Tagged Cuba Gooding Jr

American Horror Story – My Roanoke Nightmare: “Chapter 7”

FX’s American Horror Story
Season 6, Episode 7: “Chapter 7”
Directed by Elodie Keene
Written by Crystal Liu

* For a review of Chapter 6, click here.
* For a review of Chapter 8, click here.
screen-shot-2016-10-27-at-1-33-03-amReturn to Roanoke: 3 Days in Hell is well underway. Sidney James (Cheyenne Jackson) cheers behind the scenes watching footage like the greasy douche he is, and loving every minute of the drama. Of course nobody knows where Diana went – a.k.a dead. Not that Sidney gives a shit. The cameraman notices Rory Monahan (Evan Peters) getting stabbed, but can’t get his camera ready in time to catch anything. Then comes a scream in the night from their PA. In the dark we hear her choking, Sidney beckons the cameraman. They find the PA with her throat cut. And then Agnes Mary Winstead (Kathy Bates) in The Butcher’s clothing emerges, stabbing Sidney, as well as hacks the cameraman to unseen bits. She proclaims to the fallen camera: “I am the tree and the lightning that strikes it.”
screen-shot-2016-10-27-at-1-34-08-amAudrey Tindall (Sarah Paulson) and the others try finding Rory. Matt Miller (André Holland) keeps telling them that “R is for Rory.” You know nobody wants to hear that. Either way, he and Shelby (Lily Rabe), along with Audrey, Lee Harris (Adina Porter), Monet Tumuslime (Angela Bassett), and Dominic Banks (Cuba Gooding Jr.) all go searching the house for clues. They find a pool of blood upstairs. Audrey convinces everybody that Rory got that part and Sidney convinced him to do them a frighten in order to get their blood pumping. The poor wife is left believing her younger husband took off on her for better things. That’s sad.
Down in that cellar Agnes raves by firelight to a camera. She’s separated completely from reality now, don’t think she’s coming back ever again. Thomas White has taken over Agnes, full stop. She slips in and out of persona, yes, but ultimately The Butcher is becoming her primary personality. To devastating effect. “‘Cause the fans wanted more. And they wanted The Butcher.” However, things get spooky for even Agnes, as the ghosts of Roanoke’s Lost Colony start appearing around her, their wooden symbols hanging from the cellar’s low ceiling.
At the house nothing is getting any easier. Dominic edges up on Shelby, right as Matt appears out of nowhere: “Fuck her right here for all I care,” Matt tells them both defiantly. During an aside confessional, Dominic shows us that Sidney’s given him a body cam in the form of jewellery, to make things difficult for anybody and everybody. What’s better than screen time?
Shelby has a run in with Agnes in the bedroom. The old woman rages, going from The Butcher back to herself, and back again. A legitimately creepy moment. Agnes slices a piece out of Shelby, although Dominic takes her down before she can finish the poor woman off. All the while the cameras are everywhere, constantly rolling and catching the terror. Yet off into nowhere disappears Agnes.

 


Everyone’s becoming desperate. Nobody is coming to help, certainly, and we know why. They don’t know, though. For the time being they try and devise a plan how to get help, or simply get out of there. So several of the group head down into the tunnels below the house, where Edward Mott once supposedly led the Millers. Only they come across a screaming ghost, one that Lee’s gun can’t seem to take down. They rush out into the daylight, no longer fearing Agnes, wherever she’s hiding. Inside the Millers lament their lost marriage: “This place took something from me,” Matt confesses.
In the sky rises the Blood Moon. Lee, Monet, and Audrey finally stumble across the trailer, along with the gutted corpses of the crew and Sidney. No phones, no way to get out even in the car which is dead; you know it is! Then Agnes comes running at them from the woods. Lee shoots her into the dirt luckily, and the three women try to move on. Except torches in the woods alert them to ghosts of the Lost Colony. The Bloody Moon has begat spirits in flesh and blood. Meanwhile, as Audrey gives a Blair Witch Project-style confession to her phone’s camera, blood drips from overhead: from her dead husband. The ghosts still come for them sending the woman running into the darkness.
Or are they ghosts? No, it looks like humans in the night this time.
Oh, and Agnes, she’s survived a bullet in the chest, doing a little homemade surgery. You know that bad bitch isn’t going down. Perhaps it’s just more of the Blood Moon’s dark magic.

 


Poor Matt and Shelby never should’ve agreed to go back to that place. In the middle of the night Matt takes a walk downstairs. As if on a mission. Against his best interest, Dominic follows along with that sneaky body cam. He sees Matt in the basement where the Witch stands in the shadows: “Ive been waiting for you,” says Matt. Right before she grabs him violently, pulling him out of sight in a flurry of fierce noises. Dominic goes to get Shelby, they head back down together. They find the Witch on top of Matt. When Shelby pulls her off Matt tells them he came back for her. This prompts Shelby to smash his head in with a hammer until it’s nothing but mush. Wow.
The hillbillies have got hold of Lee. Tied up, she’s at their mercy. Uh oh. These are the real hillbillies, not the reenactment crowd. They’re the real and nasty deal. The Polk family; living off blood and the land. Mama (Robin Weigert) has her boys get to work on Lee, starting with some thigh flesh. They grease her up, season her. Y’know, that good stuff for “tenderising.” Likewise they’re torturing Audrey and Monet a bit mentally. Surely they’ll be seasoned soon enough. First though, they’re force fed a bit of Lee.
Up at the house Agnes is preparing the place for burning. Behind her rally the ghosts of the Lost Colony. Nice note: a parallel shot of the real Shelby with the fake Matt matches one previously of the fake Matt and fake Shelby from those reenactments, as they watch the torches from the window. Problem now is for Agnes – the real Butcher has arrived, and she isn’t sharing places. Agnes begs that she “only wanted to be on TV.” Not good enough. You’re fucking axed in the face, Kathy!screen-shot-2016-10-27-at-2-12-26-amWhat a solid episode. This really turned things up a gory notch. With that excellent 6th episode the plot twisted, and after that the series did itself a favour by coming out with this blood soaked “Chapter 7” that explodes across the screen. We can only wonder what will happen next. I dig that they’ve shortened the season, too. Not that they couldn’t have stretched it more to 13 again, just that they’ve set themselves a decent round number of episodes, they halved the plot in a sense, and now we’re heading into the homestretch, where anything at all can happen.

