Is Black English Acceptable? An Article Review

In Nobody Mean More to Me Than You And the Future Life of Willie Jordan, June Jordan of State University of New York recalls her experiences with teaching a Black English course after having black students being disturbed by the use of Black English in Alice Walker’s The Color Purple.  When they realized it was a written form of how they talk, they decided to translate it into Standard English, which later is described as White English.  Feeling like there is value in how Blacks communicate, June Jordan started teach Black English as a viable language.  Throughout the course, she and the students started to create rules and guidelines for consistency of the language.

The first half of the article deals with those rules and some excerpts of the student responses.  The second half of the article focuses on a student Willie Jordan, who was doing a lot of work on the mistreatment of Black Africans in South Africa.  Willie was a very interested student who would show up to class early every day and then suddenly stopped coming to class.  When June reached out to him, he agreed to come and see her.  When he shows up he reveals that his brother who was unarmed was shot and killed by the police.  His family had no money for defense and Willie was outraged and mourning what had happened.  The class decides to write letters in Black English stating their demand for justice to the police department as well as send it to Newsday.

A black police officer shows up in casual dress to the class and sits in the back.  Eventually, after listening to the class’ letter plan, the officer comes forward and identifies himself and while smiling he tells the class that the police are the ultimate authority and the death of Willie’s brother was because he overreacted and not because of racism.

The letters are not published and nothing is done about Willie’s brother’s murder.  Not enough money is raised for legal counsel and it all gets swept under the rug by the powers that be. After doing some research, Willie finds the police report untruthful.  The report states that his brother reached for a police officer’s gun and that is why he got shot.  Yet the autopsy report shows that he was shot and excessive amount of times including a few bullets in his back.  The results points to a different story of events, one that has his brother being executed.

I found this article very interesting due to a recent conversation I had with some black friends while visiting them in Chicago. I only mention their race as it is pertinent to our discussion. Robert, who grew up in North Omaha, and DeVon, who grew up in a suburb in the state of Michigan.  I had just been learning how Ebonics/Black English is now accepted as its own language.  They were bothered by the idea that it is considered a language and did not believe me until Webster’s dictionary was brought out and I proved it as fact.  That didn’t stop their reservations nor did it quell their opinion of Black English’s acceptance.  It should be noted that during our conversation, BE was referred to as Ebonics.  Robert said something similar that was stated in the article that his parents disciplined him if he spoke in anything other than Standard English.  DeVon said that world of language was not his own.  He was not around those that spoke like that and didn’t like his culture spoken for in a language that, in his opinion, was less than.  So here I was a white man, trying to convince two black people that BE is something that should be respected.  It was a surreal experience that got heated.  We eventually ended the conversation with an agreement that while it is an accepted language, they didn’t accept it.  Furthermore, their opinions strongly leaned toward the idea that it shouldn’t be accepted by others either.  I felt lost about the whole issue.  I just want to respect people’s wishes about their culture, but when a group is so divided on this particular polarizing issue, it is hard to know where to stand.  Should one portion of a group speak for the whole?  Are my friends whitewashed?  Having been friends with Robert for fifteen years, I know that he is secure in who he is and his ‘blackness’ doesn’t seem to be “whited out.”  In his words, he just speaks, “correctly.”  It should also be said that Robert, did attend a mostly white private school while in Omaha.  So, he came from a primarily black neighborhood but learned in a primarily white culture.  So, if anyone, I think he has a more well-rounded perspective.  It leaves a lot of questions.  The fact that June Jordan’s article was written in the early 80’s and the event of the police shooting took place in 1984, makes Willie’s plea at the end of the article all the more saddening.  “Something has to be done about the way in which this world is set up. Although it is a difficult task, we do have the power to make a change.”

With all the police violence still seen against the black community, I have to wonder.  Do we?

Connecting to African Culture

“It’s a perfect day for the market!”  a villager from West Africa exclaims as he rides his bike onto the Omaha Community Playhouse stage and circles around merchants setting up to sell their wares.  That is the opening of Iroko the 2014 Omaha Entertainment Award nominated show that the African Culture Connection put on last December as part of the OCP’s Alternative Programming Series.  As the performance continues you learn that a young girl who, despite being warned, cuts down a sacred tree that possesses mystical powers.  This act propels an evil spirit into the young girl and when villagers notice the poor girl writhing in pain and insanity, they contact the village chief to help save her.  The chief calls upon all of the villages to come perform dances and sound the drums in order  to purify and save the young girl.  This is just one of the many performances the African Culture Connection produces throughout the year and they are up to it again.

