I’m sure there will be a lot of articles about what a great visionary Stan Lee was. They will talk about his creativity, his flair for the dramatic, his ability to tell a story, his humor, and more. They will be accurate and not tell enough about this great man. This is not how I intend to approach this.
I never met Stan Lee, but he impacted my life in ways he would never know. I grew up a nerd in an era when being a nerd wasn’t cool. I always loved superheroes. I remember Saturday mornings with Batman, Captain Marvel, and the Super Friends. I had really lousy action figures that were all basically the same “Ken” body with different costumes. I also had this really cool Captain America and the Falcon black light poster.
My dad saved me from burning the house to the ground when I was 10. I had the Human Torch action figure. I ran fishing line from the top of the garage to the mailbox. He came home from work about the time I was climbing up to the roof with my Human Torch, matches, and a gas can. In retrospect, a different accelerant might have made it more spectacular. I’ll never know now. Dad made sure of that.
In spite of my obvious creativity and scholarly excellence, I was still a nerd. In 1976, I moved from a town of 150,000 people to a town of 1,000. I had long hair and platform shoes. I walked into a classroom of red plaid flannel shirts and “high and tight” haircuts. They started calling me names the first day and never stopped. I was picked on, beat up, and had my sexuality questioned every school day from then until I graduated high school in 1982. This is not an exaggeration. I had to find my escape somehow and Stan Lee provided one.
Every Thursday, I would walk to the drug store and order a Vanilla Coke. I still haven’t found sodas as good as that old fountain. Then I would walk over to the comic book rack and see which new entries came in that week. I read Spider-Man, Thor, Iron Man, Avengers, Shang Chi, Master of Kung Fu, Nick Fury and the Howling Commandos, anything that was there. But my favorite was Captain America. If Cap was in it, I read it. And therein, I found my escape. I fought my battles. I overcame my fears. In fact, Captain America is staring at me as I write this.
At the back of the comics was a letter from Stan Lee. Over the years, I felt like I got to know him. He was my cool uncle that I never met. He actually made me look up words in the comics, like “excelsior” (onward and upward to greater glory), because his corny dialogue between Captain America and the Red Skull contained words that I didn’t know. I know them now. I’m grateful for that.
Stan Lee started a club called F.O.O.M. That stands for Friends of Old Marvel. What else was I going to do but join? I got cards and stickers. You know, nerd stuff. At one point, I had a Howard the Duck for President pin. I had no idea how valuable that stuff would be later in life. I joined that club and got that stuff because Stan Lee said to. It was all just my connection to a world created by a better man than we deserved.
I never met Stan Lee. But he enriched my life. He taught me to think creatively. He taught me about nobility. He taught me to stand up for myself and fight. I still got mocked every day, but the day I had enough and fought back like my heroes did, was the day I stopped getting beat up. Stan Lee did that. He helped me understand that a nerd has a heroic place in our world. I’m grateful for him. Even though we never met, I will miss him. With his passing, I have but one thing left to say: Excelsior!
I have never done a movie review before, and it is unlikely I will again. And this is indeed a review of the movie; it is not a rehash of the events as such. If you are unfamiliar with the events themselves, the odds of you landing on this page are quite slim in the first place. Besides which, if you don’t know and you want to know, see the film. Bottom line up front: “Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer” is an outstanding movie and you will not waste your money if you go see it. Take all your friends with you.
I rarely go to cinemas (which is why I will likely never review another film). I just don’t like the places. The last time I was in a cinema before Sunday, 14 October 2018 was in 2012. I also asked my (adult) daughter (and mother of four + two) if she’d like to go and she accompanied me.
I walked into that well-appointed cell (a clue to my strong aversion to cinemas) expecting I would see a movie about abortion and an abortionist. I knew from following the production via emails (I was a (small) contributor to the Indiegogo account a few years ago to get this thing done) that they had made a film about Gosnell’s crimes and the trial resulting therefrom. But as I also know that most of the people involved in getting it made are pro-life, I thought there might be some heavy-handedness. Not at all. Instead, I saw a movie about the murder trial of a criminal madman who preyed on poor women in inner-city Philadelphia.