 

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American Horror Story – My Roanoke Nightmare: “Chapter 4”

FX’s American Horror Story
Season 6, Episode 4: “Chapter 4”
Directed by Marita Grabiak
Written by John J. Gray

* For a review of Chapter 3, click here.
* For a review of Chapter 5, click here.
screen-shot-2016-10-06-at-1-26-34-amIn the talking head interviews, Matt (André Holland) relates how Shelby (Lily Rabe) was pissed after supposedly seeing him having sex with a woman in the woods. During the reenactments, Shelby (Sarah Paulson) confronts Matt (Cuba Gooding Jr.) until he breaks down: “Its like a part of my brain was cut out.” She comforts him, though the real Shelby affirms that she knew there was something not right, at all. What she saw was real.
That night Shelby sees the Pig Man. And he is also very real. Matt wrestles with him briefly before the couple get away. They’re saved by Dr. Elias Cunningham (Denis O’Hare), from out of nowhere. He uses the “Croatoan” spell, shouting it and dispelling the creature. But warns: “Hell be back.”
screen-shot-2016-10-06-at-1-29-36-amSo Dr. Cunningham tells us about Croatoan. How it was left when Roanoke Colony disappeared. Really, it’s blood magic. Spooky. The doctor quickly relays that he’s the so-called guardian of the house, trying to make sure people know about its history. Matt’s eager to kick him out, although Shelby has seen the Pig Man before. Through the craziness, she believes Elias. In the basement, he shows them some of his work: all the “paranormal activity” that’s occurred in and around the house. Essentially, a history of horror and torture concerning various families that were unfortunate enough to have bought the house over the years. Like the Chens, who were taken by surprise once the Pig Man showed up. And once Thomasin “The Butcher” White (Kathy Bates) came by? Shit. Things got much, much worse. Cunningham tells Shelby and Matt about how even those nasty nurses were afraid of the place. The Butcher did them in good, too. Real medieval style. On and on and on the tales go. He mentions the “Dying Grass Moon” as being when the disappearances and murders take place.
Lee (Angela Bassett) is on the hook for her missing daughter, though Matt and Shelby wanted to get to the bottom of the whole Priscilla mystery. Something with which Elias can help. Lots of creepiness when Matt spies the strange woman (Lady Gaga) from afar. Shelby chases her until eventually getting lost and running into some hunters – the ones Dr. Cunningham told her about, who once stayed in the house and turned their guns on each other. Well, they’re still wearing those wounds. Quite graphically; dig it. Shelby didn’t, and tried using the Croatoan spell. Doesn’t work because of the lunar cycle, so says Elias. Then in the middle of the forest they see Flora with a bunch of ghosts (people who’ve died or disappeared in the house), the Pig Man, and of course Ms. Priscilla. A horn begins to blow soon. An arrow, or three, are plugged into the poor doctor. While the couple run off there’s no doubt we’ll see Elias again. I’d bet on it.screen-shot-2016-10-06-at-1-44-14-amAt the house, Cricket Marlowe (Leslie Jordan) is ready to rock. They’re obviously ready to do whatever they can to get Lee’s daughter back. He tells them about talking to The Butcher. She’s pretty ready to rock, as well. Y’know, with the bloody moon rising and all. “Id kill for a Coke Zero right now,” Cricket says as he tries to get psyched up about what to do next. He takes off only to return hours later: “I met the bitch with the real power.” It’s that strange woods woman. She temporarily blinds him, puts a knife to his throat. Tricky lil’ Marlowe’s able to get himself out of it, after discovering a few things first. She shows him a vision. They’re in a cornfield. Hundreds of years ago. At the Lost Colony in Roanoke. This is where they came, to where the house now stands. They did terrible things, such as sacrificing little children; Cricket witnesses The Butcher smash a girl to death with a rock. Yikes. Her own son Ambrose (Wes Bentley) wasn’t pleased with the new path, under tutelage of that strange woman, the woods witch. The Butcher then pretended to repent for her wrongdoings, only to kill everyone. Even her boy. She puts a cleaver right in his chest to boot before slashing anybody not fully dead yet right into the grave. She binds them to their new land with blood. Lots of it. Her own, too. She lets the woods witch cut her throat, “bonding” the whole colony to the land “for all eternity.” Cricket says he’s got the spell to clue everything up.
Yeah, right. In his Uber on the way home Cricket spies Flora running across the road. So he gets out of the car and now you know he’s not getting back to the Millers any time soon.

 

 


Matt and Shelby wait for him. But he never comes. Night comes, Matt’s feeling a little creeped out. Foolishly, he heads outside – though with a gun – after hearing things, seeing fleeting images. The sounds they draw him to the cellar out in the woods. He finds the witch there, waiting. “Debts must be paid,” she tells him. Oh, you know what she means! Don’t pretend. A little later Shelby wakes and can’t find her husband. He’s stuck down in the cellar, mesmerised by her story. She was a “descendant of the Druids and their Roman conquerors.” Instead of being a victim, she slaughtered the soldiers keeping her captive. Anyway, Matt was lured into the honey trap. Meanwhile Shelby’s laid siege to by The Butcher and her ghostly hordes, Flora in their grasp. When Matt finally tears himself out of the spell, they get some help from Priscilla; she manages to get Flora away from them.
But poor Flora, she’s frightened. Then outside they all see Cricket. The Butcher rips his guts open while the Millers watch from inside. The colony gets truly medieval on Mr. Marlowe. Absolute savagery.
Things aren’t looking good for Matt and Shelby. We know they survive it. Yet even in the real footage of their interviews – are so sure they’ll be safe in the near future?screen-shot-2016-10-06-at-2-06-26-amscreen-shot-2016-10-06-at-2-07-15-amLove this season so much! Lots of creepiness, a bit of gore. Some strange oddities of various types. Can’t wait for more in the next chapter.

