Monday, December 12, 2016
O.J.: Made in America
Directed by Ezra Edelman, O.J.: Made in America is a five-part, eight hour (ten-hours with commercials) documentary series about the life of O.J. Simpson who was loved for his work as a football player and later a comedy actor only to fall hard when he was accused of killing his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman which he would be acquitted of only to be charged with another crime 13 years later. The film isn’t just about the life of a once-revered figure in sports but also how race and celebrity culture would play a role into the life of this man. The result is a riveting and engrossing film from Ezra Edelman.
Orenthal James Simpson is a man of many complications where he is revered for being a football player for the University of Southern California as well as the Buffalo Bills and end his career with the San Francisco Giants. He is also loved for his work as a sports commentator, a spokesman for many ads including Hertz, and acting in many films in which his appearances in The Naked Gun trilogy are considered some of his best work. All of that changed in 1994 when his second ex-wife Nicole Brown and a friend of hers in Ron Goldman were found dead in the former’s home as Simpson was accused of killing her as he would be acquitted a year later. Then in 2007, Simpson was arrested and convicted of robbery when he tried to reclaim some personal possessions with some associates as he would get a thirty-three year sentence as he is rumored to be released in 2017 via parole.
The film is about not just the rise and tragic fall from grace of O.J. Simpson but also his relationship with the world around not just celebrity and class but also race as he was considered someone that was disconnected from the racial struggles that African-Americans faced during the 1960s through the 1990s. While Simpson didn’t want to have race be involved with his accomplishments or in his ascent towards society as he simply wanted to be loved and embraced by everyone. He would succeed in a lot of ways but there are those in the African-American community who adored him but wondered why he never gave something back to them? Director Ezra Edelman would create a film that slowly chronicles many aspects of Simpson’s life and African-Americans’ struggle for racial equality. Especially in the city of Los Angeles where it was the hotbed for this tension between that community and the LAPD.
Broken into five parts, the film follows not just Simpson’s rise as a public figure and sports icon but also the events that led to his fall. The first part is about Simpson’s beginnings and his rise into being a sports icon as well as what was happening in Los Angeles during the 1960s and 1970s with the Watts riot and the tension between the police and African-Americans. The second part is about his post-sports career and his foray into acting as well as his second marriage to Nicole Brown along with revelations about their marriage. It would be inter-cut with what was happening in Los Angeles in the 1980s where the tension was boiling as it led to many events including the Rodney King beating in 1991 and the trial a year later where four LAPD officers were acquitted of the beatings that lead to the riots. The third part is about what happened the night Brown and Goldman were killed as well as the many events leading up to the trial while the fourth part isn’t just about the trial and the many players involved but also the emergence of sensationalism in the news that made the trial a media circus.
The fifth part is the verdict and the trial’s aftermath where it lead to the civil trial and then Simpson’s move to Miami, Florida from the Brentwood area in Los Angeles and his final fall from grace in Las Vegas 2007 where he robbed a memorabilia collector over some personal possession. With the aid of editors Bert Granato, Maya Mumma, and Ben Sozanski, Edelman compile many footage including rare home movies and such about Simpson and what he was probably doing at home as well as rare audio clips provided by sound editor Keith Hodne. Some of which play into not just the events in the trial but also things Simpson and those involved or indirectly involved had said including former LAPD detective Mark Fuhrman who is interviewed in the film as well as prosecutor Marcia Clark, Simpson’s defense lawyers F. Lee Bailey, Carl E. Douglas, and Barry Schrek, and district attorney Gil Garcetti.
The interviews are quite straightforward due to aid of cinematographer Nick Higgins who would also create some gorgeous establishing shots that included recreations of the old homes that Simpson and Brown lived in during their separation. Other people interviewed are relatives of Simpson, one of Nicole Brown’s sisters, filmmaker Peter Hyams, and other friends/associates of Simpson. Some of which reveal things that are disturbing as it relate to the murders and whether Simpson did it or not. There are also interviews with a couple of jurors in that murder case as well as civil rights activists and ministers as some became very uneasy about the results of the verdict as well as the fact that Simpson never did anything positive or contributed anything to the community. There are also some revelations about the justice system proving that it’s a very flawed system as Clark would admit that Simpson’s robbery trial and verdict was in some ways payback for the murder trial which he was acquitted for.
It’s a film that covers a lot of ground yet leaves so many unanswered questions about Simpson as it is clear that he is pretty much a selfish individual who wants to be loved but is also a great manipulator as if he’s playing a game. Edelman does whatever to find the sides of Simpson that makes him so loveable but also finds a lot that shows Simpson in an awful light. He also showcases things such as the graphic photos of the dead bodies of Brown and Goldman are quite disturbing. Adding to some of the haunting moments of the film is the music score by Gary Lionelli who provides a mixture of eerie orchestral elements with some somber jazz as it play into that rise and fall of Simpson while music supervisors John Houlihan and Julie Glaze Houlihan create a mixture of music that play into Simpson’s ascent and later descent with elements of funk and disco early on to some eerie and dark ambient music that includes a piece from Nine Inch Nails.
O.J.: Made in America is an astonishing film from Ezra Edelman. It’s a documentary that isn’t just fascinating but also chilling in its exploration of one of the most iconic figures in sports who is now one of the most polarizing figures in the world. Featuring insightful interviews and commentaries from those who knew or encountered him as well as footage that showcased the man in many different spectrums. It’s a film that showcases a lot about America and how troubling it was and still is with this man in the center of it. In the end, O.J.: Made in America is a tremendous film from Ezra Edelman.
© thevoid99 2016