Movie Review: Beasts of No Nation

Beasts of No NationLike every law student, I’m extremely grateful for Netflix. In this case, not only for its heavy volume of binge-worthy television shows to help me waste time as the gloom and doom of semester finals near, but also because, without the streaming service, a movie like Cary Joji Fukunaga’s Beasts of No Nation (streaming now to Netflix, the first major film distributed solely in this manner) would have never seen the light of day.

This is not a movie that gets made by a major studio in today’s Hollywood, where, save for a few exceptions, there is a laser-like focus on big, loud, tentpole films that are marketed towards a specific audience — often teenage boys — and that can contribute to a franchise’s epic “world-building.”

Beasts had long been a passion project for Fukunaga (previously best known for directing every episode of the first season of HBO’s True Detective), yet he couldn’t get the film greenlit when he pitched it to major studios, which is when Netflix stepped in and picked up the script.

Beasts is indeed big in running time (137 minutes), but, unlike most major studio action films, it is both modestly-scaled and paced. Its depiction of violence is extremely brutal and unrelenting, and it avoids the heavy-handed sanctimony that often comes with studio releases dealing with this heavy type of subject matter.

Using a cast largely of young children and untrained actors, Beasts’ lead is Abraham Attah, who  plays Agu, the youngest member of a family living in a village in an unnamed war-torn African country. In the film’s first twenty minutes, his entire family is brutally executed by government authorities after they are mistaken for spies. Agu barely escapes, running away before he is captured by a rebel commandant who leads a crew of child soldiers.

Idris Elba (The Wire) plays the unnamed commandant of the crew. He takes Agu under his wing (“I am your future,” he tells him and the other child soldiers), and is soon instructing him to kill. Almost instantly, Agu is caught in the vortex of civil bloodshed that killed his entire family and now threatens to define his future.

Fukunaga’s directing craft is on full display: the violent scenes (there are many) are taut and shocking, and there are several shots that capture both the harrowing brutality of Agu’s situation with beautiful shots of the natural landscape of the film’s unnamed setting.

Attah is mesmerizing in his first role. Agu’s eyes show his terror and confusion, yet the forces of evil are too powerful and dangerous for him to openly display weakness. The main force of evil here is Elba. His masterful, charismatic, and altogether terrifying performance as the commandant should earn him an Oscar nomination in the Best Supporting Actor category. In order to qualify for Academy Award consideration, the movie – despite being instantly available on Netflix – had a short-lived theatrical release in 31 theaters in New York and Los Angeles, where it made just a paltry $87,000 at the box office. Netflix did recently say, however, that within the first several weeks that it was available to stream, more than three million people had watched it.
The movie is not without its flaws. It’s about 20 minutes too long and some secondary characters who we are introduced to are not given an adequate backstory. But this is still a welcome addition to the Netflix library. If Netflix represents the future of both original feature film making and distribution, this will certainly boost their credibility in both respects. They’ve made a courageous first step with Beasts of No Nation.

The 46th Annual William E. Leahy Moot Court Competition

IMG_1090by Nora Li

On October 27, the much-anticipated final round of the 46th William E. Leahy Moot Court Competition was staged in the Hart Auditorium. The case argued by the contestants was State of Georgetown v. Grayson.

In the case, Officer Sullivan, who suspected the respondent was an under-aged drinker and was not old enough to be out past curfew, stopped Grayson for an ID check. When Grayson submitted an ID that’s frayed at the edges, Officer Sullivan relied on her experiences and determined the ID must be fake. Accordingly, Officer Sullivan recited Grayson’s information to dispatch for verification and to check for outstanding warrants. The ID was held by Officer Sullivan until dispatch responded, which showed that Grayson had two outstanding arrest warrants from California. Subsequently, Sullivan conducted a search incident to arrest. Grayson informed Sullivan that he had a handgun on his person. Sullivan removed the gun and matching ammunition from Grayson’s person. Grayson was charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm and carrying a concealed weapon.

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Letters to the Editor: Smoking on Campus

Editor’s note:  During the Student Bar Association meeting on 11/3/2015, an open forum was held discussing and debating the concept of a smoking ban on campus.  A number of SBA delegates and members of the student body at large voiced their opinions.  In response, the Law Weekly has solicited opinion articles from community members that wish to publish their opinions. 

The following two letters are reproduced exactly as they were received by the Law Weekly.  They do not reflect the opinion or position of the Law Weekly.  If you would like to see your opinion on this or any other issue published in the Law Weekly, contact the Editor in Chief, David Nayer, at  
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A Chat with Leslie de Leon, Director of Business Services

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to correct the link to the survey that GULC students and staff may use to provide feedback.  If interested, take a look at the survey here. 

Although you may not know her, you certainly know her work: the new patio complete with herb walls and a fountain, new furniture in the Market Café, the implementation of several notable food delivery innovations, and perhaps a few e-mails regarding EMV transitions.  As Director of Business Services and Auxiliary Operations, Leslie de Leon is behind the scenes of most of the major changes that have taken place within dining services over the past year.  Clearly passionate about her work and serving the students at Georgetown Law, Leslie sat down with me a week ago to discuss these changes and the forces behind them.