 

American Horror Story – My Roanoke Nightmare: “Chapter 2”

FX’s American Horror Story
Season 6, Episode 2: “Chapter 2”
Directed by Michael Goi
Written by Tim Minear

* For a review of Chapter 1, click here.
* For a review of Chapter 3, click here.
screen-shot-2016-09-22-at-1-56-18-amLast we left Matt and Shelby Miller (Cuba Gooding Jr. & Sarah Paulson in the “dramatic reenactment“; André Holland & Lily Rabe in the documentary-style clips), things were bad. Shelby’s lost in the woods, finding a strange torch wielding cult (including Wes Bentley) and a man whose skull has been… partially removed. The strange woman Shelby thought she’d run over chants in the darkness (Kathy Bates), a group of people surround a man having a pigtail nailed to him. Terribly creepy little cuts.
After running and running, Shelby stops a moment. Only to find more madness. “I never thought about what could be in the wilderness, hiding in the dark,” the real Shelby recounts. We see Bates’ character lead a strange ceremony involving a man put up on a cross, a pig’s head stuck on his shoulders. Shelby takes off again until passing out in the middle of the road, where Matt’s sister Lee (Angela Bassett) finds her. Of course it all sounds mad to the police and everyone else. Poor Shelby. God damn. Ultimately she too believes it’s the “mountain men” trying to drive them out of the house.
A very bad, tragic misunderstanding.
screen-shot-2016-09-22-at-1-59-39-amscreen-shot-2016-09-22-at-2-01-50-amWe get to see more about Lee now, she and her ex-husband Mason (Charles Malik Whitfield) exchange their daughter Flora (Saniyya Sidney) for a while. Yeah, that’s a great fucking idea. Bring a little girl into a haunted house, or at the very least a house out in the country being laid siege to by hillbillies. Anyway, things kick off real quick once Lee finds Flora talking to somebody upstairs. Who? Oh, just somebody named Priscilla. Who isn’t there. A ghost? Or something more? Lee does the smart thing and pries a bit. “She said shes tired of all the blood,” Flora responds when questioned about Priscilla and her bonnet. When Lee literally finds one laying around, she gets spooked.
The great thing about any haunted house film or show is that part of everything is the human, psychological drama happening. There’s Lee and her girl, as well as Matt and Shelby, everyone with their own issues, taking things in differently.
That night more pig noises come from outside. Shelby takes action and insists on tracking them down, so Matt tags along. In the dark, out amongst the trees, they get separated. As one would expect from any horror. When they find each other, they come across a large stick figure with a pig’s head on top, roasting in fire; the skin and meat hanging below dripping into the flames. “This was beyond having a cross burned on your lawn. There was something demonic about it.” the real Matt speaks through voice-over.
With a bit more evidence this time, the police reluctantly look into what’s happening around the Miller’s place. Then a phone call comes through to Matt in the night. Except the phone’s disconnected. In the shadows, he finds an apparition: mean nurses tending to an old, frail and sickly woman named Margaret (Irene Roseen). They can’t hear Matt, but he watches on as one of the nurses tells their patient “Youve been warned” before blowing her brains out with a revolver. Now he’s seeing terrifying things, it isn’t only Shelby anymore.screen-shot-2016-09-22-at-2-14-57-amThis incident sets things into a frenzy. The police, as suspected, can’t find anything to backup Matt’s story. He starts questioning the integrity of his brain, literally, after the incident in the city. Problem is the cops are gradually getting less interested in helping, which isn’t all that abnormal by real world standards.
When Mason shows up for Flora, they can’t find her. It used to be a game she played with them. This time, not finding her may have something to do with the house. They find Flora in a crawlspace talking to Priscilla, who disappears quickly. Apparently Flora tried to make a trade: a doll for their lives. Seems Priscilla is homicidal. And it’s not just her. Flora warns her parents: “Theyre going to kill us all. And save me for last.” Fuck. That’s eerie. Dad hauls his daughter off and things aren’t looking any better for Lee as a mother. Especially considering she started drinking afterwards, off the wagon again. She broke a few things. Shelby’s not happy to find knives in the ceiling, although we can guess that probably wasn’t Lee. Those nurses are creeping about, too. In her drunken state Lee sees a lot of things from pigtails to pig heads and it’s one bad hangover she’s headed for in the morning.
There’s a little girl hanging around outside to boot, which sends Matt and Shelby outside. They come to a trap door with a ladder leading below ground a ways; hmm. Inside are a number of things including tapes in a camcorder. On them is a man named Dr. Elias Cunningham (Denis O’Hare). He speaks frantically saying things like “Im not what I am” and generally in distress over “forces that will not let me sleep.” He speaks of the house and its forces wanting to kill him. He further assures the viewer he’s not crazy. Then Cunningham tells us of his book about two nurses – Miranda and Bridget Jane. Oh yes, you guessed which nurses. Twisted bitches. They killed people with specific names to spell out MURDER. Everything got even wilder as it went on turning into one of those epic, insane tales of true crime.screen-shot-2016-09-22-at-2-24-14-amMore craziness to set the Millers off. Peeling away wallpaper, Matt finds the unfinished word MURDE written on the wall. Everything gets more real at this point. They keep on listening to Cunningham’s rambling tape. Doesn’t help any, except to frighten the shit out of them further. Scariest yet is when the tormented doctor heads inside the house with only his camcorder, night vision on, to guide him through the silent hallways. “Show yourself,” he yells to whatever’s in the dark. Before something, someone appears and startles him. And downstairs, a butcher’s knife with blood on it is stuck in the front door.
They just wanted to leave. Not so easy, though. No getting out of that mad house. Everything amps up a notch after Lee shows up with Flora again. When she’s clearly not supposed to have here there. More of that impulsive Lee behaviour already. Her brother tries to talk sense into her. Shelby tries talking the ex-husband down from calling the cops.
But can Mason get there to take his daughter away before anything worse happens? The little girl whom I assume to be Priscilla beckons Flora to come outside, out near the trap door in the field. Then she goes missing. The adults start to search frantically.
In a clearing, Lee finds her daughter’s yellow sweater at the top of a thin, ridiculously tall tree, its trunk looking almost stained with blood. They stand below, not sure what to do next.
And what can they do?screen-shot-2016-09-22-at-2-42-05-amscreen-shot-2016-09-22-at-2-42-58-amVery pumped for “Chapter 3” next week. Some people keep complaining, and I have no idea why. I love the re-enactment stuff, it adds a fun twist to the show. I’m still feeling like there’s going to be an angle to all that. Just like My Amityville Horror had its drama, My Roanoke Nightmare is going to bring something with that faux-documentary posing as a real documentary. Mark my words.
Also, did you catch Lady Gaga in her brief appearance? She shows up a couple times early on. Very unnerving look to her character. Can’t wait for more, of everything!

