1. Robin Williams sees Amanda Plummer across a crowded train station and the entire scene becomes a hallucinatory ballroom dance. (The Fisher King)
  2. Charlie Chaplin attaches dinner rolls to the ends of two forks and then makes them dance. (The Gold Rush)
  3. Our heroes draw their guns and head out into the ambush. The final shot of the film is a freeze-frame on their approach, and a viewer is uncertain whether or not they live or die. (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid)
  4. Lloyd Dobbler holds a boombox over his head and blares “In Your Eyes” as he stands in the driveway, hoping to get the attention of the love of his life. (Say Anything)
  5. Indiana Jones pulls a gun and shoots his adversary rather than waste time with a drawn-out battle by sword. (Raiders of the Lost Ark)

That was my list. My list of “Top 5 Single Moments in Any Movie Ever.” All iconic. All easily recognizable. All perfect representations of why I love those particular films in the first place. A lot of thought went into that list. It wasn’t an easy list to create.

But . . . on the afternoon of Saturday, April 27, 2019, I discovered another “moment”. And now I have to decide which of the five moments I just mentioned no longer holds a place on the list. Because this newly-discovered moment trumps everything else that I’ve already added. This moment, I gotta tell you, is a moment that I have been waiting to see for pretty much my entire life.

This is the point where I feel obligated to provide two warnings: a) I will be, from this sentence forward, discussing and spoiling plot points from The Avengers: Endgame. If you have not seen the movie yet, you may want to STOP READING NOW! b) I’m about to come across as the geekiest geeky geek that ever did geeky geek. I would apologize for that if there was anything that I could possibly do to help it. But my statement above– you know, the one about “waiting to see this moment for pretty much my entire life”?– is not hyperbolic in any way. It is, quite literally, the truth.

Avengers: Endgame Poster

I have been an avid reader and collector of comic books for almost my entire life. It started right around kindergarten with The Fantastic Four, a comic that was also read and enjoyed by my grandfather, a man I greatly admired. He had stacks of these comic books in a cardboard box next to a chair on a back porch that no one ever seemed to use. Then, it was The Amazing Spider-Man, a comic book mainstream enough that it was available at local libraries. And then . . . I was introduced to Captain America. A dear friend of mine had an obsession with Captain America comics because his father, who had served in the military, and his grandfather, who had seen combat in the Korean War, were both fans of the character. As opposed to my grandfather, who had a stack of about fifty assorted issues of Fantastic Four, my friend’s father and grandfather were collectors. They had almost every issue. They had been collecting them for years. For decades, even. They were in ratty condition from years of mishandling and abuse, but they had them. I must have read every single issue fifty times.

Jump ahead to middle school. I’m purchasing my own comics with my own allowance, so funds are tight. I can only afford to regularly buy maybe two titles a month. I get Fantastic Four and Daredevil. Another friend gets Amazing Spider-Man and The Punisher. A third friend gets The Avengers and X-Men. A fourth gets Captain America and The Incredible Hulk. You get the idea. We shared the comics amongst the group, I allowed them to read my comics in exchange for their comics, etcetera etcetera. We were able to keep up on story elements and new character introductions without having to purchase the comics ourselves. To wit: I wasn’t buying Captain America any longer, but I was still obsessed and still following the character religiously.

Jump ahead to adulthood. I still collect comics. Correction: I collect one comic. But technology being what it is, with advancements being what they are, I can still read all of the comics I used to read. The only difference is that I do it digitally on my laptop or smartphone. I currently have a digital collection that contains more comics than I can ever read in my lifetime. Don’t judge me.

At any rate . . . the point, right? I’m getting to it. All of this seemingly-endless backstory just to make clear that I love Captain America. And have since I was wee. It is not too far of a stretch to say that I learned to read in the first place with Captain America comics. It is a fiction character for which I harbor a love that is very, very real.

The afternoon of Saturday, April 27, 2019, I head to the theater to see Endgame. I post something on Facebook about how the movie starts in ten minutes. I make some snarky remark about needing a ride home if they kill Captain America because I will be too inconsolable to drive. I have my ginger ale, my popcorn. The trailers are beginning. A few minutes in, it occurs to me that I may have not turned off the ringer on my phone. I double check to make sure and see that I  have just received a text from Karen that says “message me when you get out!” Knowing that she had seen the movie the night before, I immediately know, deep in my heart, that Steve Rogers is going to die in this movie. Karen just wants to be the first say “I’m sorry for your loss”, knowing what this character means to me. Right?


