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PCR # 340  (Vol. 7, No. 39)  This edition is for the week of September 25--October 1, 2006.

This Week's PCR
Movie Review
"The U.S. vs John Lennon"

Movie review by:
Michael A. Smith
Four stars

Movies are rated 0 to 4 stars

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Starring: Walter Cronkite, Angela Davis, Ron Kovic, Yoko Ono
Directed by: David Leaf and John Scheinfeld
Rated: PG 13
Running Time: 1 hour 39 minutes

On December 8, 1980 I used my lunch hour to visit the local music store and bought a copy of "Double Fantasy," the new album from John Lennon and his wife, Yoko Ono. After dinner, I listened to side one and then settled down to watch "Monday Night Football." That night's match up: Miami against New England. It was during this game that Howard Cosell informed me that John Lennon had been murdered. Almost 26 years later, I can still vividly remember my reaction. I switched off the television and turned on my turntable. The last song on side one was "Beautiful Boy," a song Lennon had written for his son, Sean. I listened to the song over and over, getting up to move the needle back. Finally I let the song end, turned off the light and went to bed in tears.

In 1971, Michigan resident John Sinclair sold two marijuana cigarettes to an undercover police officer. At his trial, the judge sentenced him to 10 years in prison. Many of Sinclair's supporters rallied to his aid, even going as far as to hold a concert in his honor. Among the guests singing about the unjust sentence was former Beatle John Lennon. Lennon's appearance triggered an almost five year battle by the United States Government to deport him. "The U.S. vs. John Lennon" tells this story through interviews with many of the voices of the times, including George McGovern, G. Gordon Liddy and former Black Panther head Bobby Seale. When the 26th amendment to the constitution was passed, lowering the voting age to 18, President Richard Nixon and his cronies realized that they needed to gain the support of the new voting base if he hoped to be reelected in 1972. Because he was an ex-Beatle, Lennon drew the media wherever he went. His series of Bed Ins, where he and Ono spent their days in bed in an effort to spread their message of peace and love, drew reporters from all over the world. But the messages weren't appreciated in Washington D.C. and Lennon was soon on the "enemies" list. Discovering an old conviction in England for possession of marijuana, the Bureau of Immigration announces that Lennon is an undesirable and, if he doesn't leave on his own, will be deported. Never one to run from a challenge, Lennon fights back.

Using archival footage, the filmmakers have devised a way to let Lennon tell the story himself. Whether he's arguing with a reporter who still thinks of him as a "mop top" or introducing his "friend" Bobby Seale on "The Mike Douglas Show," Lennon shows that his famous wit was more then skin deep. He proves to be a very intelligent man whose only dream, however naive', was for peace. He spread that message in songs like "Give Peace a Chance" and "Imagine." He spent his own money having billboards reading, "WAR IS OVER (if you want it) all over the world. It's amazing how his actions were perceived. In interviews, the lines are clearly drawn. To people like Seale, Angela Davis, Tariq Ali and others, Lennon was a man who wanted the world to follow the examples of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. The other side, consisting mainly of J Edgar Hoover and the Nixon administration, saw Lennon as a rabble rouser, which they certainly didn't need at this time in our countries history. Lennon's words carried weight, and they knew it. The day before the benefit concert, the Michigan Court of Appeals denied John Sinclair bail. The day after, it was granted. The true voice of his generation had spoken.

On October 9, 1976, John Lennon celebrated his birthday at a New York hospital, welcoming his son, Sean, to the world. As if a new son wasn't enough excitement, he also learned that he had won his deportation case and would be allowed to stay in the city he loved.

I told you the "Monday Night Football" story because at the time, to me, John Lennon was a musician. I had no idea of what he had gone through to stay in the country where he would eventually die. And though I was familiar with the songs, I never really understood the message. I do now.

On a scale of zero to four stars I give "The U.S. vs. John Lennon"  Four stars

This week's movie review of "The U.S. vs John Lennon" is ©2006 by Michael A. Smith.  All graphics this page are creations of Nolan B. Canova, ©2006, all rights reserved. All contents of "Nolan's Pop Culture Review" are ©2006 by Nolan B. Canova.