 

 

 

American Horror Story – My Roanoke Nightmare: “Chapter 1”

FX’s American Horror Story
Season 6, Episode 1: “Chapter 1”
Directed by Bradley Buecker
Written by Brad Falchuk & Ryan Murphy

* For a review of Chapter 2, click here.
screen-shot-2016-09-15-at-1-23-25-amThis year’s theme? My Roanoke Nightmare. Delicious.
We open on a series of talking heads. Almost seems like an Amityville Horror sort of thing, too. My Amityville Horror is a documentary by the man who was a child during the supposed Lutz story, and this seems to mirror its style a bit.
Well, Shelby (Rabe) and Matt (André Holland) are a married couple. They tell us about their relationship, what they do for a living, so on. They talk about the “worst night” of the their lives when Matt is randomly knocked out by some gang of kids. He nearly died because of their foolish brutality. We see Sarah Paulson playing Shelby and Cuba Gooding Jr. as Matt, like reenactments of that night. Sadly, Shelby lost her baby on that evening. After the event they took a trip out into the wilderness: “We werent city folks,” Matt says.
Out in the woods is an old farm house. A massive backwoods mansion. The house is cheap, just like the one the Lutz family fell into buying in Amityville. They snatch it up, now owning a surely haunted house. Shelby knew it from the beginning, in the back of her mind.
screen-shot-2016-09-15-at-1-23-34-amStrange banging in the night already starts Shelby and Matt off on a rough note. Interracial couple, rednecks kicking around. They’ve had troubles before, but were more than willing to fend any trouble off. Nothing’s too great. When Shelby’s home alone it starts raining teeth. TEETH! That’s pretty fucking unsettling. Of course no teeth are left when Matt gets back. To be expected when you live in a haunted Southern mansion. I mean, even the house, the big windows upstairs, the shape, it’s so reminiscent of The Amityville Horror. Not in a bad sense. Dig the homage.
One evening while cooking, home alone, Shelby sees two young women pass in the hallway, staring at her. Nice bit of tension, as she goes to check out where the women went. Finding nothing, only a suspenseful moment or two. Later when she relaxes in the hot tub outside until somebody holds her under. She calls Matt, who gets home quick, and the police, of course. Although the police don’t care much. Lots of paranoia swirling already. The couple aren’t sure anymore what to believe. So I LOVE the cinematography so far this season – the house especially looks ominous even in how the shadows cast over everything, big windows everywhere like eyes, darkness crowding around them.
Living in the house only gets worse, as you’d imagine. Weird noises get Matt out of bed and he finds a mutilated pig on the porch outside. He doesn’t tell his wife, he assumes it was the redneck boys who wanted to buy the house. So like a smart person, he hooks up lots of cameras and a nice security system hooked to his phone. Better yet, he gets his sister Lee (Angela Bassett) to go out there and look after Shelby. Lee was a bad ass cop, whose injury from getting shot on the job led her to taking medication a bit liberally. One day, really lit up on pills, she chased a serial rapist and her addiction was discovered. This got her fired, before wreaking absolute havoc on her personal life; she lost her husband, even her daughter. A sad, human tragedy.

 

 


Nothing changes in the house. Just because a security system’s in place and a former cop is looking after Shelby doesn’t mean whatever inhabits that house is going away. Paranoia runs mad now with another person kicking around. Only makes it easier for Shelby to confuse ghostly apparitions with Lee moving things, walking around, et cetera. An added interest is that Lee is still an addict. She asks Shelby not to drink, though I’m not sure how well that will hold up. On the other side is the fact Lee is also sceptical of her sister-in-law.
Then the house starts working on Lee. A lone wine bottle rolls across the floor at her, so she assumes it’s Lee being a bitch. “Why would you do something like that?” she questions Shelby. Now the accusations fly between the both of them. Meanwhile, Matt gets a text from his automated security: people in hoods carrying torches have headed through the gate up to the house. Oh, my. He tries to call the ladies, but they’re too busy arguing.
Suddenly, Shelby and Lee are interrupted by a videotape playing on the television, the strange noises from the night coming out – then on the tape appears a pig-headed man in the wilderness, squealing and bloody. Like anybody would be, the women are terrified. The hooded people with their torches get inside the house while the pair hide, and Matt rushes from a couple hours away to try getting home. When the ladies finally come out of hiding there are tons of creepy stick figures a la Blair Witch Project hanging about the house. Cops once more do nothing.
screen-shot-2016-09-15-at-1-45-55-amscreen-shot-2016-09-15-at-1-59-43-amWhen Matt is back he watches the video, only getting angrier at the local hillbillies. He still doesn’t want to leave; Shelby takes off in the car thinking only “fight or flight.” On her way she hits somebody in the road (it’s Kathy Bates and she just walks it off). Shelby chases her into the nearby woods and gets lost. She winds up finding more of the stick figures that were hung in the house, which sends her running into a place where the earth below seems to breathe. Deeper in she comes across a man missing some of his scalp and skull, brain exposed. And in the darkness lurks a man holding a torch, among many others holding torches – Wes Bentley’s character. We’ll just have to wait and find out who he is, as well as what happens to Shelby out there.

