30 for 30: Judging Richard Jewell

DATELINE: Dumb Media

  Heroic Richard Jewell

As we await the viewing of Clint Eastwood’s new movie, Richard Jewell,we took in a short documentary from ESPN that was produced in 2014 for their award-winning series30 for 30. It had the ancillary attraction of being a story about the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.

Richard Jewell was a heavy-set Southern man in his 30s who wanted to be a police officer, posed with weapons, lived alone in a rustic cabin when not living with his mother. He was one-step away from being a mall cop: he hired on as part-time security at the Olympics. He spotted a suspicious backpack, cleared the area before it went off, saving hundreds of lives.

Then, one suspicious former employer called the FBI and said he was an egotistical nobody with hero wishes. Suddenly a modest, unattractive man became the epitome of a lone Bubba Bomber. The media hounded him, made him run gauntlets, peppered him with questions about his fake heroism.

Jay Leno and Tom Brokaw joined the chorus of FBI and Atlanta Journal Constitution media hacks. They never apologized when 88 days later the FBI cleared him. Several years after that another man, the notorious Eric Rudolph, pled guilty to the bombing and went to prison for life.

Jewell was there to see justice done, though it was elusive for him. The media sneered at him. And they still do.

Few apologies and retractions followed Richard. Centennial Park in Atlanta never acknowledged his heroic action. The slime-ball newspaper ACJ still attacks Jewell through the new Eastwood movie.

Jewell enjoyed Clint’s movies—and his mother is grateful for the new film. Alas, Jewell himself died in 2007, likely driven to death by stress and pain—despite being cleared.

The ESPN documentary at 22 minutes is a succinct overview of justice denied, justice perverted, and justice delayed.

Not So Happy Prince

DATELINE: Last Days of Oscar Wilde

Bosie & Oscar Morgan & Everett as Bosie & Oscar.

A movie about the last years of Oscar Wilde will hardly be a witty or charming piece of fluff. It is the stuff of tragedy, and director and star Rupert Everett does a masterful job presenting the sad, horrific last days of the most glorious wit of the 19th century.

The Happy Prince, of the film’s title, is a children’s tale that Wilde recounts several times for his own boys and for waifs he encounters in Paris.

Wilde is brutalized by publicity and a public that turns on him, bashing him as he descends into poverty and pathos.

Wilde’s sudden decline after two years at hard labor for his crime of love without a name is appalling to behold. At first, he is a beaten man of 45, but events turn him into a bloated, aging, suffering man with some kind of encephalitis. Loyal friends try to collect donations to keep him going, and he seems to promise to write again: but has lost his muse and impetus.

If there is a monster here, it is always Bosie, Alfred Lord Douglas, so cruel and so beautiful who abandons Oscar to squalor after a last fling in Capri. In a most unsympathetic role, Colin Morgan seems apt as the capricious flirt. Emily Watson is the beleaguered Constance, Wilde’s wife, who shuts him off ultimately and unwillingly without a farthing.

Edwin Thomas, as Robbie Ross, and Colin Firth, as Reggie Turner, are loyal to the end, as Wilde goes out on his terms of throwing caution and talent to the wind.

Tragic and unhappy though this biopic is, Everett is deft in his portrayal and his direction, making this a tour-de-force of conviction as well as acting. As a cautionary tale, the lessons are hard to face, but brilliantly conceived and played out.