As it turns out, Captain America does not die in this movie.

As opposed to Black Widow, who dies after a fight with Hawkeye over which one gets the right to sacrifice themselves. Or Tony Stark, who was the beginning of this franchise and has become its emotional core. But those two deaths didn’t make me cry. I was already crying by the time Tony Stark bites the dust, and I had been for about a half hour.

What made me start crying? Two words. Uttered by Captain America. “Avengers . . . assemble!” I started bawling. And that wasn’t even the part I had waited my whole life to see. That part was a few minutes earlier.

Thor is battling Thanos. Thor reaches out for Mjolnir, his trusted hammer. Mjolnir begins to stir and rise. Mjolnir sails across the screen . . . over Thor’s head . . . and lands IN CAPTAIN AMERICA’S HAND! I’ll repeat that: CAPTAIN AMERICA WIELDS THE HAMMER OF THOR! I don’t know what happens next because I lost my god damn mind. I did hear Thor shout: “I knew it!” I thought to myself: “I knew it, too!” And then I was just a melted puddle of nerdy goo, fourteen years old again, and I pretty much stayed that way until the end of the movie.

Captain America has wielded the hammer many times in the comic throughout the years. The very notion that it was a possibility was teased in The Avengers: Age of Ultron. In that movie, the entire team are getting their drink on at a party. Thor’s hammer, or, rather, the attempt to lift it, becomes a party game of sorts. Captain America moves it, but only slightly. He doesn’t lift it. Just sort of nudges it back and forth. Thor reacts to this. Captain America lets go. It’s never mentioned again until Endgame. You know, in that scene where CAPTAIN AMERICA WIELDS THE HAMMER.

And he doesn’t just wield the hammer, either. He goes into battle with it. He twirls it like we’ve seen Thor do. He bangs it against his vibranium shield and creates lightning. He proves that he is worthy. He is the center of the single greatest moment in any movie that I have ever seen. A moment that, as we have already established, I have waited my entire life to see.

So . . . sorry. One of the five moments on the list I already made has to go.

I maybe ought to take a moment here to apologize to Karen. She never knew that I did it, but I really did assume that Steve Rogers was about to become a great super soldier in the sky because of her five-minutes-into-the-movie text. I have since discovered that what really happened in this situation is that Karen knows my own love for Captain America and had seen the movie the night before. She knew what moment was going to stick with me. She knew– had foretold the night before, in fact– that I was going to come completely and irrevocably fanboy unhinged. She was probably, truth told, grateful that I was seeing the movie on the second day so that she wouldn’t have to keep it secret for very long.

Captain America does not die in Endgame. He’s never been more alive.

Related image



“Either they don’t know, don’t show, or don’t care about what’s going on in the hood”


This month, we reflect on another artist gone too soon. Stories left untold, unseen, unheard, unimagined. Unfelt. He was only 51 years old, so imagine how much Art an artist the caliber of John Singleton had still to contribute. It hurts to think of what he still had to share with us. On this day, we can at least reflect on the work he has left behind.

In 1991, Singleton’s drama Boyz n the Hood was introduced to America in his own voice, from his own experiences in South Central LA. He was a kid when he shared the idea for the screenplay on his USC film-writing program application, was arguably still a kid when he wrote and directed it. At the age of only 23, he saw his own story come to life on the screen to both critical and audience acclaim.

It’s no exaggeration that black filmmakers still weren’t getting their due (or opportunities) in the early 90s when Boyz n the Hood was released. Spike Lee’s impactful Do the Right Thing had only been released a few years earlier, in 1989, to critical acclaim. When John Singleton was nominated for an Oscar for Best Director for his work on Boyz n the Hood, he was the first African American to ever be nominated for the award. In 63 years of Best Director nominations, he was the first (and the youngest).

63 years.