 

 


I don’t care what any of these other horror sites are saying – they probably won’t continue watching after the first episode of the series, anyways. So fuck ’em. This was a great start to the new series. Fun references, eerie shots and sequences, a bit of character intrigue and gritty development. “Chapter Two” will likely be good fun.

American Crime Story – Season 1, Episode 9: “Manna From Heaven”

FX’s American Crime Story
Season 1, Episode 9: “Manna From Heaven”
Directed by Anthony Hemingway
Written by Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewski

* For a review of the previous episode, “A Jury in Jail” – click here
* For a review of the Season 1 finale, “The Verdict” – click here
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The penultimate episode of American Crime Story has arrived.
We begin with recap of the trial via television. The tapes of Detective Mark Fuhrman (Steven Pasquale) are being tracked down. Meanwhile, in court Christopher Darden (Sterling K. Brown) is doing his thing, asking his witness whether someone “sounded black“, which prompts Johnnie Cochran (Courtney B. Vance) to go off. It gets so heated that Judge Lance Ito (Kenneth Choi) calls a recess. Of course, Marcia Clark (Sarah Paulson) is pissed herself because the racial nonsense distracts from anything truthful.
But the defense are jumping all over Fuhrman and the supposed tapes. Bob Shapiro (John Travolta), Robert Kardashian (David Schwimmer) and the rest try to get things in order. “We must get them,” orders Johnnie re: the tapes.
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Johnnie: “God brought us these tapes. Theres something much larger at play here. This, is Manna from Heaven.”
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The prosecution are variably worried in their own respects about Fuhrman; Darden more so. Yet Johnnie and his crew are moving along to the beat of their own drum. We’ve got F. Lee Bailey (Nathan Lane) touting his influence in the boardroom, offering to head up the whole Fuhrman angle in North Carolina, where he and Cochran are headed for the tapes and transcripts. And so the two dig in on Fuhrman and his extremely complicated racist background. Unfortunately, the NC judge is not happy to have a flash, proud, strong black man like Johnnie in his court. So, Bailey has to take over. He placates the Southern racists, managing to slip out those tapes and transcripts for their case in California.


Bailey: “Mr. Cochran take a good look where youre standing. Were in the South. Havent you noticed the scent of mint julep and condescension in the air? Right behind you is a statue of a Confederate soldier holding a rifle. With all due respect, I dont know if you play as well in Dixie.”
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Back in Los Angeles, Marcia is getting even more worked up, as the tapes make their way further towards their trial. Ito won’t let them in yet, but the teams are allowed to review them. There’s an ominous tone to this episode. All the looming racism of the past connecting with Fuhrman and the ongoing racism, that sadly still burns today in the U.S. The entire opening 10 minutes or so are incredible.
So everybody tucks in and listens to what Fuhrman’s got to say on the infamous recordings. The editing in this series is spectacular, as always. They cut both of the teams listening to the tapes together, back and forth between the two. Super intense sequence overall. Immediately, Fuhrman launches into a tirade about “niggers” and “Mexicans“, and talks about the right way to enforce the law, tough on the street. He says the word nigger about a dozen times in the first few sentences. Brutal. Each side realizes what this will do to their case; obviously, Marcia and Darden see this can crush them.
But they’ve got something “unexpected” for Gil Garcetti (Bruce Greenwood), an “O. Henry twist“, as Marcia puts it eloquently. There’s a bunch of talk from Fuhrman on the tape about Ito’s wife, the “highest ranking woman in the LAPD” – another nail in the whole Mark Fuhrman witness debacle. The entire thing becomes a massive shitstorm.


Gil: “This screams gross incompetence


Both sides are pressed against the wall, though. Cochran and Co. don’t want a mistrial, while Darden suggests to Marcia that’s their best option, to start over without Fuhrman and his madness. Everything involving Ito spill out in open court, as he prefers it to happen. He even happens to give a little shout out to hardworking women in male-dominated environments.
Above all else, Ito determines another judge has to call whether the case should stay in front of the court. Yowzahs. So much happening on each side.
So Marcia and Chris go back to the drawing board. As do Johnnie, Shapiro, and everyone else. The whole court, really. Cochran suggests giving Ito the tapes with the parts about his wife edited out. Everyone seemed to find that suitable, but it’s up to a new judge now. Tempers flare in the meantime, with Shapiro blowing up on Cochran. Same goes for Darden – he chews Marcia out for not having listened when he advised they shouldn’t use Fuhrman to begin with, and this opens more cans of worms, relationship-wise amongst them.


Darden: “You put me on this trial because you wanted a black face. But the truth is, you never wanted a black voice.”
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On his own, Cochran is running against the tapes, him and the Coalition with which he’s involved. They’re determined to root out racist LAPD officers. Everyone from Shapiro to Garcetti is worried about more riots like in Watts. The city is almost on fire with racial heat.
People like Ito, they’re caught in the middle. People like Johnnie are willingly in the middle o the storm.
In court, things get rolling again. Johnnie wants those tapes, and he is running with them. On the other side, Clark isn’t defending Fuhrman, but rather the victims of the crime at the center of their trial. Regardless, they’re both passionate speakers. Merely different breeds of thinkers, different strategists. And Marcia does her best to try and make sure the jury won’t hear the tapes.
It’s all down to poor Ito. He has to read through a ton of vile, racist trash, as well as contend with the backlash on either end of his decision. A terrible position in which to find oneself. Nobody would’ve wanted to be him during that time. Especially once he decides the tapes will be allowed, as they’re a matter of “national concern“, so says Ito. A huge blow-up comes out again between Darden and Cochran, with the former unimpressed how his old mentor is making a mockery of the court. This gets Marcia up on Chris’ behalf, each of them nearly held in contempt by the judge. One of the most INTENSE sequences of the entire series. Orderly chaos. Eventually it all calms down, but the dirty laundry is out on the line for all to see.