Charles Ahovissi dancing in the show Ironko.
Charles Ahovissi dancing in the show Iroko.

The African Culture Connection will be performing for free at the Holland Performing Arts Center this Saturday, Oct. 17 at 4pm, as part of the Holland Stages Festival 10 Year Anniversary.  Followed by a celebration of dance at the Durham Museum on Friday, Dec. 4 as part of the Ethnic Holiday Festival taking place from 5-9pm. Both shows are family-friendly events.  Not all the shows are narratives like Iroko is.  Many times, Co-Founder Charles Ahovissi narrates the proceedings with information about African culture while pounding on the djembe and dancers that are dressed in traditional colorful garb move to the rhythms in authentic dance.

Ahovissi who is a professional dancer, drummer, performer, choreographer, stage costume designer, and tailor from Benin, West Africa, helped create the Omaha-based 501(c)3 non-profit organization in 2006.

“I had toured the world since the mid-eighties as a member of the Ballet National of Benin, performing and teaching traditional African dance and drumming,” Ahovissi said. “Now that I reside in Omaha, I enjoy sharing my knowledge and love of Africa through traditional dancing and drumming as a way to foster better understanding of Africa’s diverse and beautiful cultures”.

Since the inception the organization has grown. They have been experiencing an increase in demand for their cultural awareness performances and educational program offerings.

“In our community, there is a need to build awareness of and respect for African culture and other diverse cultures.  ACC addresses that need and will continue to strive to do so.

“ACC performs at approximately 20 public/private events in a single year,” ACC Office Manager, as well as teaching and performance artist, Kim McGreevy said.  “That number doesn’t include school and organization residencies that take place most weeks.”

McGreevy said the teaching branch of ACC allows drummers and dancers to perform and teach school children during and outside of the school day.

ACC performers in a dance circle.
ACC performers in a dance circle.

“The ACC collaborates with public and private schools in numerous ways,” McGreevy said.  “We perform for school assemblies, conduct workshops for kids and staff, teach in-school residencies, as well as offer after-school programming.”

ACC performs traditional West African dance.  There are three categories of dance performed – popular and royal, which they perform most of the time, and sacred, which they perform occasionally but only from an educational perspective.

To prepare for the performances the company rehearses for a minimum of 4 hours broken up into two rehearsals a week.  A performer doesn’t necessarily have to be from Africa to be a part of the group.  If a person has skill with dancing and/or drumming they are welcome to come to a rehearsal and try it out.   Interested parties that want to help outside of performance are welcome as well. They are always looking to grow their group of professional artists, board members, community partners, volunteers, community and financial supporters.

“In our community, there is a need to build awareness of and respect for African culture and other diverse cultures, McGreevy said.  “ACC addresses that need and will continue to strive to do so.”

To find out more information about African Culture Connection visit http://www.africancultureconnection.org

Women’s Issues at Center of Shelterbelt Theatre’s Latest Post-Apocalyptic Offering

Imagine a near post-apocalyptic future where women can detect when they are down to their last ovarian egg and have a government enforced time limit on when they can fertilize before the egg is destroyed.  That is the setting of Crystal Jackson’s play, The Singularity, being produced as the first of four plays The Shelterbelt Theatre offers for their 23rd season.

Playwright Crystal Jackson

Playwright Crystal Jackson

The Science Fiction story metaphorically centering on women’s issues is the start of an all-female written season.  The shows selected are in response to the national discussion of gender parity happening lately in theater circles.  Shelterbelt Theatre’s Artistic Director, Elizabeth Thompson, felt like the company was in a unique position to do something in favor of producing more female driven plays.

“I want to be part of the solution,” Thompson said, “versus contributing to either the problem, or the complaining.”

Thompson, who is also the director for The Singularity, promises audiences the show is something completely different, new and fresh.  This should surprise few given that the theatre’s main focus is producing new original work.

“We are the only theater company that is 100% reliant on the modern playwright and that makes me proud,” Thompson said.

The Singularity’s main character is 40 year old Astrid played by MaryBeth Adams who in an obstacle filled search to fertilize her last egg meets a young scientist played by Jon Roberson.  The scientist has stolen a box of dark matter, which Astrid decides to impregnate herself with.  Will Muller and Craid Bond round out the cast playing duel roles each.

