' ' Cinema Romantico

Friday, December 14, 2018

Friday's Old Fashioned: Star Wars Holiday Special (1978)

The “Star Wars” Holiday Special of 1978, it turns out, at least based on what appeared to be an old VHS copy uploaded to the Interwebs, was sponsored by GM. I mention this only because it instantaneously brought home why I sought out this infamous CBS production in the first place. Last year, as America 2017 wound down, I sought out John Denver’s ABC 1975 Holiday special “Rocky Mountain Christmas” to soothe my soul. But as America 2018 winds down, I do not want to soothe my soul; I want to court disaster. And what is more legendarily disastrous than the “Star Wars” Holiday Special, which nearly every December inspires editors to demand articles recounting, once again, the Special’s confusing genesis, confounding rendering and wretched product. Those articles are usually fun, but they allow you to maintain your distance, like watching a garbage barge from the shore through binoculars. That, in America 2018, is the coward’s way out. I wanted to go straight to the source; I wanted to see for myself; I wanted to stand amidst the trash and breathe in the fumes.

The production, subject to differing reminiscences as creative debacles often are, seemed to spring from both CBS’s desire for a Holiday-type variety show to capitalize on the massive box office success of the (real) first “Star Wars” and George Lucas’s insistence that the Special’s narrative backbone be – God help us – Wookie home life. The result, in which Chewbacca’s family’s concern over the famous Wookie’s failure to return home for something called Life Day (likely leaving a certain kind of contemporary viewer to wonder why they don’t celebrate Christmas in a galaxy far, far away), is both metaphorically and literally unintelligible, giving rise to the late Roger Ebert once asking in a review: “Does Han Solo really understand Chewbacca’s monotonous noises? Do they have long chats sometimes?” I don’t think he would without the benefit of the screenplay. Half the dialogue, so to speak, is just Wookie noises regretfully sans subtitles, a little like “2001’s” Dawn of Man sequence absent any artful touch.

This is truly explicated in the sequences where Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher as, respectively, you know who, are made to communicate with Chewbacca’s family by way of wall screen, or something. The actors are not Phoning It In so much as Unsure of What in The World They Are Supposed to Be Doing. Hamill’s double-take, in fact, epitomizes this confusion, truly looking like bewildered man without an acting partner. Harrison Ford, who the Special occasionally cuts to in the Millennium Falcon with Chewebacca as they try to get him home, comes across disinterested, though he came across disinterested in “Star Wars” too, which fueled his roguish charm and implies context counts for so much.

The aesthetic, meanwhile, is the Special’s downfall and saving grace, at least to someone watching it in 2018, with the Wookie home something like the dodo family house in “Follow that Bird!” crossed with Barbarella’s cockpit. And if that sounds risqué, well, I haven’t even mentioned the apparent mind evaporator (which I can only namecheck courtesy of Wikipedia), into which an impressionable Wookie places his head where we suddenly find ourselves teleported out of a galaxy far, far away and into a Disco-era music video starring Diahann Carroll. This moment is evocative of the entire Holiday Special, at once family-friendly and not family-friendly at all, like when I saw “Jurassic Park” in the summer of 1993 and decided, afterwards, to see “Rambling Rose” because it had Laura Dern too.

The mind evaporator is representative of innumerable other gadgets and gizmos the Wookies mess around with, which, and I’m admittedly stretching here, sort of evoke old school holiday RadioShack ads, a tie-in I’m surprised was overlooked. And it is through these screens that the clearly overmatched Holiday Special writers are able to incorporate their variety show add-ons, like a Jefferson Starship performance, or a cartoon featuring a pre-“Empire Strikes Back” Bobba Fett which is probably the closest this hootenanny gets to True “Star Wars” (unless you count the actual “Star Wars” footage the Special employs because it wouldn’t have afforded or managed the effects otherwise), or, best of all, Bea Arthur.