Finally, the court hears some of Fuhrman. The recording is played, his speech is spelled out in text. Damning stuff, as he goes on about police brutality. Everyone in court is horrified by some of the things he says. Openly admitting to hating black people, as well as the brutality that routinely goes on behind the scenes of the LAPD. Awful, vicious. A very creepy scene, hearing these things come out. Imagine what it must’ve been like in the courtroom that day. People like Fred Goldman (Joseph Siravo) are disgusted with the focus being taken off the murder victims, and everything honing in on Fuhrman, et cetera. At the same time, Darden and Clark are licking their wounds, attempting to figure out somewhere to move next. Marcia apologizes for not listening to Chris earlier. Too late, though, better late than never at all.
Ito rules on the Fuhrman tapes. Only concerned with “perjury” and not all the LAPD corruption. Cochran isn’t happy, neither is Bailey. As usual, Bob dances around not wanting to piss off the police. He doesn’t get why Johnnie is so inflamed. Because he’s white. He could never fully understand. Nevertheless, Johnnie blows things up and advises Los to “remain calm” – but does he want that, or would some riots help his cause? The enigma of Cochran is that he’s at once a theatrical act, a performer, a disguise, and simultaneously he’s a proud, tough man who does right by people, too. You just never know who you’re going to get at any given time.


Fuhrman is being brought to the stand. Outside the court it’s a circus, inside like a morbid auditorium awaiting some bloody dissection of a patient. And that’s sort of what’s about to happen. All his lies are poised to come out.
And before things get started, Darden leaves the courtroom. Wow, a powerful statement in itself.
Johnnie starts his surgical procedure in open court. Only Fuhrman asserts the Fifth Amendment for all his questions. Another wrench in the machine. The one question Cochran does go on to ask gets the same response, and casts further doubt on the evidence. Things are getting very rough from here on in for Clark and Co.
One ray of sunshine? Marcia got primary custody of her children. A small glimpse of hope after a terrible time in court.


Next and final episode, “The Verdict”, promises lots of interesting things. Let’s see how Ryan Murphy finishes things off along with his super talented crew of actors, directors, writers, and everyone else involved. An amazing series that’s giving us impressive insight into the events behind the scenes of such an infamous trial.

American Crime Story – Season 1, Episode 8: “A Jury in Jail”

FX’s American Crime Story
Season 1, Episode 8: “A Jury in Jail”
Directed by Anthony Hemingway
Written by Joe Robert Cole

* For a review of the previous episode, “Conspiracy Theories” – click here
* For a review of the penultimate Season 1 episode, “Manna From Heaven” – click here
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Only a couple more episodes left, as O.J. Simpson (Cuba Gooding Jr), Marcia Clark (Sarah Paulson), Johnnie Cochran (Courtney B. Vance), Robert Kardashian (David Schwimmer), and the rest of the various figures hurtle towards the trial’s finish.
This episode begins with the jury being chewed out for tardiness. The trial went from two months to eight months. Everyone in the jury’s a little pissed.
But wait, let’s skip back 8 months earlier. Everyone is happy to be on jury duty, away from home and on a sort-of-vacation. At least until they start to discover the rules of their jury duty for the trial of the century, or “The Superbowl” as one of them puts it. Not so fun anymore when the pool is “off limits” and when you can’t even skim a Reader’s Digest without it being approved.
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Well Cochran and Bob Shapiro (John Travolta) are back together, laughing, toasting champagne. As Marcia and Christopher Darden (Sterling K. Brown) still aren’t too steady. And Gil Garcetti (Bruce Greenwood) is losing his god damn mind over the ill-fitting glove.
Over at the hotel with the jury, everyone’s arguing over what to watch. “What is a Seinfeld?” one of the women quips after Martin gets vetoed. Amazing to see the Martin versus Seinfeld showdown, more of the subtle racial angles within the writing of American Crime Story brings out.
Then we switch over to O.J. playing poker for Skittles in an interrogation room with a couple buddies, including Kardashian. What’s amazing is that O.J. is in the process of retelling a portion a Seinfeld episode, saying: “Im tellinyou they gotta give that Kramer his own show.” Never have we more evidently seen, directly in the writing and editing, an instance of where the perceived whiteness of Simpson comes out. Nicely written sequence all over.
What this episode gets into big time is how nobody, even just a little over 20 years ago, understood DNA. It frustrates Marcia, while providing fodder for jokes in Simpson’s camp. But when Clark has an expert break it down in layman’s terms, the jury, the defense, everybody in the court understands how damning this testimony is for O.J. Even Kardashian sees it, the look on his face almost ghostly. 1 in about 170-million; hard for Rob to get past.
Later, he and Simpson sit alone together talking of “the numbers” involved in the DNA found at the scene. Rob has a problem with Nicole’s blood being everywhere, disguising it as concerns of the jury. The faith of Kardashian is shaking in his old friend.


Simpson: “And this is them asking?”
Kardashian: “Yeah. This is them asking.”


More problems now; in the jury. One of the jurors was previously arrested for kidnapping, which Judge Lance Ito (Kenneth Choi). He plays it off saying “you know how ladies can get“, not worrying about Marcia’s presence in the room. Even with Cochran dancing his best dance, Ito dismisses the juror. At least now Marcia doesn’t have to put with even more sexism. For the moment.
In the jury room, some of the other black jurors worry about being dismissed because they’re black. So within all the racial things happening during the trial, within the jury itself, there is even a division between some of the black people who see things differently. So many perspectives, it’s mind boggling at times.
So on goes court with a new juror in place. The defense bring up questions about missing blood belonging to O.J. and there becomes a doubt; in the minds of the jurors, those looking on. It gives Simpson confidence, Rob pause, and Marcia a look of terror. All of a sudden their explanation on the DNA becomes near redundant. Even wilder is the fact the expert, when off the stand, shakes the hands of everyone – the prosecution, except Marcia who refuses, and then the defense. Uh oh. That ain’t good.
Back in her office, Marcia loses it and tosses the place a bit. All that pressure has got to be getting to her. Wouldn’t be human if she brushed it off without any worry.


