Heaven Is a Traffic Jam on the 405 (seen Thursday, February 15, 2pm, YouTube): What a lovely portrait of an artist who both overcomes and channels her disabilities (lifelong severe anxiety and depression that led to electroshock therapy that led to brain injury) into unbelievably nuanced and moving statuary and drawings. It both shows the heights we can achieve despite drawbacks, and offers inspiration for those of us feeling hindered to just go out and try.
Knife Skills (seen Thursday, February 15, 3pm, YouTube): So this is a fascinating story. It’s about a restaurant, Edwin’s, in Cleveland, Ohio, that recruits, rigorously trains, and employs ex-cons. These programs, and the people who implement them, are simply amazing and can’t be praised enough. And the film does a good job of highlighting that fact without airbrushing away the inevitable setbacks encountered. It’s a film I’m going to immediately recommend to members of my family, in preparation for taking me up there for my birthday dinner. Ahem.
Edith + Eddie (seen Thursday, February 15, 4:40pm, Topic.com): I’m infuriated right now by what has happened to these people, by how they were treated. Edith and Eddie were nonagenarians who fell in love — a miracle within a miracle, really — and they were happily married in their church. But because Edith has “mild dementia,” which from what I can gather based on the film amounts to a very slight memory loss/loss of focus from time to time, and one of her daughters wants to institutionalize her (despite the other one taking good care of Edith and her husband in the home she’s lived in for decades), a guardian is appointed. The laughing, patronizing way this woman talks to Edith as they are essentially forcing her to leave her home makes me want to reach through the screen and slap her. Edith very clearly, very coherently, repeatedly says she does not want to go to Florida to stay with the interfering daughter, and that she DOES NOT LIKE THE WAY HER SON-IN-LAW TREATS HER. And this guardian, who is supposed to be working on Edith’s behalf, smirkingly tells her someone has been reading Cinderella to her. I swear, I wanted to scream at these people. I still want to. I hope there is karmic retribution in their futures for their actions in tearing these two harmless lovers apart for eternity. Fuckers.
Heroin(e) (seen Saturday, February 17, 10am, Netflix): The title is clever, because while the film is about the devastating heroin problem in Huntington, West Virginia, what it’s really about is the work of three heroines in the community, fighting every day to save lives. Jan Rader is the first female fire chief in the area, in addition to being a real-life Clarice Starling if Clarice never left her hometown. She’s on the front lines, literally saving lives as she administers Naloxone to overdosing people. She’s also going to the fire stations and passing out this essential drug, informing first responders on the guidelines to using it. And in the face of people who seem to sneer at the idea of saving addicts, she gives an emotional plea for the act of helping, of saving people 50 times if need be, of never giving up. Patricia Keller is the tough but fair judge all tough but fair fictional judges have aspired to be since the dawn of time, welcoming people into her “drug court” program, holding them accountable, and penalizing them when necessary. And Necia Freeman is an ordinary woman in the community, a Christian missionary, who was moved to bring food and support to the women on the street most affected by this epidemic. I love how loving she is, how open and nonjudgmental, how she understands that these girls often end up prostitutes just to feed their addictions, how it becomes their only hope, and how she admonishes the fact that the men soliciting these prostitutes don’t face near as many consequences. Huntington is a place I have history with, a place I have a lot of affection for, and it saddens me that it’s suffering so greatly under the pall of addiction — a card explains that this small city experiences an overdose rate 10x the national average — but these amazing women, so full of hope and perseverance, are an inspiration.
Traffic Stop (seen Monday, February 19, 8pm, HBO):
The traffic stop in question is not easy to watch, to be sure. Breaion King, waif-like, is tossed around like a sack of potatoes that Officer Richter is particularly mad at. And there’s just no reason for it to have escalated like it did. There just isn’t.
“Oh, but she was speeding.” Is this the punishment for speeding now? Being thrown bodily to the ground? Is that how you would expect to be treated if you were pulled over for speeding? Is that how you HAVE BEEN treated when pulled over for speeding? I’ve been pulled over lots of times, and I never would expect to be manhandled like that.
“Well, she was resisting.” No, she wasn’t. She was asking questions, giving a little verbal pushback, trying to get out of getting a ticket. I’ve done that too. I’ve flat-out argued with the cop who pulled me over, telling him he was dead wrong, that I didn’t do what he said I did. I’ve rolled my eyes, and cussed under my breath and have shown zero respect for the police officer in question. I have never been treated as badly as Breaion was, despite acting far worse.
And, see, it’s obvious the cops taking her in feel like they’re in the right. Officer Richter is clearly disseminating, exaggerating events to his advantage, but the other cops think they’re acting in good faith. I believe that. But then the one driving her in to the station upon her arrest, the one presenting himself to her as an ally, says the reason white people are afraid of black people is “violent tendencies,” and my stomach drops. He’s completely sincere, too, he thinks this is a valid argument, and a reasonable stance. It’s sickening, the casualness of it, the complete lack of awareness. Yet this is the reality so many people face, an insurmountable obstacle to overcome. How do we even fix it? Raise awareness, I guess, for a start. This little film is a good step in that direction.