Bea Arthur serving Mos Eisley booze out of a Kool-Aid pitcher, apparently.
Upon first learning years ago that Bea Arthur was in this thing as proprietor of the Mos Eisley Cantina on Tatooine, I imagined it as a “D.C. Follies” situation, complete with a laugh track. What transpires, however, is less simply comic than theatrically surreal. To say this is what the “Star Wars” Holiday Special could have been is out line because even if had been just this it would have only appealed to leisure suit lounge lizards. Still, it’s the lone moment truly trying to approximate a “Star Wars” revue as Arthur, who might not have been game so much as “oh, the hell with this” professional, tries to kick all her extra-terrestrial clientele out of the cantina due to an Imperial-mandated curfew by leading the whole place in a singalong to some sort of riff on “The Alabama Song.” “Just one more round, my friend,” she sings, “just one more dance, my friend,” advising the aliens to leave even as her song intrinsically encourages them to stay, spiritually embodying the Holiday Special itself, a precursor to the unrelenting cycle of “Star Wars” spinoffs and by-products, claiming we don’t want more but mindlessly consuming it anyway.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Parsing Miami Vice: Figurative Screen Shots on the Wall, part 4 (conclusion)

Parsing Miami Vice: Screen Shots on the Figurative Wall is Cinema Romantico’s sporadic pseudo art exhibition in which we peruse frames from Michael Mann’s Miami Vice (2006) like the paintings they pretty much are.

Earlier this year I saw my man Claude’s painting Antibes, 1888 at The Courtauld Gallery in London. The placard quoted Mr. Monet himself: “What I bring back from here,” he said of Antibes in the south of France, “will be sweetness itself, white, pink and blue, all enveloped in this magical air.” Truth. The gallery room bearing the painting was small, empty, and I spent a long time with it. The tree, as are so many other objects in Monet paintings, just a kind of formal specificity in the foreground; the point is everything else.

Not everyone was dismissive of “Miami Vice” upon its release, as this blog can attest, and as, say, the righteous Manohla Dargis review in The New York Times can go to show, but the box office was nevertheless lackadaisical and the grades at that bastion of math, Rotten Tomatoes, were low. But that, as the reappraisals have gleaned over time, stemmed from the movie’s disinterest in narrative and its avant-garde leanings, preferring visual poetry culled from negative space, which is how Steven Hyden put it for Uproxx.

You see this in the dramatic lead-up to the climactic shootout, where the people are just sort of blots against the big blackened sky.

You see this when Justin Theroux’s character is standing guard as his machine gun, enveloped in the darkness, becomes beside the point, deferring to the puffy white clouds.

You see this on a rooftop where the charged nature of the characters’ conversation’s got nothing on the looming mounds of cumulonimbus.

You see this is in a romantic episode down Cuba way where a movie of drug cartels and white supremacists momentarily makes like a damn gallery postcard.

You see this in a speedboat race through Biscayne Bay where we never even find out who wins because none of these go-fast boats can compete with that aerial panorama. 

That, as our sporadic 2018 blogging art show winds up, brings us to the best shot in “Miami Vice.” I have written about the shot before, but that was less a contemplation of the actual frame than a romantic speculation of its genesis. And I suppose I know I loved the shot from the beginning simply because I am a sucker for storm clouds.

But considering this shot in lockstep with Claude, I see now that the jet, while proffering the trigger for the scene, is also just the tree in Antibes, 1888. And what would normally seem the negative space in the frame becomes, in fact, the point. Here, in the space of that sky, lo and behold, Michael Mann, genius evermore, did not just capture a Miami sky on camera; he brought the sweetness of that goddam sky back with him.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Support the Girls

“Support the Girls” opens with a montage of location shots showing the Texas Interstate system where multitudinous cars rush around mix masters and along multi-lane freeways. If it does not seem part and parcel to the film’s predominant setting, a Hooters-ish independent restaurant called Double Whammies, the familiar omnipresent sonic whoosh that goes hand in hand with traffic congestion sort of evokes the white noise of testosterone-themed restaurants like the one in question where all the waitresses in low-cut tops and tightly cropped shorts are conveyed as window dressing, scantily clad ornamentation in addition to the big game on the big screen, clearer when the cable TV keeps going out and the patrons look past the ladies in search of a signal. “Support the Girls”, then, as the title implies, becomes about restoring the humanity of these women, though without turning sanctimonious, as writer/director Andrew Bujalski threads the needle between light and dark, droll and sincere.