More juror worries. A woman on the jury accused her husband of abuse, but lied about it.
F. Lee Bailey (Nathan Lane) outright drops some highly sexist shit in front of Marcia, already bringing more of that nonsense on her. But again, a black juror is dismissed. Hmm. Even Judge Ito recognizes there’s some ridiculous racial foolishness happening behind the scenes. And this is what American Crime Story brings out beautifully, the things we know about after the fact but couldn’t see during the original trial. So many racial games, from jury to prosecution to defense.
Marcia and Johnnie have a head-to-head outside. She proves time and time again how tough her mettle is, despite any of the sexist bullshit she has to suffer.


Marcia: “Toughen up, Cochran. This is the smokers lounge. Daycares on the first floor.”
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The problem jurors are being sussed out on the defense side. Meanwhile, the prosecution has their own ideas. And some of both sides clash. So now with Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust” we’re getting the battle of the races amongst the jurors, the prosecution and defense going back and forth. Amazing little sequence, even before Queen kicks in. We see how what was on the surface of the trial was truly only scratching it, barely. All the games behind the scenes made things much more volatile. Even some of the jurors are upset about racial treatment, the divide in the room: “They treat us like were second class,” one woman yells at the judge in his quarters.
Ultimately, Ito has to step in and stop all the madness after accusations against jurors and all kinds of things. He’s experiencing his own skewering in the media, from jurors to people on television.
Now we’re back to the beginning of the episode. The jurors’ guards are switched up, the environment in the lunch room is vastly different, everybody speculating on the mindset of others. A real mess. Then they refuse to come into court, which throws Ito into a furor threatening to have them all arrested. When they do come in, many of the jurors are dressed entirely in black. So Ito suspends testimony and Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” plays loud, proud with jurors smiling proud.


Dominick Dunne: “It just gets curiouser and curiouser


Cochran and Co. are all worried about what’s happening in the courtroom. Worst of all, Simpson is losing his mind. He wants on the stand, and definitely doesn’t want a mistrial. Bailey thinks it’s a good idea because “people love him“, Johnnie seems open to it, yet of course Shapiro resists at first. Bob is worried about Marcia cross-examining O.J. and so Cochran decides they’ll do a “rehearsal” for their client.
Over with the jury, one of the women goes absolutely nuts and tries to flee before the deputies catch her. She’s almost gone absolutely mental.
More alone time with Clark and Cochran. He brings her a coffee, the way she likes it apparently. Greasy, Johnnie; real greasy.
So the defense rustles up a Marcia lookalike. They have her press him with Clark-like questions he’ll encounter on the stand. Everyone watches O.J. do his thing, charming, joking a bit. Kardashian looks almost filled with fear. Bailey and Cochran aren’t sure of what to make of it. Shapiro’s not happy at all. It’s a whole new ballgame if they intend on putting him up there with the real Marcia.
Most of all, Kardashian’s taking things incredibly hard. He believes they might “get him off“, but it is clear he doesn’t believe fully in his friend’s guilt. His ex-wife Kris Jenner (Selma Blair) urges him to just get up and go. Kardashian admits, unfortunately, that would essentially convict Simpson if it happened, and it would all makers things worse for their family. An emotional scene. Schwimmer is awesome in the role, loving his performance.


But the finale is the most damning. Someone gets a call – it’s about Detective Mark Fuhrman (Steven Pasquale). And it is not good.
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The next episode, penultimate season finisher “Manna From Heaven”, promises to be a whopper. Stay tuned with me, fellow fans. Dig this series so much, it is all around 5-stars.

American Crime Story – Season 1, Episode 6: “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia”

FX’s American Crime Story
Season 1, Episode 6: “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia”
Directed by Ryan Murphy
Written by D.V. DeVincentis

* For a review of the previous episode, “The Race Card” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Conspiracy Theories” – click here
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This episode begins with Marcia Clark (Sarah Paulson) in court over her children. She starts to express herself “outside of protocol” and the judge is not pleased. But we’re seeing the warring parts of her life; she is a high profile, powerful woman, also not without her faults and flaws. I’m sure her husband wasn’t any better, though, we definitely get a glimpse of her obsession with the law over anything else in her life.
Marcia rushes on into the court, as everyone else is already seated. Judge Lance Ito (Kenneth Choi) gets everything rolling.
On the stand is a friend of Nicole, who recounts a vulgar moment about O.J. Simpson (Cuba Gooding Jr) grabbing Nicole by the crotch in front of a crowd. Johnnie Cochran (Courtney B. Vance) tries to keep everyone’s cool, including Robert Shapiro (John Travolta) who gets feisty. Johnnie tells O.J. and Bob that the woman is “crying on cue” and seems pretty confident when Christopher Darden (Sterling K. Brown) taunts a bit on his way out of court. I’m sure Cochran’s got a few tricks ready to roll out his sleeve.
At home, Marcia sees herself on television. Except it comes in the form of talk about her beauty, whether or not she dresses well, her style described as “frump incarnate” by one of the people on the news. This weighs on her, while she has other things that need attention, from family to the courtroom.


More custody troubles. Marcia finds her husband wanting further custody, as she’s so busy all the time. Particularly with the Simpson trial now. Lots of looking at Marcia in this episode already, excited for more.
Meanwhile, Johnnie is laying out his next strategy. Bob shows up late, then in typical Shapiro style glares at Cochran, as he goes on about his routine. Cut to Marcia on the stand, talking to Detective Phillip Van Atter (Michael McGrady), whom Johnnie cross-examines afterward. What comes out of the conversation here is that Cochran tries to draw Van Atter into admitting they quickly identified O.J. as a suspect, rather than a “husband to be notified” or anything else. For now, Johnnie is setting things up to show how the LAPD is lying about “small things” to get to the bigger things later in the questioning.
We get to see all sides of Johnnie, too. He’s a jack of all trades, hanging with police and laughing with the likes of Detective Tom Lange (Chris Bauer). He then turns around and puts Lange on the stand, grilling him; even bringing up that where Lange lives, where he took evidence for “6 hours” before logging it, is the same place where cops involved in the Rodney King case live. Any way he can draw doubt into the picture, he can, and he will. Major, major doubt now with Shapiro and Cochran double-teaming Lange over the evidence; something he’d not done before, that he “can recall“, anyways.


