Superb Owl

We’re not allowed to say it, we’re not allowed to write it – we’re probably not even allowed to think it. The National Football League has projected its power into every living room and man cave on Sunday’s for as long as I can remember. They own a day of the week, people.

It should come as no surprise that this 501(c)(3) juggernaut of a non-profit and it’s aggressive attitude towards their profit margin would find its way into how we’re even allowed to cover the game. For those who still don’t know what I’m talking about, the NFL has copyrighted the official name of the last game played in an NFL season, meaning fine media personalities such as myself must ask for permission to publish a word a sacred as … that word.

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Individual rights group criticizes Law Center student campaigning policy

FIRE letter

On Monday, Feb. 1, the day of the Iowa Caucuses, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) penned a letter to Georgetown Law Dean William Treanor regarding an alleged incident last semester where students were prevented from distributing materials advocating for the presidential campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders.  FIRE’s press release and the letter are available here.

The letter reads, “Specifically, administrators have prevented Georgetown Law students supporting the presidential campaign of Senator Bernie Sanders from engaging in political speech and activity on several occasions, on the grounds that the university’s tax-exempt status obligates it to ban campaign-related activities on campus and prevent any university resources from being used to support political campaign activity.”

As alleged by the letter, one student’s request to reserve a table outside the McDonough Hall Chapel to distribute Sanders campaign materials in September was denied.  In October, several students used a table outside of McDonough Hall to distribute similar materials, until they were asked to leave by personnel from the Office of Student Life.
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Barrister’s Ball 2016 venue revealed

1280px-nationals_park_181At the Equal Justice Foundation’s Wonderland Auction, the Student Bar Association revealed the location of Barrister’s Ball 2016.

The event will take place at Nationals Stadium, home of the Washington Nationals, on March 19, at 9pm.

The first two tickets were auctioned off at the EJF Auction.  The other 1,498 attendees can buy their tickets at a later date.

Image source:  Wikipedia under Creative Commons license CC BY SA 3.0

Ad-hoc committee established to perfect diversity resolution

During the Student Bar Association meeting on Feb. 2, the resolution intended to address diversity issues that was discussed last semester advanced further, although no vote was held.

SBA delegates Mike Mazzella and Amber Smith , sponsors of the resolution, presented a new version incorporating the feedback from the previous meeting and private discussions they had over break.  The major changes included the striking of language discussing the resolution’s possible free speech implications, which the authors felt needed clarification.

Another change was the reworking of the divisive proposal to add a diversity education requirement to graduation.  The proposal had drawn substantial criticism in the earlier meeting, with students concerned that additional graduation requirements would impose a further burden on already-constrained class selection opportunities.  Instead, Mazella and Smith suggested that the Professional Responsibility course, a two-credit class mandated by the American Bar Association, be expanded to three credit hours and feature diversity education.

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SBA set to hear resolution on campus diversity issues

The nationwide debate on diversity arrived on Georgetown Law’s campus during the Student Bar Association’s meeting on the evening of December 1st, 2015.  1L SBA delegates Amber Smith and Mike Mazzella, both representing Section 3, proposed a resolution aimed to address diversity issues on campus.  According to Smith and Mazzella’s comments, a new version of the resolution is set to be introduced or at least discussed at the first SBA meeting of this semester, on January 26th.

The resolution is part of a nationwide debate that has occurred throughout 2015, including high-profile protests at the University of Missouri, leading to the resignation of its president.  Other protests have occurred at Yale University, while Howard University worked with police to investigate an anonymous threat against its students posted online. Georgetown University itself has been no stranger to the recent debate, where students successfully campaigning to rename Mulledy Hall and McSherry Hall, on the main campus, to Freedom Hall and Remembrance Hall, respectively.  The buildings were originally named for individuals who had sold slaves in the 18th Century.   This recent diversity discussion was raised in a campus-wide email sent by Law Center Dean Bill Treanor.  The notice made students aware of racially hateful messages on anonymous social media app Yik Yak which were posted from the Georgetown Law campus.

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Movie Review: Spotlight

spotlight“I’m not crazy. They control everything,” says a character in Tom McCarthy’s brilliant new film, Spotlight (now playing at AMC and Landmark theaters regionally). “They,” in this case, refers to the Boston Catholic Church, and “everything” is no hyperbole: the Church has its hand in nearly every level of authority in the city. What unfolds over the film’s 128 minutes is a mighty effort by a newspaper to loosen that control.

Modeled after another investigative journalism classic in which a newspaper helps bring to light the dark secrets of a powerful institution, Spotlight could also have been titled All the Parish’s Men.

While Spotlight and 1976’s All The President’s Men are testaments to old-fashioned, boots-on-the-ground investigative reporting, they are also about the moral institutional decay that builds up over time through coverup, corruption, and complacency. In the 1970s, it was Richard Nixon’s White House. In 2001, when Spotlight takes place, it is the Catholic Church of the city of Boston, where more than half of The Boston Globe’s readers are Catholics.

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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.