In the summer of 1994, I was 18, had just graduated high school, and was doing my best to have "The Best Summer Ever" while college loomed just over my shoulder. I was looking forward to that experience, but I had signed on to University in Alabama - a good 800 miles away from my home in Oklahoma - so I was a little nervous about leaving everything I knew for something new. At the same time, the entire world became obsessed with a football player turned actor and the lurid murder of his wife and her friend. Somehow, I seemed to have missed the whole thing as I have no memory of the news stories, or the white Bronco, or the circus that followed.
By the time I got to college I knew something of the murders and trial, but didn’t really care. O.J. was before my time sports-wise. I knew him as a TV personality and enjoyed him on The Naked Gun, but the tabloid nature of this criminal scene didn’t interest me in the least. Over the next year and a half, the entire country flipped out over the trial and gave it endless coverage, yet my memories of it remain vague. I recall one lady at work wearing a t-shirt with O.J.’s face on the front and the words “Not Guilty” emblazoned on it (when that verdict became reality she proudly wore it again). I also remember hearing a one-time mentor talking about how O.J. was so clearly guilty and how he would most likely get off and how this would forever change our criminal justice system as we’d all finally see how corrupt it is. A message that rings even truer today than it did then.
When the verdict was finally given, my English professor stopped our class dead, brought out the TV, and we all sat quietly and watched. Once pronounced not guilty, we went about our class as if the interruption had never happened. Then we collectively all seemed to move on.
I don’t mean to seem like I’m bragging over not really paying attention to the insanity that was the O.J. Simpson trial. Truth is, I didn’t own a TV for the first two years of college. Neither did my roommates. We weren’t against television or anything; we weren’t early adopters of the whole cord-cutting phenomenon. We just couldn’t afford one. But that did mean we weren’t hooking daily into a live feed of what’s happening with O.J. and so most of the hype just slid right over me.
All these years later we seem to have collectively renewed our interest in the phenomenon. Earlier this year, FX ran The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story as part of their new anthology series. It starred Cuba Gooding, Jr. as O.J. and a host of other stars in a dramatic retelling of the story. Just recently, ESPN released a five-part documentary miniseries which is now my Pick of the Week.
How I went from not paying any attention to the story when it actually occurred to picking the documentary about the story 20-plus years later is something I don’t have an answer for. That trial has become such a part of our cultural history that maybe I’m now interested to see what I missed. Or maybe two decades of an ever-increasing amount of celebrity gossip, celebrity Twitters, and celebrity scandal, I'm primed for a show about one of the biggest celebrity moments in memory. Likely though, it's that O.J.: Made in America has garnered a lot of attention and praise from my social media feeds and I’ve become a fan of true-crime documentaries of late.
Whatever the reason, I’m excited to check this thing out and binge on a steady stream of OJ.
Also out this week that looks interesting:
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice: I want very much for their to a be a DC Cinematic Universe on par with the Marvel one. Unfortunately, DC seems to have hitched its wagon to Zach Snyder who wants to make dark, brooding movies without any of the fun that penetrates the Marvel movies. I say this as someone who has not seen either of the Superman films from Snyder, but judging from the trailers and critical evaluations, I don’t have much reason to.
Miles Ahead: Don Cheadle stars in and wrote/directed this biopic of jazz legend Miles Davis. Biographies of artists are notoriously hard to do and the reviews of this one indicate Cheadle hasn’t proved the idea wrong, but I love me some Miles and Cheadle so I’m sure to watch it eventually.
Demolition: Jake Gyllenhaal plays a financial power player whose life is shattered when his wife is killed in a car crash. When his father-in-law tells him, he needs to take apart his life and examine it he takes it literally and starts breaking apart his appliances and his entire house. Naomi Watts plays the appliance customer-service rep with who he once again finds love. That sounds terrible but Jean Marc Vallée made both Dallas Buyers Club and Wild, so I’m willing to give it a shot.
A Touch of Zen (Criterion Collection): Visionary Chinese martial arts film gets the full Criterion treatment.
Orphan Black: Season Four: The wife and I both really like this show, but it only streams on Amazon which doesn’t work with my Apple TV. I can stream it to my TV via my computer but that’s slightly complicated and Netflix is so much easier which means we’ve just finished Season Two. I didn’t realize we were so behind so I’ve got to get to catching up with Clone Club.
The Magicians: Season One: Based upon the series of novels by Lev Grossman, this show is about a young man who discovers and attends a college of magic in New York. Kind of like a Harry Potter for adults, but the book has gotten really good reviews and the series looks interesting.
A Perfect Day: Benicio Del Toro and Tim Robbins star is this comedy/drama about a group of aid workers in a war zone.
Muriel, or the Time of Return (Criterion Collection): Alain Resnais' follow-up to Last Year at Marienbad is a reflection on the nature of time and memory. It stars Delphine Seyrig as an antique-shop owner whose past comes back to haunt her when a former lover reenters her life.
Night and Fog (Criterion Collection): Alain Resnais' short (it runs only 32 minutes) documentary about the Holocaust gets a Blu-ray upgrade.
Elvis and Nixon: In December of 1970, Elvis Presley showed up at the White House demanding to meet President Richard Nixon to be sworn in as an undercover narcotics agent. This meeting created the most requested photograph from the National Archives and now it's been made into a movie starring Michael Shannon and Kevin Spacey.