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Glory is based on the true story of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, the first formal US Army unit made up of black soldiers. And Hollywood is racist, so Matthew Broderick plays the main character. Edward Zwick (The Last Samurai) directs and Morgan Freeman, Denzel Washington, and Cary Elwes costar in one of the better movies set during the US Civil War.

Captain Robert Gould Shaw (Ferris Bueller) is the son of abolitionists and is currently fighting in the Civil War for the Union Army. He gets injured in a battle and goes home to Boston where he gets promoted to Colonel and assumes control over the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. He recruits his friend Cabot Forbes (Cary Elwes) to be his second-in-command. He’s also white. The first black guy who joins them is Thomas (Andre Braugher), a childhood friend of Cabot and Shaw’s.

A bunch of men join the unit for a chance to fight, to prove themselves both honorable and equal. Denzel Washington plays Trip, an escaped slave with a chip on his shoulder for understandable reasons. Jihmi Kennedy plays Jupiter Sharts, a free black man who seems naïve and innocent compared to Trip. Morgan Freeman plays Rawlins, who plays the wise old mentor figure who can still kick some ass.

Shaw’s tasked with getting the 54th into fighting shape, something that’s not easy to do. The men train and bond and establish their characters and relationships. They have to fight for boots, rifles, and uniforms. The men work hard and improve, but it becomes clear that they aren’t likely to see any action on account of all the racism.

Shaw blackmails his commanding officers and gets his men to the front lines. They win a small skirmish in South Carolina. And Shaw volunteers the 54th to lead a suicide assault on Fort Wagner. Not to ruin anything, but they pretty much all die. It was a suicide assault after all.

Robert Shaw was a real guy. He really did command the 54th infantry. The movie has to include him. But Shaw is a shitty main character. He is kind of racist but not really. He’s kind of a coward but not really. He just kind of stands around and occasionally does something to advance the plot, but he seems to just be plodding along. All of the good scenes are about Trip, Rawlins, Thomas, and Jupiter. They are the heart of the movie. A movie about a black army unit should focus on the black army unit.

Morgan Freeman is always good, and this movie is no exception. But Denzel Washington steals the show. Trip is a great character. The scene where he gets whipped for desertion is hard to watch, but you can’t turn away. You feel his pain.

The battle scenes are explosive, violent, bloody, and realistic. Edward Zwick knows how to balance out riveting action sequences with quieter and more reflective scenes. This is a great movie, it’s a classic. You watch it and you want to learn more about the 54th. Those brave soldiers fought with courage and honor and deserve to be remembered. They should be the focus of the film, not their white leader.

Critically Rated at 14/17

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The Olympic Trials

The 2012 Olympic Games are quickly approaching and the Olympic Trials have started. Athletes from all around the world are competing amongst each other for the chance to represent their country. Every athlete dreams of winning a gold medal, but before you get the chance to compete you have to qualify. Years and years of training and personal sacrifices depend on how well you perform… all the hardships you endured could be worth it, or you could have wasted your entire life.

I’m from America, so naturally I’ve been watching the U.S. Olympic Trials. I’ve only seen a handful of events like women’s field hockey, diving, and gymnastics. It’s not a lot of events, but it’s enough to start to catch Olympic fever. You start to hear the stories of the athletes and what they’ve gone through, both physically and mentally, to reach the point where they are now. I love when they show the parents and family members of athletes, seeing them laugh and cry with each success and setback. The drama is as real as it gets. You give up your life and your youth for the chance to compete and the slightest mistake can ruin your career.

Seeing an athlete overcome the fatigue and pressure and rise to the occasion and achieve their dream is inspirational. And it makes you feel lazy for sitting on the couch and watching a kid accomplish something that you will never experience. But good for him. I’m not bitter.

Watching a champion doing what he does is cool and all, but nothing is an inspiring as an athlete who falls down and gets right back up. It’s inspiring. It’s why people compete. You don’t have to get a medal to be a winner. The whole point of the Olympics is to represent your country and wear your colors with dignity, pride, and honor. If Cool Runnings taught us anything, it’s that losers can be heroes.

Making the Olympic team is like buying a lottery ticket. You can’t win the jackpot unless you buy a ticket and you can’t win the gold if you don’t qualify. And just because you qualify doesn’t mean you will win. I buy a lot of lottery tickets and I never won the jackpot. And a lot of people have qualified for the Olympics and never won a medal. I don’t know why I’m comparing a game of random luck to an event that relies on skill that occurs every four years, but I am. And you are reading it, so what does that say about you?

The Summer Games are way better than the Winter Games. No offense to all you bobsled fans.

Critically Rated at 14/17

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