In a sense, threading the needle is the job description of Double Whammies’ general manager Lisa Conroy (Regina Hall). As the movie opens, she is crying in her car even as she pulls herself together enough to ask a co-worker how she’s doing, a delicate strength embodied in Hall’s entire performance, her air remaining staunch even if she lets pockets of stress peek through in her eyes and inflections. Lisa’s life is non-stop. Never mind normal considerations like employee shifts and unruly customers, there is a burglar trapped in the air ducts who necessitates the cops who accidentally knock out the cable which agitates the clientele, while Lisa also devises a makeshift carwash fundraiser for one of her employees in need of a legal fund, which is the movie ingeniously repurposing an activity where management exploits labor. If the latter suggests what Lisa will do for her co-workers, so does the former since it eventually connects to a cook, in a scene where Lisa demonstrates empathy even as she gently fires him, and letting him finish shift because she is cognizant that his presence is necessary . This, in other words, is her family, which becomes apparent not just in the way she babysits the kid of an employee, Danyelle (Shayna McHale), who can’t get a sitter, but when the subject of her actual home life is eventually broached.

Every family, though, has an elder and that is the owner, Cubby (James Le gros), who shows up at the worst possible time and has a heated argument with Lisa about hiring practices, laying bare not just her true place in the hierarchy but everyone’s, all subject to the top dog’s impulses. Bujalksi sets this scene in Cubby’s car, concluding it with a moment of road rage gone wrong as his would-be confrontation with a driver cutting him off is less a violent release than a sudden, hysterical diffusion of the bomb that seems set to go off as Cubby gets punched once in the you-know-what, both his aforementioned impulses and his precious masculinity skewered. Bujalski shows us this moment, however, from inside the car so that we can’t even hear it, emblematic of the film’s overriding deadpan humor, glimpsed later in a confetti cannon putting an exclamation point on the film’s come to Jesus moment, revising a hackneyed marketing tool as a colorful kiss-off.

That epiphany, however, unexpectedly, incisively happens apart from Lisa. If the narrative seems to be shaping up as a Day in Lisa’s Life, she suddenly gets moved offstage as Danyelle steps into her management shoes, not a triumphant moment but a realization of everyone’s disposability in the world of unskilled labor. The movie culminates by conforming to and upending your expectations in a lengthy, funny, unsettling sequence allowing the women to maintain their dignity even as it acknowledges how nothing truly changes for them at all. Indeed, the denouement, spread across a couple scenes, is sort of a new beginning of old ways, a cruel contradiction, but one that Lisa meets with a defiance akin to the whole movie, standing on a rooftop, screaming at the freeway traffic below, a release even if all the pent-up rage let out only seems to dissolve into the white noise.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Skate Kitchen

As “Skate Kitchen” opens, teenage Camille (Rachelle Vinberg) is skateboarding in her Long Island neighborhood, alone. As “Skate Kitchen” closes, Camille is skateboarding through the streets of New York City, but in the company of several new friends, their bond having been tested but reaffirmed. It’s an ancient arc, yet director Crystal Moselle lends vitality by blending fiction with docudrama (most of the teenagers here, including Vinberg, are playing versions of themselves), investing each decision Camille makes with the sensation of impulse rather than storytelling necessity. A scene outside some faceless, nameless corporate building where Camille talks a fed-up security guard into giving back her skateboard by saying she just wants to make peace and go home really feels, for a moment, as if she’s being earnest. Then, upon having her board returned, when she pulls a trick right in front of the incredulous guard anyway, it feels totally spontaneous, not some dramatic hurdle to cross but a real time throwing caution to the wind.

Through and through, “Skate Kitchen” is a hangout movie, where we spend most of our time in the company of Camille and her skateboarding clique as they shit-talk each other and skate, skate and shit-talk each other. That has typically been the province of males, like the recently reviewed “Summer of 84”, though there the characters were rarely given space to actually, you know, hang out whereas despite the frequent close confines of Moselle’s camera, she provides plenty of downtime, where often aimless chit-chat suddenly bursts into straightforward profundity, lending credibility to how Camille’s friendships can suddenly spiral on a dime. She enters this fold after a no more skateboarding ultimatum issued by her Mom (Elizabeth Rodriguez), with whom Camille butts heads throughout, a story genesis that could have been contrived if not for how Rodriguez deftly emotes a consistent panic born from knowing she’s losing control of her daughter as well as Camille’s moving monologue to Janay (Adrelia Lovelace).

