Culture Crash 18-36: American Animals

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Welcome to Culture Crash, where we examine American culture. What’s new and old in books, film, and entertainment.

American Animals is a film that tells the true story of four college kids who stole millions of dollars in rare books from a library in broad daylight. I first saw the trailer in March and it has been on my radar ever since. I was intrigued to see a stylish heist movie starring some exciting up and comers like American Horror Story’s Evan Peters and Dunkirk’s Barry Keoghan.

When I finally got around to seeing the film, it was every bit the heist movie I expected. What I did not expect was that it was interspersed with interviews the filmmakers conducted with the actual criminals telling their own story. Instead of re-enacting an event discussed in a documentary to give it cinematic flair, director Bart Layton documented the reality of his cinema to give it credibility.

The result is a perfectly 2018 movie. It serves as a cautionary tale about the ignorance of youth, a heist movie and, in part, a true-crime documentary. The film has been well-received by critics and serves up some incredible tense and cringe-worthy robbery scenes. In addition to all that, the movie’s cast is truly phenomenal. It’s the kind of young cast that we may look back on one day and remark and how incredible it was to get them in a movie together so early in their careers. It’s certainly a movie worth seeking out.

American Animals is available to buy and rent on Vudu and iTunes now.

I’m Evan Rook. 

Culture Crash 18-18: True Crime

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Welcome to Culture Crash, where we examine American culture.  What’s new and old in books, film, and entertainment.

Since Truman Capote published his 1966 masterpiece In Cold Blood, America has been fascinated with true crime. Our current version may occasionally take different form: TV shows like The People vs. OJ or docu-series like Making a Murderer have obsessed us in recent years and the Serial podcast took true crime into the digital age… but the idea is the same: to document how crimes have happened, and occasionally, to launch impromptu investigations.

Sometimes, true crime has found rousing success beyond just sales numbers and cultural imprint: The Thin Blue Line, a documentary by Errol Morris was so persuasive that Randall Dale Adams, its subject, was released from prison. Serial shed enough reasonable doubt that the podcast’s focus, Adnan Sayed, is set to receive a new trial. The list goes on…

Most recently has come Michelle McNamara’s I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One woman’s obsessive search for the Golden State Killer, a true-crime book that was published posthumously after McNamara died suddenly while writing it. I’ll be Gone in the Dark tells of the grisly crime spree that terrorized California in the 1970s and 80s by a man she dubbed The Golden State Killer, but who had previously been called the East Area Rapist and the Original Night Stalker.

The book was published in February and immediately shot to the top of The New York Times Best Seller list for nonfiction. Last month, HBO announced plans to make it into a documentary series.

But it’s true accomplishment is this: Just 8 weeks after its publication, police arrested the man they believe to be the Golden State Killer. In their announcement of the charges, the police insisted McNamara’s book did not help their investigation… a claim that seems to be tenuous at best if for no reason than the timing. The case had been cold for decades, the investigation began over 40 years ago and suddenly, after receiving attention stemming from a best-selling book, a suspect is apprehended.

Regardless, the glory of catching a suspect isn’t really what McNamara fantasizes about in the book. She wrote emphatically that she wanted the Golden State Killer apprehended for the victims.

True crime, as a genre, can get a bad rep- that it delights in others suffering. But at its true heart, if it is approached with the appropriate reverence, it can help inform people how to protect themselves, inform future investigators what techniques have worked in the past, and maybe just maybe, help bring along some well-deserved justice.
Michelle McNamara’s book, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, is available now.

I’m Evan Rook.

Coming Up On Viewpoints 18-18

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Parenting A Transgender Child

What should you do if your child tells you they feel they were born as the wrong gender? Do you force them to conform to their born gender or do you support their feeling of being born into the wrong body? We talk to the parent and the doctor of a transgender child to sort through the confusion and discover what science says about gender transitions and how one family navigated the issues associated with having a child you suddenly don’t fully understand.  

The Ethical Implications of Genetic Screenings on Children

Science enables us to know much more than ever before. We can be aware of what disorders we could pass on to our kids and we can conduct screenings on children to discover irregularities in their genes. Such screenings can help doctors catch issues early but they can also put a huge burden on families.

Culture Crash: True Crime

True crime stories fascinate us, but they can also have a big impact. We look at true crime and specifically, Michelle McNamera’s book, I’ll Be Gone in The Dark