Shelterbelt Artistic Director Elizabeth Thompson

Shelterbelt Artistic Director Elizabeth Thompson

They play up the Sci-Fi elements of the show, which Thompson thinks will play well given the Halloween season, but there is much more to the story. Thompson’s hope is that audiences leave the theatre wanting to have a discussion about what they just experienced and specifically about some of the ideas and themes that are discovered within the world of the play.

“Astrid’s search for a donor to fertilize her egg and the struggles she encounters are a giant metaphor for the current abortion conversation and where our society might be headed in relation to women’s health resources if we don’t stand up strong and tall for ourselves,” Thompson said.  “The piece as a whole reflects the idea of falling down, and hard, but more importantly what happens next and how the choice of getting up and moving forward can be the true reward. It is hopeful in a really messed up way.”

Out of the four shows this season, Thompson chose this play to direct because of a personal connection and affinity she had with the script.

“As a woman who is about to be in her late 30’s and has recently began thinking about becoming a mother, this play spoke volumes to me about a very personal and profound time in a woman’s life,” Thompson said.

Although there are 4 plays chosen for this season, the Shelterbelt Theatre board read through 40 submissions to get the number of hopefuls down to 11.  Those 11 plays are then sent to the non-board members, that are made up of actors and designers, and they come together to decide which scripts are the best fit for the season.

“Between the board and non-board members, we have made a pretty diverse group who could express the pros and cons of every aspect of each script,” Thompson said.

Thompson says that one of the main reasons The Singularity got her vote is because she had never seen this particular issue addressed on stage before and certainly not in this way.

The Singularity runs from October 2 -25 at The Shelterbelt Theater located at 3225 California Street at 8pm Thursday -Saturday; 6pm on Sundays.  The October 25 performance will be at 2pm. Tickets are $15 for general admission and $12 for Student/Senior/TAG Members.

What was Mr. Hyde hiding?

As a companion piece to my previous entry regarding hidden sexuality, I felt I should also comment on another story that has the same theme.  Reading Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and then watching two of the film adaptions, I have come to realize that the movies have that story wrong.  The films portray him as a ladies man, hanging out in brothels and having sex with many women.  This is the opposite of what I perceived Mr. Hyde to be.

"Hello.  Is it me your looking for?"

“Hello. Is it me your looking for?”

In oppressive Victorian England, Dr. Jekyll struggles with his closeted homosexuality.  Knowing that it is not accepted and feeling like it is his monster inside of himself, he creates a medicine in an attempt to rid himself of his gay desires.  Instead, what the medicine does is separate his homosexual self from the rest of him.  This part of him that he “hides” from the world has now been personified as its own being. So, he names him Mr. Hyde.  As in the part of him that he hides from the general public, perhaps also from himself.  Also Hyde Park was infamous at this time for being wrought with male prostitution, so that may also have been an impetus for Stevenson.

Guys really knew how to relax at Hyde Park in the Victorian Era.

Guys really knew how to relax at Hyde Park in the Victorian Era.

What Dr. Jekyll discovers is that when he is Mr. Hyde, he is the happiest he has ever been.  Mr. Hyde binge drinks and takes in male partners in the darkness of the night, when society cannot see what is really happening.  For added privacy, Dr. Jekyll sets up another home for the times that he is Mr. Hyde.  Now, Hyde has a place to bring back his lovers in guaranteed seclusion.  Unfortunately, Hyde hits on the wrong man, and after a struggle, Hyde defends himself and kills the man.

Mr. Hyde looks like he is having a much better time than Dr. Jekyll.  I know who I would invite to a party.

Mr. Hyde looks like he is having a much better time than Dr. Jekyll. I know who I would invite to a party.

This is a warning story wrought with revelations about what happens if you repress who you are.  The Victorian Era in which this was written was all about that.  Repression because of oppression.  Holding it in creates a monster.  However, with how alive Mr. Hyde was, I can’t help but wonder if the real monster is society, or perhaps the inner struggle of repression itself.

The Hidden Sexuality: A Reflection on Tennessee Williams’ A Street Car Named Desire

Tennessee DuBois:

 The Hidden Sexuality

Written by Faustus McGreeves

“I don’t understand why our propaganda machines are always trying to teach us, to persuade us, to hate and fear other people on the same little world that we live in.”