GULC  has contracted out its dining services to Bon Appetit Management Company for the past 14 years.  De Leon notes that as Bon Appetit, based in Palo Alto, California,  services companies such as Amazon and Google (not to mention numerous other universities, museums, and corporations), “the values are there.”  She’s right– Bon Appetit’s food is made from scratch and sourced locally, while individual chefs are given the freedom to create and serve at their discretion.  This discretion, however, is tempered by the company’s long and exacting list of standards that must be met by the chosen ingredients; one such standard, for example, requires chefs to source at least 20% of their ingredients within 150 miles.  De Leon points out that while Bon Appetit’s commitment to sustainability and local sourcing is admirable, students’ exit surveys and wish lists over the past year indicated that changes were necessary, and she took action.

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Movie Review: Steve Jobs

steve jobs posterTwenty minutes into Danny Boyle’s “Steve Jobs,” (now playing at AMC Georgetown) Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen) is describing to his partner and the film’s titular character (Michael Fassbender) the massive audience just behind a stage’s curtain, eager to hear him introduce a new product, the 1984 Macintosh computer. As Wozniak struggles to describe the enthusiasm of the crowd, Jobs, pressed for time, barks at him that he “can’t really wait for him to come up with a metaphor.” That same sense of urgency carries every scene in “Steve Jobs,” powering it forward as Boyle’s camera frenetically moves backstage from room to room. Written with breathless dialogue by Aaron Sorkin, it hums for two hours nearly without a false note.

Brilliantly played with madcap energy and charisma by Michael Fassbender, Jobs is portrayed throughout the film as equal parts genius and bully. The same moment he’s valued at 40 million dollars and a finalist for Time Magazine Man of the Year, he’s vociferously denying that he’s birthed a daughter and refusing to give his ex-girlfriend money that will take her off of welfare. Several of the film’s supporting characters tell Jobs to his face how miserable and alienated he makes his fellow Apple employees, yet the fire in his eyes for absolute perfection glows stronger. Continue reading

New Professor Profile: Jarrod Reich

Professors find their way into legal education for a number of reasons. Some teach to supplement their research, others to continue their own education. New Georgetown Law Legal Research and Writing professor Jarrod Reich is here because he wants to mentor and make a difference in his student’s lives. This is what drives him.

Reich began his legal education at Brandeis University, where he minored in legal studies. He took several classes that introduced him to legal issues during his sophomore year of college, including one on civil liberties. The classes piqued an interest that he had previously not considered, the idea that law can be a tool to promote the public good and protect individuals.

Inspiration was also found in the namesake of his University. “I learned a lot about Justice Brandeis who, as a lawyer before he served on the bench, really served to introduce the idea of the law as protecting the people,” said Reich.

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Georgetown Law SBA passes mental health resolution

During a Student Bar Association  meeting on Tuesday night, the House of Delegates voted to pass a resolution promoting  mental health awareness.  Created in part to address glaring issues in a report from the Georgetown Law Mental Health Task Force, available here, the resolution advocates for a number of proposals relating to improving mental health awareness and care on Georgetown Law’s campus.

The resolution includes provisions advocating for a the hiring of an additional staff  psychologist, additional availability of psychiatric services, facilities improvements, and awareness and outreach improvements.  According to Section 2 delegate Jeff Gary, who was responsible for the resolution’s language, introduction and passage, there is already a job posting on Georgetown’s website for a new psychologist position.

On what motivated him to offer the resolution, Gary said  “I think mental health has to be a top priority of any institution that hopes to succeed. Georgetown Law has done a great job so far making sure that increasing needs are met, but we’re falling behind.”

“It’s difficult to talk about the impact of mental health in real terms, but as many as 250 students in every class will be personally affected by depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues while they’re here. It’s incredibly important to provide exemplary resources and support to those students, and to give the student body a chance to stand in solidarity with those who are facing personal crises,” Gary added

When asked what is coming next in terms of mental health activism, Gary said “I hope to keep attention focused on proactive ways to address fundamental challenges that face all of GULC. The worst thing to do is to continue to make people feel like they’re alone.”

At time of publication, 26 student organizations, 7 journals and 162 individual students had endorsed the bill.

The Georgetown Law Weekly is proud to be one of the student organizations endorsing this resolution and its intent.  Mental health issues are widespread in the legal field, including at Georgetown.  While law school and the legal field are innately stressful environments, basic issues such as massive wait times for services should not be a problem for anyone, let alone students at a top-tier law school.  As a legal community, we owe it to ourselves to be aware of the invisible battles that us and our colleagues and classmates fight.  This resolution is a step in the right direction, and hopefully leads to robust discussion and real action on the part of Georgetown Law students, faculty and administration.