Abacus: Small Enough to Jail

I saw the chef Thomas Boemer on the CBS This Morning show.  Some of his signature dishes were Butter ribs, Mac ‘n’ cheese, Donuts, Green beans, and Buttermilk biscuits.  The musical guests were Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie.  I thought that Christine McVie didn’t want to perform live a few years back.  I looked up the American Top 40 playlist for the weekend.  The Top 10 songs on June 5, 1976 were “Fool to Cry,” “Shop Around,” “Sara Smile,” “Welcome Back,” “Shannon,” “Happy Days,” “Misty Blue,” “Get Up and Boogie (That’s Right),” “Silly Love Songs,” and “Love Hangover.”  I watched the Goober and the Ghost Chasers episode “Brush Up Your Shakespeare.”  I did a bit of work before logging on to Ticketmaster and buying my ticket to Game 5 of the Warriors and Cavaliers.  After lunch and a nap, I walked over to the theatre that was showing “Abacus: Small Enough to Jail.”  It was about the family running the Abacus Federal Savings Bank and their legal struggles against charges of fraud.  It starts off with the Sung family watching “It’s a Wonderful Life.”  They discover one bad employee and fire him, but in the investigation afterwards the bank becomes the target.  The question is why these New York prosecutors should target this small community bank when the big banks had done massive damage to the economy.  Cyrus Vance, Jr. is a villain in this story.  The daughters emerge as intelligent and brave, and we feel that we come to know this family as we seem them deal with the enormous stress of this situation.  The judge instructs the jury to consider this case alone and put place it alongside the big banks and make some kind of an example to the public.  However, that is what one of the jurors seems to do.  It goes to show that some people have no respect.  They are so self-centered.  The tension builds as the verdict approaches.  It is a bit frightening to think of how lives can be ruined by people who think they are carrying out justice.  There is a little bit of Alfred Hitchcock in the situation.  Afterward, the director Steve James appeared for a Q&A.  He said that he didn’t want to be coy in showing in the film that his sympathies were with the Sung family.  He mentioned some of the struggles of the filmmaking, like being denied access to the courtroom.  The defense attorneys didn’t want to appear, even though lawyers usually love publicity.  James had to use courtroom drawings instead of footage.  One person showed a lack of knowledge about law, as he asked why the prosecution didn’t appeal the case.  One question was about the uncertainty of the outcome of the trial.  Would the message of the film have been different with a different outcome?  James did say that under different circumstances, he could have ended the production.  Generally, he likes the people who are the subjects of his documentaries, even if they might show flaws of character.  The Chinese Americans were targeted because of their political weakness.  James said he was in Los Angeles on Friday, and a retired banker said that prosecution of the Sung family was out of proportion to the offenses they were supposed to have committed.  The banking community was coming out to see this film.  Another person wanted to know how James got Vance to appear in the film.  It seemed that the notoriety the film was getting was a factor.  Someone else mentioned the documentary filmmaking was not sexy, and James did mention that making feature films was more lucrative.  The film has made the rounds of film festivals and won some awards.  At the end, someone asked James about subjects in the documentary was requested payment.  James said that usually people who allowed themselves to be filmed aren’t doing it for the money.  The person asking this question was some sort of filmmaker experiencing problems.  It figured that he would ask a selfish question.  James thanked us for coming out to see the film and suggested we use social media to get the word out.  He did have a tendency to go off on tangents in his comments.  I did like some of his past work, like “Hoop Dreams” and “Life Itself.”  This movie wasn’t just about banking, courtroom proceedings, and the financial world.  We got a look at real people handling a crisis.  Some of the people come out of it looking good, and at least two people look bad, Vance and the fired employee Ken Yu.  It was kind of a shame that I couldn’t stay for the following showing, because members of the Sung family were going to have a discussion.  In fact, as I walked out of the theatre, I thought I saw them walking in the opposite direction.  I heard about the death of Adam West and felt sadness that those days gone by.  I wondered when he made his final public appearance.  I saw Wonder Woman going after Hitler’s clone, and then the Star Trek episode “The Corbomite Maneuver.”  The Svengoolie movie was “The Mummy’s Tomb.”  Some of the people who died on June 11 include John Wayne (1979), DeForest Kelley (1999), David Brinkley (2003), Ornette Coleman (2015), and Ron Moody (2015).  Today is a birthday for Joe Montana (61) and Adrienne Barbeau (72).  According to the Brandon Brooks Rewind radio segment for June 11, the Rolling Stones had the Number One single in 1966, “Paint It, Black.”  In 1969, the John Wayne movie “True Grit” was released.  In 1982, “Steven Spielberg’s film “E.T. – the Extraterrestrial” was released.

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