The monologue is the heart of the film, explaining Camille’s plight, living with her father after her parents’ divorce because she could not stand her mother, only to move in with her mother when she realized her upbringing required a woman’s touch, alienating her father, forever emotionally stranded between two points. Indeed, even as she makes friends with her roving female gang, Camille is often off to the side and back of center in frames, staying out of group photos intended for Instagram until she is physically pulled in. She remains unsure as she works to open herself up, and so when she eventually finds herself drawn to Devon (Jaden Smith), the ex of Janay, she can’t help but be drawn into his orbit too. It evokes “Everybody Wants Some!!”, by Linklater, master of the hangout movie, in so much as she is sort of moving from one subculture to the next. If the guys accept her, the social dynamic nevertheless proves untenable, engendering an absolution with Camille’s original crew that feels wholly believable in how youth allows grudges to just be shaken right off.

If she and Devon can’t last, him taking pictures and filming videos of Camille skateboarding elicits the impression of him seeing through to her core, never more than a moment where they do something like an ersatz photo shoot in the shadow of The Empire State Building. Moselle shoots scene this looking up, as if from Devon’s vantage point, where it is just Camille, her skateboard and 102 stories of impeccable Art Deco. In the endless hustle of the city, which these characters frequently roam through, where the ground-level aesthetic lends a guerilla vibe, this moment of just them in the shadow of a massive tourist attraction, feels intimate, stolen, not unlike, you suddenly realize, every time they step on a skateboard.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Who Was the Golden Globes-iest Golden Globes Nominee?

Nominations for the 76th Golden Globes were announced last Thursday. If they were, as pundits noted, diverse, one year after Natalie Portman memorably, righteously threw a stink bomb right in the middle of an awards announcement when she called out the complete lack of women in the Best Director category, well, hey, look! There are no women nominated for Best Director! And this in a year when the Best Director of 2018 was Lucrecia Martel for “Zama” (not that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association has seen it). What’s more, nearly thirty years after “Driving Miss Daisy” won Best Picture at the Academy Awards while “Do the Right Thing” was snubbed from being nominated at all, we have a Best Director showdown between Spike Lee for “BlacKkKlansman” and Peter Farrelly for “Green Book”, or “Driving Miss Daisy 2.” The arc of justice bends...how does that go again?

But reading the tea leaves of Hollywood’s Office Christmas Party is difficult and sometimes dangerous. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association speaks for itself, no one else, even if they often seem to operate from some place of doing in advance what they think the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is going to do so as to appear part of the big kid’s club. No, the HFPA is mostly interested in mingling with stars. And that is why, once again, as we do every year, Cinema Romantico is here not to contextualize this set of nominees in any meaningful way but merely to examine them and then determine which person the HFPA most likely nominated to simply to schmooze. I am here, in other words, to determine which of The Golden Globes nominees is the Golden Globes-iest.

Cinema Romantico’s own Golden Globes-iest Golden Globes Nominee is a tie between Eventual Oscar Winner™ Lady Gaga and Nicole Kidman, her eminence, for Best Actress. This is the award show equivalent of Jupiter aligning with Mars. Cinema Romantico strongly suspects the only reason Keira Knightley was not nominated for “Colette” in the same category was to prevent this blog’s head from exploding. But this is not, from the HFPA perspective, the Golden Globes-iest set of Golden Globes nominees. That is because, as intimated, Lady Gaga is going to win the Oscar (we have this on authority from the cosmos) and the last time Nicole Kidman gave a bad performance was – [checking notes] – oh, right, never. The HFPA surely wants both Gaga and Kidman at the party, but they also didn’t have to bend their rules to make it happen.

On first glance, Christian Bale’s Best Actor nomination for playing Dick Cheney in “Vice” might appear like the very bending of rules to which we just referred since his nod comes in the Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy. But, while I’d like to think that’s just a drag on Cheney himself, it was probably a way to maneuver more room for nominations for Rami Malek and Lucas Hedges, which is the predominant purpose of having Both Dramatic and Musical or Comedy categories – that is, more invitations to go around. And anyway, I struggle to believe the HFPA wants to mingle with Bale. He strikes me as, shall we say, anti-mingle.

Robert Redford for “The Old Man and the Gun” feels a little Globes-y because he, too, is in the Musical or Comedy category, does not come across necessarily like an Oscar front-runner and his star power makes him a definite Would-Want-To-Mingle-With person. But, his presence also seems designed to elicit an appearance onstage along with Bob Woodward in the face of, well, everything, which, right or wrong, is antithetical to cocktail party ethos. No, there is another.