As I was looking for key dates to write about the story of the making of the movie, I discovered an outstanding review by Alexandra DeSanctis at National Review that delves into the details of the case as depicted in the film. Since those words have been committed to pixels better than I could ever commit them, I will simply recommend reading her review.
What struck me the most about the production itself was the acting. And of course the detailed effort to get the story right and the excellent production values (while working on a very tight budget) are also clear to the viewer. This is a brilliant film by any standard one wishes to use to judge it. It depicts real events as they happened without apparent bias. It is well acted and extremely compelling. As Ms. DeSanctis writes, one could walk in pro-choice and walk out still pro-choice. This movie does not proselytize for the pro-life cause. It doesn’t have a ‘lean,’ really. It details a conspiracy involving government, media, and a murderer who was allowed to carry on killing for many years with the complicity of local officials looking the other way. No one wants to talk about abortion.
All of that is available using a search engine of your choice. What you will not experience unless you see the movie (have I mentioned you should GO SEE IT NOW?) is the gritty realism as different characters experience various aspects of Gosnell’s operation. I won’t try to detail each individual actor’s performance (at least not much, as I am not a professional judge of actors’ performances). There is not much need for that, really. There are no weak links.
Nick Searcy (who also directed) plays Gosnell’s defense attorney, Mike Cohan, with aplomb. Searcy is a pro-life person if I recall correctly, and his turn as the lawyer defending this man I know he despises (or at least he has said he does) is just a brilliant piece of work.
Also very good are Dean Cain and Alonzo Rachel as the Philadelphia Police Department detectives assigned to the case, which began as an investigation into illegal drug trafficking via Gosnell’s employees with the doctor writing the illicit prescriptions. Earl Billings as Gosnell is wonderful (if I may use that word in such a circumstance). Cyrina Fiallo as the blogger who took the infamous photo of the empty benches reserved for the press did a fantastic job.
The FBI and DEA guys who insert themselves at the beginning because of the drug case are stereotypical Feds who come in and act like they own the place, but that’s what happens (and what happened). The actors played their asshole roles superbly.
I reserve this last for a person I had never heard of: Sarah Jane Morris. She plays ADA Lexy McGuire and her performance is a tour de force. I am not an emotional man and empathy is not my strong suit. This lady had me feeling what her character was feeling. I am no actor, but that seems to me to be the primary objective I would have if I were. I was moved.
I have looked up Ms. Morris and am now aware she isn’t an unknown (apart from to me, obviously). But I don’t need references; she convinced me to commit her name to memory so I’ll notice the next time she is cast in a movie.
I won’t mention the rest of the cast, but there are no weak spots.
In the end, as one who followed this case from the first reporting to the convictions (and then the making of the film and the trials and travails of getting it in cinemas), I am most sorry for all of those people Gosnell preyed upon. And I am glad he will never see the sun again without iron bars obstructing his view.
What follows is the seed that made me decide I needed to add to the accolades being righteously heaped upon this magnificent film.
As depicted in the movie, the media studiously ignored this case. Until Mullaney (the blogger depicted by Fiallo) sent that photo of the empty seats reserved for the press, literally one or two reporters (bloggers?) showed up. Once her photo made USA Today, the courtroom was filled with scribes. This was a shameful time in the shameful history of our ‘unbiased’ media, but they’ve learned the lesson of Gosnell. Wait. No they haven’t. As of today in an email from Phelim and Ann and Magdalena (the driving forces behind the project), a total of six major publications have reviewed ‘Gosnell’. This compared to a couple hundred for “First Man,” a fantasy film that removes America from the first moon landing in 1969. So the media STILL will not cover this egregious serial killer, even after he was convicted on hundreds of felonies (including three counts of murder and one of manslaughter) and sentenced to life in prison. That is to our nation’s eternal shame. For you see, Kermit Gosnell was not an abortionist. He is a serial killer.
I guess no one in the media talks about serial killers.
I mean this sincerely and with absolutely zero snark or political fervor: Go see this movie. For the children. For America.
P.S. I don't know how to resize the video. Please click to open in youtube.
Just a gaggle of people from all over who have similar interests and loud opinions mixed with a dose of humor. We met on Twitter.