-Tennessee Williams

Hates gays and spelling

Hates gays and spelling

The 1940s.  The American Dream. Sexual promiscuity.  One of these three doesn’t seem to belong. At this time, despite suffrage, women had very few rights and homosexuality was criminal. Tennessee Williams was a homosexual living in a time when his sexual orientation and his character Blanche DuBois’s sexual promiscuity were considered evil and/or morally wrong.  Williams wrote A Streetcar Named Desire at a time where hiding one’s passions and yearnings was the safest thing to do.  Through that play, Williams set out to create a character that shared his perspective and fears about hiding who he is, through Blanche DuBois.

Tennessee Williams

Tennessee Williams

The statistics and facts of the era in which Williams was writing provide illuminating insight into why Williams and Blanche would feel compelled to hide their sexual inclinations. Rape and domestic violence was tolerated without many laws protecting women against that kind of abuse.  Single women who became pregnant, and divorced mothers, did not have the same rights to government economic assistance as did widows with children.  Women were expected to be the homemakers and stay at home mothers.  If you were a woman, sex out of wedlock was an abomination.  Women who had overtly sexual desires were sometimes committed to mental health institutions.  It’s not difficult to see why Blanche would say “I don’t want realism. I want magic!”(Scene 9).

New Orleans French Quarter in the 1940's.  The setting for the play.

New Orleans French Quarter in the 1940’s. The setting for the play.

In her book Homeward Bound: American Families in the Postwar Era, Elaine Tyler May states that that a common belief of government officials “was a direct connection between communism and sexual depravity,” with some well-known people convinced that “sexual perverts” were “perhaps as dangerous as the actual communists.”  “Sexual perverts” meaning loose women and homosexuals.  As a result, an “officially sponsored homophobia” led to gay baiting and the investigation of employees’ sexual behaviors by the FBI, as well as by state and local governments (May 108).  This serves as more evidence of the fear that would be instilled in Williams and the connection that he might have had with Blanche in feeling the need to hide who they were.

When the national silence was broken in the late 1940’s, homosexuality was condemned on all fronts. All of the major religions considered it sinful and immoral, psychiatrists considered it a serious mental disorder that needed to be treated, and nearly every state had laws criminalizing it, many calling for prison terms for “convicted” homosexuals (Thistle).  Due to this lack of acceptance, many homosexuals married the opposite sex to fit in with the norm of the time.  In A Streetcar Named Desire, Blanche was married to Allan Grey, a closeted gay man, and starts, while living in Belle Reeve to date Mitch, a sensitive mama’s boy, during her time in New Orleans.  These men are safe and offer her financial security.  Her real desires are for explicit sex with men she barely knows and lots of them.  She sleeps with a “series of men from traveling salesmen to soldiers” (Scene 9).  She is run out of the small town of Laurel due to her seducing a seventeen year old and flirts with Stanley upon arrival in New Orleans.  She eventually confesses her sexual acts. “I stayed at a hotel called The Tarantula Arms’!….That’s where I brought my victims. Yes, I had many intimacies with strangers… even, at last, in a seventeen–year-old boy,” (Scene 9).  However due to the era Blanche lives in, she has to hide these sexual encounters, not only from society, but from herself.

Viven Leigh as Blanch DuBois

Viven Leigh as Blanch DuBois

Williams also dealt with a similar problem to Blanche with having to hide his sexuality.  It wasn’t until the late 1930’s when Williams was in his late 20’s that he fully accepted his sexual orientation.  Never feeling completely comfortable in the lime light due to the public eye being on his personal life, which to be safe and successful he had to hide, Williams lived down South for a time.  Williams wrote A Streetcar Named Desire shortly after he had ended his relationship with Pancho Rodríguez y González, a hotel clerk of Mexican heritage that Williams had met while in Taos, New Mexico.  It is suspected that the cause of the breakup was due to Rodriguez’s jealousy, drinking, and hot temper. (Leverich 74)  That sounds like a description of Stanley. Williams may have been writing about his experiences through Blanche when she states “What such a man has to offer is animal force and he gave a wonderful exhibition of that!” (Scene 4).  Both Williams and Blanche felt they needed to hide their sexual life in order to survive in an unforgiving time towards any sexuality against the norm.

In the end of the play, Blanche is taken away to a mental institution.  Many women were condemned to the inside of a padded room for a variety of reasons that had nothing to do with insanity, and everything to do with not following orders on how a woman should behave.  Likewise, gays were also sent to the same mental institutions for being who they are. “In addition, for much of this century, gays and lesbians were considered mentally ill.  Before 1971, when the APA officially removed homosexuality from its lists of mental disturbances, being gay or lesbian also branded one as ‘abnormal’ or ‘unadjusted’ (Shackelford 104).  Williams could also have been inspired by the lobotomy given to his sister who spoke out against their father regarding sexual abuse.  With all the paranoia about women and homosexuals speaking up and acting out, the ending Williams wrote for Blanche may have been an ending that he himself feared.