I have not seen “Dumplin’”. I might not see “Dumplin’”. It is the end of the year and I am busy, in life and at the movies and there are other movies I need/want to see first. And so I do not mean to cast aspersions against “Dumplin’”. But whatever the reason for Dolly Parton’s Best Song nomination for her “Girl in the Movies” for “Dumplin’”, it adheres to Southern Living® Magazine’s #1 rule for hosting a party. Rule #1 is: if Dolly is available, invite her. The HFPA did. She is Golden Globes-iest.

Friday, December 07, 2018

Friday's Old Fashioned: The Olympic Games Held at Chamonix in 1924 (1925)

Though Sochi, Russia hosted the 2014 Winter Olympics, it was less of a winter resort than a tropical one, perched on the sea with mild weather. As such, it lacked the winter sports infrastructure necessary for a winter sports hosting gig and had to erect one from scratch, less an ode to the ineffable glory of sport than to the Russia overseer himself, what’s-his-name, crystallizing the modern Olympics as a Potemkin sort of experience. ‘Twas not always so as the clearly titled “The Olympic Games Held at Chamonix in 1924”, the official Olympics film of the first Winter Games ever held, goes to show, opening with a shot of the small skiing village of Chamonix, France in the shadow of Mont Blanc, evoking the wondrously Pollyannaish phrasing of the late William Oscar Johnson, who once wrote how the Winter Olympics “always seemed to have taken place in a chilled, charmed kingdom somewhere over an Arctic rainbow.”

Director Jean de Rovera’s film emits a distinct fairytale vibe to a contemporary viewer’s eyes given how it presents more primitive versions of these various sports we have been accustomed to over the years through a silent-era aesthetic. Figure skaters, keeping their skates on the ice, forgoing all those lutzes and salchows we are accustomed to in the here and now, are dressed like weekenders on the pond; hockey is played on an outdoor rink with no padded walls; bobsledders are more like tobogganers rocking back and forth to generate forward momentum as they go sledding down a souped-up hill; ski jumpers don’t fly through the air so much as flail. Even the opening ceremonies are just a parade, and not into some mammoth stadium destined to be an empty blight on the community but along a snowy trail and past a small crowd. It’s quaint, even thrifty.

Indeed, the 1924 Winter Games lasted 12 days, less than two weeks, which feels like a blip compared to the most recent version in Pyeonchang which actually kicked off competition a couple days before the opening ceremonies, stretching the whole thing out to nearly three weeks. As such, even if the documentary’s scant 38 minute running time leaves you wishing for a little more footage, it also feels just right, not overstaying its welcome and wearing you out. “The Olympic Games Held at Chamonix in 1924” underscores this by not focusing on any precise narratives, just letting the footage speak for itself, reveling in the feats of strength, and reveling sometimes in slow motion that comes across as breathless as any modern footage, an evocative reminder that athletes of any era are a sight to behold.

“The Olympic Games Held at Chamonix in 1924” is markedly different from Bud Greenspan’s “16 Days of Glory” films, which he did for L.A. in 1984, Calgary in 1988, and Lillehammer in 1994, among others, which were lengthy presentations that explicitly and lengthily focused on individual athletes and their respective competitive battles told in self-serious tones. That’s not a bad thing. I get a kick out of the Olympics taking themselves incredibly seriously, at least on the playing field, a la the nigh comically operatic 1976 Winter Olympic film “White Rock.” But there is something to be said for the lickety split approach of de Rova too, who reminds us that the Olympics really are just games. The closest the movie gets to recounting any individual stories is simply placing an athlete, or a team, on the camera with an intertitle proclaiming who they are and what they have won. The expressions on the athletes faces often exude a kind of bemused incredulity, as if they can’t even fathom what all the fuss is about.

Thursday, December 06, 2018

Creed II

If “Creed” was in dialogue with its predecessors’ history, “Creed II” is content to merely mimic it, as Sylvester Stallone, who has spent a career rewriting the formula that made him famous, rewrites “Rocky IV” for a whole new generation, though eliminating the Cold War tension. No, the tension here is fathers and sons, and hubris, so much hubris that the boxers both do and do not seem to know what they are fighting for. Boxing, of course, is inherently individualistic and violent, which is why Marvelous Marvin Hagler became something like a rageful monk in the run-up to bouts, and why Max Baer stayed down against Joe Louis, and why Sonny Liston may well have been, in his own way, the most honest man in boxing. “Creed II” seems to understand this too, if only sparingly, acknowledging it without really dissecting it and then, irony-free, embracing it whole-heartedly.

