Sunday, November 25, 2007

Wild Turkey and American Gangster

Well, the Thanksgiving holiday is over. We had a nice one. I cooked a wild turkey this year. I don't think I'll do it again for Thanksgiving. It tasted okay, and didn't have a lot of fat on it, but the meat was a little dry and a little tough, and the skin was just yucky. Not crispy and good, but thick and rubbery. Also the dark portions of the drumlegs and thighs were veined with tendons and connective tissue that made it harder to eat. Didn't taste bad, but not as good as a Butterball.

I read in today's paper that the reason chickens and turkeys have white breast meat but dark leg meat is because they hardly do any flying. Muscles that are used a lot are usually dark with blood. Muscles that are fast twitch muscles, used for sudden bursts -- like a chicken's quick flight away from the dog -- are white. So duck meat is all dark, because ducks fly and swim and move around a lot. Wild turkeys run and jump all over the place, which is why their leg meat is darker and tougher...

We also went out with our movie group on Friday night to see American Gangster with Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe. Excellent. I really liked it. The lead actors were fantastic. But the story, which is based on a true story -- the principles are still alive, in fact -- was fascinating. Frank Lucas, the Denzel Washington character, presented a chilling picture of the way Satan is. The one thing I dislike most about fantasy films is that they always portray the evil creatures/people as hideous, repulsive with bad teeth and overactive salivary glands. Of course, Satan's not like that at all, but rather the most beautiful creature ever to come from the hand of God. And though he is fallen, he still has that beauty. He is still incredibly attractive, charismatic, charming, wealthy and powerful. He values authority (as evidenced by Ephesians 6 where the run down of his organizational structure is given) -- so long as it's his own! -- and he has no compassion whatsoever for those under him. He uses them and casts them aside when their use runs out or they displease him.

I can't get over how well that was portrayed by Denzel Washington as he brought Frank Lucas to life. Right down to his ability to drag all his family into his corruption. Some of the reviewers I've read seem to struggle with his goodness -- he's always well dressed, poised, almost always in control and amiable, unless you cross him. He lives in luxury, beauty, order. He provides order to the streets, gives graciously to the poor, takes his elderly mother to church every Sunday... and can whack a guy at the drop of a hat. Put the gun to his forehead and pull the trigger without a blink. How can this be? some seem to ask.

Consider this quote from a review by Frank Wilkins for Reeltalk:

"We're disgusted at seeing small children wallow in the filth of their heroin-addicted parents, yet we can't help but be charmed by his aristocratic courtesy, amiable nature, and impeccable appearance. Washington is so convincing, we're forced into an uncomfortable struggle with our own moral beliefs. Is a crime-riddled world acceptable if it's kept neat and orderly by a man of wealth and integrity?"-- An American Godfather by Frank Wilkins, Reeltalk

No it's not acceptable. What is neat and orderly about addiction? About all the thousands of people who died from using the product Lucas was selling? The children left orphaned because of it? And how can he ever be regarded as a man of integrity given what he's doing? His facade was nice, but underneath was evil, arrogance, and self-absorption. Just like Satan, who goes forth as an angel of light and who wants to be like God. Not the opposite of God, but to take God's place, and in his very independence and self-will is the essence of what evil really is. Not sin. Not nastiness, but independence. And the kind that tries to be good -- apart from God -- is the worst of all.

Russell Crowe's character was, on the other hand, not neat and orderly. His Richie Roberts was slovenly, and his personal life a mess -- divorce, custody case, promiscuity -- even as he maintained the highest level of integrity when it came to his job as a police detective. I enjoyed the contrasts, and the way the two men were set against each other. The good vs the evil, but done in a way that makes you sort through what things really matter, and what things don't.

The acting was awesome, the sets fascinating, the whole cast fit together well. There was violence, yes, but not the gross out, blood and brains spraying everywhere every five minutes of some gangster films -- this was more subdued and did not happen that often. There were also yucky scenes of needles going into arms, legs, whatever; naked girls processing the drugs in the slum lab (naked so they couldn't steal anything); the ravages of drug addiction shown pretty clearly; quite a few bad words; and some rather active dogs-on-the-street-corner sorts of sex scenes. Not for children, as its R rating indicates. But it's a movie that fascinates, that held my attention, mostly riveted, for the entire two hours and 40 minutes, and left me with much to think about. I think I might like to see it again.