Works Cited

          Williams, Tennessee. A Streetcar Named Desire. New York: New Directions, 1980. Print.

http://www.mit.edu/~thistle/v12/2/closet.html. The Thistle, Volume 12, Number 2: July 4, 2000.

Elaine Tyler May, “Explosive Issues: Sex, Women, and the Bomb” from Homeward Bound (1988)

Excerpted from Elaine Tyler May, Homeward Bound: American families in the Postwar Era. Basic Books: New York, 1988 pp. 4, 5, 17, 92-113

Miller, Jordan Yale. Twentieth Century Interpretations of A Streetcar Named Desire: a Collection of

Critical Essays.  Ed. Jordan Y. Miller.  New Jersey: Prentice, 1971.

Leverich, Lyle. Tom: The Unknown Tennessee Williams. W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint edition

(1997).

The Truth That Must Be Told: Gay Subjectivity, Homophobia, and social history in Cat on the hot tin roof.

Dean Shackelford.  Tennesse Williams Annual Review.

White Pine Wonderland

White Pine Wonderland

Written by Faustus McGreeves

We pull into the lush landscape of Pioneers Park on an early June evening in Lincoln, Nebraska, interrupting nature’s beauty with our rented 2014 GMC Terrain SUV.  Eight friends and I unpack out of the vehicle and step onto the grass. We grab our folding chairs and blankets, walk through a myriad of pines, and head to the entrance of the Pinewood Bowl, a crescent shaped scoop of land located between two hills.  Talking loudly to each other and walking amongst other concert fans, we move as a herd of cattle into a slaughterhouse, anxious to find our spots and watch The Killigans, a local Irish rock band, that is opening for the duo of headlining musical artists on the bill for the evening.

As we approach the entrance, a 15 –foot walk leading through a canopy of pines, an employee informs us that there are no chairs or blankets allowed inside.  Not wanting to miss a chance at getting a good spot,  my good friend Brian, and I, volunteer to walk the chairs and blankets back to the  SUV, while the rest of the gang find us a good stretch of land to settle on inside the bowl.

Brian and I

Brian and I

Trusting that our friends will find us a good spot, Brian and I take our time walking back against the grain of other fellow concert goers still herding to the entrance.  We notice the Evergreens that are planted on the hills which emphasize the depth of the bowl and add to its sense of enclosure. The pines planted in neat rows alternate with cars using the 35-acre section of Pioneers Park as a grand natural parking lot.

Looking at the abundance of the pinus strobus, known more commonly as white pines, it is hard to imagine that three years ago the park removed 550 of them due to drought stress.  The placement of the pines has a Feng Shui quality that produces a calm feeling over Brian and me.  The trees have a windblown appearance to them and can be identified by their large, long cones; and its five needles per cluster. The needles of this bluish-green tree with a whitish tinge are each two to four inches long.  The light gray color of the bark on many of the pines indicates that they are still of a youthful age.  As they get older the bark will brown and become rougher with purple tinged scaly plates. They could exceed 400 years in age but 200 is a more common age for these tall wonders.

Having stored the chairs and blankets back in the SUV, we head back to meet up with the rest of our group inside the bowl.  Looking down from the crest of the hill, we see the stage where our favorite bands will be playing accompanied by a backdrop of more pines.  The stage is a 40×30 foot concrete modern interruption enclosed by legacy of greenery. Surviving the last ice age, white pines branched out westward from the White Spruce Forest located on the east coast.  The western movement was still taking place when the first Europeans landed on the land mass that would eventually be coined North America.

White Pines

White Pines

The Killigans finish their set as we join our friends on a lush and trimmed patch of grass.  We stretch out and marvel at how dry the land is after a downpour of rain earlier in the day.  Blue October, the second band of the evening, hits the stage as we purchase our bottled beers and converse.  We are not the only ones enjoying the environment though.  Squirrels and chipmunks seem to be having their own conversation as they move among the foliage.  We consume our liquid diet, White-winged crossbills flitter through the branches and feed on the seeds produced at the top of the white pine, and rabbits chew on the bark at the bottom, all of us getting our fill in the evening hours.