Though “Creed II”pivots off the eponymous Adonis (Michael B. Jordan), son of the late Apollo, winning the heavyweight title, it begins not with Adonis but Viktor (Florian Munteanu) and Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren), the latter the man who killed Apollo in the ring in as “Rocky IV” opened and was defeated by Rocky Balboa in the ring as “Rocky IV” ended. Director Steven Caple Jr. keeps the camera close to his characters in this sequence, removing any sense of place, making it seem like they could be anywhere, rendering what’s to come as Personal. And the handheld shot of the camera semi-circling Ivan evokes a “Bourne” movie as much as “Rocky”, painting him as even harsher villain than the first, living vicariously through his son. And while Muntenau’s performance is mostly just glowering, the movie at least places him just enough situations to specify how he’s under this dad’s thumb and not necessarily pleased.

This notion of fathers and sons – er, children – is furthered elucidated in the pregnancy of Bianca (Tessa Thompson), which Apollo’s widow Mary Ann (Phylicia Rashad), who raised Adonis, deduces even before the couple, underscoring how she sees everything everyone else fails to, which we will address further momentarily. The pregnancy comes in tandem with Bianca and Adonis getting engaged and re-locating to Los Angeles, never mind his eventual fights, symptomatic of how the performances often get shoved aside for plot, though there are occasional moments when Thompson and Jordan’s chemistry is allowed to crackle as palpably as “Creed I”, like in the wake of discovering she is pregnant where together they emit excitement and fear in the same breaths.

Even with a baby girl on the way, Adonis agrees to fight Viktor when the latter, egged on by his father and a shady promoter (Russell Hornsby), goes on TV and taunts the Champ. After all, when another guy lays down a dare, as Brian Flanagan once presciently observed, a guy’s gotta take it. Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) knows this sad truth and bows out as Adonis’s trainer after failing to talk his protégé down. The bout goes badly, leaving Adonis with a concussion when he fails to heed his agreed-upon strategy, an embodiment of masculine pride gone rogue.

If “Creed II” leans far too heavily on voiceover from real life sportscasters, mimicking our sports talk white noise modern hellscape, perhaps, but violating the let images speak for themselves cinematic pact, the one successful moment in this vein is ESPN anchor Scott Van Pelt asking from the television screen “where’s Adonis Creed?” as a means to try and stoke a Creed/Drago rematch. As he poses this question, we see Adonis alone with his child, effectively answering the question, seeming to put little Amara first. And yet in a subsequent scene, Adonis takes his baby to the gym and then hits the speed bag, virtually nuzzling up to the latter, like one would an infant, linking the two, evoking the idea of his kid less as flesh and blood than a balm to heal his soul. Why the notion of what truly goes into rearing a child is mostly beside the point, which is why a movie that lingers in slow motion over boxing brutality forgoes an actual scene of childbirth (gross!), and why one of the movie’s most unintentionally stunning moments is Adonis responding to a query about Bianca post-pregnancy by incredulously remarking “She’s good”, as if up until that moment he had not even thought about how she was doing.

If these middle passages tease Adonis getting his groove back, he can only get all the way there by fighting and beating Viktor, a remedying of his masculine pride. It does not ring false, mind you, not  even if it’s just copying and pasting Rocky v Drago for a whole new generation. No, this is what boxing is, always and forever, evinced in a shot as awesome as it uproarious, where old Rocky and old Ivan stare each other down in the ring before Adonis and Viktor square off.

No one knows this truth better than Mary Ann. Early in the film, in one of the best scenes of the year, Adonis struggles to tell Mary Ann he has agreed to fight the young Drago. She already knows this, of course, not literally but emotionally, which Rashad makes clear simply by wielding her incomparable small, bemused smile. Though she gets a line sort of saying it, Rashad’s entire air in these moments suggests that Adonis is his father’s son. And though Adonis seeks her blessing, she tactfully refuses to give it. Why would she? What does it matter? Haven’t you heard? A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.