05-28-2017  5:24 am      •     
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NEWS BRIEFS

Portland Art Museum Hosts Upstanders Festival May 27

Event includes spoken word, workshops and poster making in support of social justice ...

North Portland Library Announces June Computer Classes

Upcoming courses include Introduction to Spreadsheets, What is the Cloud? and Learn Programming with Games ...

Merkley to Hold Town Hall in Clackamas County

Sen. Jeff Merkley to hold town hall in Clackamas County, May 30 ...

NAACP Monthly Meeting Notice, May 27, Portland

NAACP Portland invites the community to its monthly general membership meeting ...

Photos: Fundraiser for Sunshine Division's Assistance Programs

Under the Stars fundraiser took place on May 18 at the Melody Grand Ballroom ...

U.S. & WORLD NEWS

OPINION

Ensuring the Promise of the Every Student Succeeds Act

The preservation of Thurgood Marshall's legacy is dependent upon our dedication to our children ...

CFPB Sues Ocwen Financial over Unfair Mortgage Practices

What many homeowners soon discover is that faithfully paying a monthly mortgage is in some cases, just not enough ...

B-CU Grads Protest Betsy “DeVoid” in Epic Fashion

Julianne Malveaux says that Betsy “DeVoid,” is no Mary McLeod Bethune ...

NAACP on Supreme Court's Decline to Review NC Voter ID Law

NAACP President and CEO Cornell William Brooks made the following remarks ...

AFRICAN AMERICANS IN THE NEWS

ENTERTAINMENT

In 2002, Will Smith landed his first Academy Award nomination for Ali, a riveting biopic about Muhammad Ali directed by Michael Mann. Although a cultural icon in his own right, Smith managed to disappear into the role in the process of delivering a brilliant performance as "The Greatest" boxer of all time.

Despite his being able to "Float like a butterfly and sting like a bee!" the sport eventually exacted a devastating toll on the champ. For Ali would become afflicted with a host of neurological disorders as a consequence of taking so many hits to the head.

While fans call it being "punch drunk," the clinical term for the condition is Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). What's ironic is that Will Smith is on the verge of landing another Oscar nomination for Concussion, a picture in which he plays Dr. Bennet Omalu, the Nigeria-born physician whose discovered the link between football and brain damage while working as a forensic pathologist in Pennsylvania.

He first recognized something was amiss while performing an autopsy on the Pittsburgh Steelers' former center Mike Webster (David Morse), who died at 50 from a combination of amnesia, depression and dementia. Dr. Omalu was shocked to observe that the Hall of Famer had the brain of a very old man, so he decided to posthumously examine those of other National Football League vets who also passed away prematurely.

Lo and behold, the research revealed they all had suffered from CTE, ostensibly as a result of the pounding their skulls had taken on the field. Unfortunately, when Omalu subsequently attempted to go public with the his findings, he was threatened and discredited by the army of lawyers and quacks hired by Commissioner Roger Goodell (Luke Wilson) to protect the NFL's image.

Thus unfolds Concussion, a David vs. Goliath saga reminiscent of The Insider (1999), the similarly-themed expose recounting the real-life ordeal of the intrepid whistleblower who took on the Tobacco Industry when it was still hell bent on denying any link between smoking and cancer. An interesting factoid which bears mentioning is that The Insider was directed by the aforementioned Michael Mann.

Concussion, however, was directed by Peter Landesman (Parkland). He adapted it to the screen with the help of investigative journalist Jeanne Marie Laksas from "Game Brain," an article she published about the cover-up in the October 2009 issue of GQ magazine.

Landesman surrounded Smith with a talented cast, starting with the gifted Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Omalu's feisty wife Prema. The dramatis personae also includes Oscar-nominees Alec Baldwin (for The Cooler) and Albert Brooks (for Broadcast News), as well as Hill Harper, Richard T. Jones, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje and Eddie Marsan.

But make no mistake, Concussion is a marvelous Will Smith vehicle, one that he'll undoubtedly get to drive for the duration of awards season, possibility all the way to the Oscars on Feb. 28.

★★★★ Excellent
Rated PG-13 for profanity, mature themes and disturbing images
Running time: 123 minutes
Distributor: Sony Pictures

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