White Pine is easy to carve due to its lightweight, soft, even texture.  It is used for a lot of construction projects including interior trim, window sashes, door frames and other intricate carpentry.  However, the pines here at Pinewood are doing their job without having to be cut down, as they form a wall around the bowl allowing for the acoustics of the band to bounce and resonate throughout the park.  The trees can grow to be 150 feet tall, earning two to four feet every year.

The line to the Porto-Potties gets longer as the crowd readies themselves for the longest act of the night, Ben Folds.  The sky begins to darken in preparation of the main acts arrival.  My friends and I eagerly wait to hear our favorite artist masterfully strike his black and white ivory keys while belting into his microphone.

“Let’s move up to the front,” I say to the group.

Our group!

Our group!

Some prefer to stay back and watch from their grassy beds on the inclined slope. The rest of us join the mass of fans gathered shoulder to shoulder at the lip of the stage.  When Ben Folds enters the proscenium, the crowd goes crazy.  Folds performs and encourages his audience to sing with him, as harmonies swell and fill the bowl up to the brim with musical ecstasy.

As the concert concludes and we head back to the SUV, I take in as much of the view as I can.  I inhale deeply to breath in the oxygen exchanging off of the pines. Places like the Pinewood Bowl are a delicacy.  Unfortunately, the white pine is a dying breed partly due to human’s consumption of the resources the wood offers.  Between the human enemy, drought, Bark Beetles, and blister rust, a fungus that begins in the needles and stems, eventually working its way into the tree trunk, the white pine lining Pioneers Park will soon be a rarity.  We pull out of the park and I am already looking up future concert dates on my IPhone, thankful that at the Pinewood Bowl, we can join in a communion of modern society and an ancient natural world.

Poking the Untouchables – Film Review

  1. Prohibition has transformed Chicago into a City at War. Rival gangs compete for control of the city’s billion dollar empire of illegal alcohol, enforcing their will with the hand grenade and tommy gun. It is the time of the Ganglords. It is the time of Al Capone.

Brian De Palma executes a very entertaining film about the fictional take down of Al Capone in The Untouchables.  This was not how it happened. The truth hasn’t been altered as much as say, Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Bastards, but the facts are not checked and are most definitely not legit.  Understandably, any movie that is not a documentary (and even then it very rare) is not expected to tell the honest truth of how events played out, most of the time that would not be a very interesting viewing. Putting that aside, the movie is a fairly fast paced ride the echoes that time period.

Welcoming Party!

Welcoming Party!

I love this movie.  This is one that I have seen a few times, but not since I was a kid, and it was riveting to revisit.  There are plenty of good things to say about this piece, but let me start with the bad, because objectively it isn’t perfect.

Some of the small parts are laughable in the bad acting department, which really stood out when you have so many other great performances.  Although Robert DeNiro is playing Al Capone, Kevin Costner is the vehicle for the movie playing Elliot Ness, who did in fact put Al Capone away.  Costner is acting through cardboard here, much like he does in most of his films.  There are exceptions to that statement like Clint Eastwood’s A Perfect World and the recent Superman submission, however, its good ol’ stale Costner here.  With the entire superior acting support Costner has in this film, his performance is shameful.  His connection with wife played here by Patricia Clarkson, in her first film credit, is disappointingly empty.

The film at times seems like it doesn’t know what it wants to be.  It could almost be a PG-13 Disney film if not for the moments of extreme violence and language, in a screenplay scribed by notoriously misogynistic and swear heavy playwright David Mamet.  Compared to Mamet’s other works this is pretty light on the foul language and depth of characters.  However, he gives Capone some really good lines and speeches.

The positive elements far outweigh the bad in this 1987 crime drama.  First and foremost, DeNiro chews up the scenery and hits the mark in every moment he is on screen.  He took method acting to the extreme gaining a ton of weight to look authentically like the real life Capone.  To be honest, he is still DeNiro but, like most of his pre-2000 performances, it is still excellent.

Sean Connery is on good form here, trading in his debonair persona for his smart tough old guy that became a staple in his later career.  Andy Garcia is convincing as the excellent shot that believes in the cause.  Finally, Charles Martin Smith as the short lived accountant whose death came much to early as I really enjoyed watching a nerd kick mafia ass.

Before ramps.

Before ramps.

The best part of the whole film and would even dare to say the best moment of tension in any film ( and I have seen plenty of Alfred Hitchcock) is the infamous baby carriage descending backwards down a couple flights of stairs during a slow motion shoot out at the train station.  For that scene alone the movie that I would have given a B+ gets a little bump.

Grade = A-