I dig seeing the relationship between Marcia Clark and Christopher Darden. She is very supportive of him, even after sort of using him on the case in a racial sense. However, Darden clearly cares for her, as both a friend and a colleague. What they both have in common is that they’re marginalized, in life and in the case. She brings up being judged – can’t be too uptight or they call her a bitch, can’t let loose and party or they’ll take her kids away. Same as Darden’s situation on the case, stuck between a rock and a hard place – seems a black man can’t judge O.J. or he’s a traitor of some kind versus the fact he’s black and a lawyer and doesn’t want to go against his best judgement simply due to him and O.J. both being black.
On the radio next day, a DJ polls – “Is Marcia Clark a bitch or a babe?” This prompts Darden to call in and vote for babe. Although it seems he’s playing into it, he does so because of his feelings for her, obviously. They’re sort of cute together, Marcia and Christopher.
When Marcia calls Detective Mark Fuhrman (Steven Pasquale), things get sketchy. Cochran brings up a witness who has to be on the stand right away. Then “babysitting issues” for Marcia come up, as the personal side of her life spills into the public eye of the court. Gil Garcetti (Bruce Greenwood) tries to convince Marcia into letting go of the media; “stop watching tv,” he tells her sternly. He hates it and knows the whole thing is sexist, but there’s simply nothing he can do. Except to suggest some “media consultants” he could put her in touch with, causing a bit of embarrassment on both their parts with the whole office listening in. But again, Marcia has so many things, each bigger than the last, to tackle.
In court, Johnnie takes jabs at Marcia about “childcare issues” and she finally stands up to say it is offensive, “totally out of line“, making clear she will not stand for any his bullshit any longer. Finally, on comes the housekeeper, Ms. Lopez, whom Cochran wants on the stand. Marcia starts to unravel a bit of Ms. Lopez’s story concerning a ticket out of the country, then begins working on whittling down the timeline the housekeeper proposes: “Whatever Mr. Johnnie says I said,” she tells Clark. Then she can’t seem to remember. “Good enough for me,” says Marcia.
Outside Marcia receives a ton of media attention, women chanting out to her as she leaves the court. But it’s Johnnie who’s got the trouble – rumours of his own clash with domestic abuse in the past are about to hit the newsstand. Although, Marcia still has her trouble, too. Her ex-husband Gordon goes on the news revealing Marcia didn’t need to leave court to take care of her children, effectively spreading their dirty laundry in public.
Johnnie gives a call to a woman named Barbara. Obviously the one whom he abused. He ends up offering her the profits off selling a property he owns, that was her “pet project“, and putting the bribe out there for her to take.


At the prison, Johnnie, Robert Kardashian (David Schwimmer), F. Lee Bailey (Nathan Lane), and Bob Shapiro go meet with O.J. The Juice is not happy about the whole “Mr. Johnnie” incident in court with the housekeeper. He wants more control, to be involved with all the decisions. “When I wanna hear from you Ill rattle my zipper,” Simpson screams at Shapiro, yelling everybody out of the room.
Back over to the trial. In the lobby, Darden has it out with a black reporter who seems to only focus on Cochran. At the same time, Dominick Dunne (Robert Morse) pipes in for Darden, seeing behind the thin veneer of celebrity that lays over Simpson.
Marcia shows up with her new hairdo, which has everyone turning their head. Not necessarily in a great way, but turning nonetheless. She goes for a short, curly do, even more than before. And she digs it. Until Judge Ito makes a remark and her eyes reach around the room to see everyone mocking her. Darden writes her a sweet note, though, the papers next morning give her a brutal going over. Then she experiences NASTY sexism – at a store getting Tampax, a cashier makes a remark about her period and how the defense are in for rough times. Wow. Unbelievable writing, yet the situation is atrocious. Such blatant sexist talk, and it affects her deeply.


Detective Mark Fuhrman is on the stand now with Clark. He expresses distaste for the trial devolving into “personal issues” rather than “facts” and all the evidence. And so his testimony begins, recounting the crime scene, the evidence found, et cetera. Things go along smoothly. Stories of the white Bronco, the blood, and the police worrying O.J. himself may have been injured in whatever the incident had been. Of course Simpson and Cochran don’t think that’s too true.
Later during drinks, Bailey goes on about Fuhrman’s “tombstone” and how he’s going to ask the man about the word “nigger“, whether or not he uses it. As those of us know, this is exactly what Lee did during the trial, and is largely believed to be one of the nails in the coffin of this case later.
Back to court, where Bailey gets up to talk about Fuhrman’s service with the Marines. Seems Bailey was a Marine, too. Then he heads into hacking away at Fuhrman, attempting to make it look as if the detective possibly planted evidence, or even to put that seed of doubt in peoples minds. Finally, Bailey drops the question on Fuhrman, whose response is no, he doesn’t use the word nigger. Great editing and writing in this scene makes it quite exciting.


At the office, Gil shows Marcia a paper that published a nude picture of her. And it’s real. The husband before Gordon took them. Now they’re in the public eye, like the rest of her life; now it’s her body. Gil seems thrown off. Not as much as Marcia.
Everything is weighing hard on her. She’s about to break, as the tears well in her eyes and Darden tries to comfort her. Ito sees it. The defense sees it. Luckily, the judge graciously breaks the court for recess until the next day. An act of mercy on his behalf.
Afterwards, Marcia weeps in her office on the floor. Darden goes to see her, to try and be of some help. She breaks down further: “Im not a public personality, this isnt what I do. I dont know how to do this. And those other guys, theyre flashy hot shots. Theyre used to it. But II just can’t take it.” He sits with her, a literal shoulder on which to rest her head. At least they’re in it together.


Amazing episode, so much focus on Marcia while still pushing the entire narrative forward. Wonderful writing and lots of nice direction from Ryan Murphy. Stay tuned with me for the next one, “Conspiracy Theories” – see you next week.