

Ends up being the greatest power.

Aquaman - 7Atlan.jpg
He basically gets to summon Cthulhu.

He goes through the Sahara,

Defeats Manta in Sicily

Swims below the Marianas Trench

And into an underground sea.

 

Arthur finds the trident

And kicks his brother’s ass

While wearing the green and gold outfit

Cuz royalty means class

aquaman - 8outfit

Here the film is ended,

But now let’s talk about

What things the editor should have left in

And what should have been cut out

 

The acting is pretty solid,

The cast all pretty, too,

From Jason Momoa to Amber Heard

And Patrick Wilson’s Orm, all woo

 

The effects are indeed special,

And, no, that’s not sarcasm

The glowing effects that define the sea,

From building to sargassum

 

The film creates an immersive world

And yes, that is a pun,

But the camera effects that seem like waves

Did make some scenes more fun

 

The direction isn’t terrible,

With some scenes even stirring

The cinematography was oft on point

While fight scenes were occurring.

 

But alas the dialogue is bad

Too bad for me to mention.

It repeated so often and was so dull

It was hard to pay attention.

 

You’d think that’s not enough

To drag a movie down

But really the lines were so damned bad I hoped

That everyone would drown.

 

The plot is so generic

That I swear they say “fetch quest.”

And these two awful elements

Wildly overshadow the rest.

 

So while there were some great scenes

Within this aquamovie

I could not recommend a watch

Even for Mamoa’s booty.

 

I hated this film, not just because

It had so much potential

But also because I fear the profit

Might make it influential.

 

And thus DC has let me down

For five out of six times

So here I end this film review

Cuz I’m now out of rhymes

 

JOKER’S RHYME-BUTTAL

I wish there was a scene in Nantucket
So it’d be easier to tell this film s*ck it.
The plot was mundane
The dialogue insane
And I wish I’d just left and said “f*ck it”

If you say that this doesn’t rebut
Well, I’d try but it’s open and shut
This movie was lousy
I spent half the time drowsy
And wishing someone had yelled “cut”

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.