What John Singleton did was remarkable. Boyz n the Hood was his story to tell, and one to which many audiences could not relate. But instead of maintaining that separation, he connected. Through connection, he provided us with the gift of empathy, of understanding. His film’s successes motivated studios to think about diversity, inspired a generation of filmmakers, and promoted changes that are really only being fully realized now. Change has been so slow in coming that Singleton himself did not even get to fully take advantage of his well-earned success. Still, the legacy of work he left us, from Boyz n the Hood to Poetic Justice to Rosewood and many others, is a legacy worthy of celebration and respect.

In memory of John Singleton, we shared our personal thoughts on Boyz n the Hood below. Please join us in remembering.

Boyz n the Hood, 1991

In memory of John Singleton, 1968-2019

Aaron: I’ll be honest and shamefully admit that I did not see this movie when it first came out because it just didn’t appear to be anything that I could relate to in any way whatsoever. But, in college, I took a course called “Character-Centered Screenplays” and this was one of the first films they showed us. I was pretty well blown away by this movie, and was sort of upset at myself for being so close-minded to different experiences before that I had never given this film a proper chance. This movie really was something special. Over the Christmas break, I went to visit my sister and her boyfriend (who is African-American) and watched this film for the second time as they had not seen it yet (Incidentally, we also watched Do the Right Thing, another gem I discovered in that class). The conversation that ensued afterwards with my sister and my (now) brother-in-law was one of the first real conversations about race I had ever had. The shared experience of this movie– a film he could sympathize with, while I could only empathize– opened a door for me and him to talk openly about the differences in our race. He answered questions for me that I had not quite ever had the nerve to ask. He explained, patiently and compassionately, the differences between active and passive racism, and gave me a better understanding of how often I was an accidental perpetrator of the latter. He and I became very close that evening, understood each other a lot better. I’m not sure we could have had that as early in their relationship as we did without Boyz n the Hood.

Karen: I didn’t see the movie until VHS, probably in 1992. I remember its impact on me so much that the memory of watching it is fused to exact details of my surroundings: my friend’s living room carpet texture and color, bay window, angle of light, TV hutch, hallway leading out of the room. I only knew South Central LA from rap, and even then, I didn’t really know. How could I? I grew up in a sheltered childhood in a Mayberry-esque small town in Illinois. There’s no way I could ever relate. But therein lies the beauty of a film like Boyz n the Hood. Films which masterfully connect their audience to the subject matter allow for some level of understanding. And that is what I felt. On some level, understanding. Empathy. Anger. Sadness. Changed in some small way, and I carry that with me.

Greg: This one hit me, and hit me hard. Seeing it, I mean. We’ll get to the creator’s passing in a minute. As y’all know, I (we) grew up in a town that was closed off to what went on in the world on the other side of those corn fields. In fact, there wasn’t much world to speak of outside our school, our coffee shop, our Main Street, our boulevard, our football games, our Rock’n’Roll McDonald’s, our local grocery store, our two VHS video stores, our hardware store, our radio station, our soybean processing plant, our parents, our chores, homework, and our ignorance. When I saw this movie, I thought to myself, “No way. This isn’t true.” Then I started paying more attention to the news in my adolescence to realize that yes, in fact, it was. “Home is where everyone feels safest,” I believed. Until I realized how lucky I was. I never fully realized how closed my eyes were to “the rest of the world” until I really started getting into movies during my adolescence, and realizing that many of them were trying to prove a point or convey an important message. I’m not now, nor was I then, ever naive enough to believe that what I saw in the movies and on TV is (was) true, but I feel like I’ve definitely been curious enough to try and learn more about what I see and hear in the media and on TV and on the big screen to do my own homework and figure out the syntax between the lines of what I am and have always been fed when I flip that knob on the box to ON. Boyz n the Hood hit me hard, fast, and forever. In the early 90’s, I didn’t have to look too far in the news to decide that this movie was not an exaggeration or a dramatization as much as it was a depiction of a day in the life of people far way from the safety of the cornfields, grocery stores, schools, and brick roads of Central Illinois. The film made me angry and sad at once. But, more importantly, it alerted me to a world, a world full of problems, that existed outside the sanctity of my own little village. And when John passed the other day, I was instantly transported to a time when my ignorance (innocence) was in full force, only to replaced by a much more important, and mature, awareness. Movies like Singleton’s are the ones I cherish the most. Not for their bleak morbidity. But for their eye-popping honesty and sledgehammer-to-the-face wake up call they offer audiences willing to step outside the confines of their own safe havens.