Memories of a College Journalist: Reviewing ‘Amerika’

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The author (center) in a candid shot taken in the Production Room during a lighthearted moment with Graphics Editor Robert Tamayo and Production Manager Jennie Ahrens. (Jim Linn photo)

I started writing movie reviews when I was a journalism student at South Miami Senior High. My first attempt at film criticism was a short review of David Lynch’s The Elephant Man for one of the fall semester’s issues of The Serpent’s Tale for the 1980-81 school year. I don’t think I did all that many movie reviews in high school, although I did review Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi for the last issue of the Tale I helped publish before I graduated in June of 1983.

When I resumed my training as a journalist at Miami-Dade Community College, South Campus, I started out in the same beat I wrote for in high school: Entertainment. At the Catalyst, the campus student paper, the lively arts were covered in the Diversions section, and I even did a semester’s stint as Diversions Editor for one semester in the 1987-1988 academic year. I did some on-campus reporting; that always took precedence over the more generic movie, music album, or book reviews.

Here’s one of the TV-movie reviews I wrote for Catalyst back in 1987:

Controversial Amerika no big deal

Alex Diaz-Granados

Diversions Editor

It’s ratings time – and every network’s thoughts have turned to the honey pot. High ratings mean big bucks in advertising revenue.

And ABC managed to pull off a coup with its Amerika by hyping the controversy so the miniseries was being highly debated before it even aired.

The Soviets have been understandably annoyed with ABC ever since the network bought the idea from writer-director Donald Wrye, believing that Amerika would only give Americans a negative view of the Soviet way of life.

The United Nations was incensed by the movie’s portrayal of its peacekeeping forces as Star Wars-like stormtroopers at the Soviets’ beck and call.

The right-wing factions in the U.S. cried out, “It isn’t hard enough on the commies!”

The liberals, who are usually unhappy about most things these days, didn’t like Amerika and said, “It’ll revive Cold War anti-Soviet sentiments!”

And so we had a storm over a miniseries which, while these vociferous arguments were going on, hadn’t even been seen.

Now it has.

And the big deal is that there was no big deal.

Amerika is supposed to be a morality play about the dangers of taking freedom for granted. Time and again in the series the characters are faced with the “You can’t do this anymore” dictate.

That the story centers on a Soviet occupation is just a matter of detail. The story wouldn’t have suffered one bit if it had been set in German-occupied France.

Totalitarianism is always despicable.

But for the most part, it’s been a (slow-moving) “people story,” with everyday people doing everyday things, bad-mouthing the government (discreetly) and coping with life’s crises, both big and small.

And, thankfully, it’s only a miniseries.

So the storm over Amerika was, as Shakespeare would have put it, “much ado about nothing.”

© 1987 Catalyst and Alex Diaz-Granados

Published by Alex Diaz-Granados

Alex Diaz-Granados (1963- ) began writing movie reviews as a staff writer and Entertainment Editor for his high school newspaper in the early 1980s and was the Diversions editor for Miami-Dade Community College, South Campus' student newspaper for one semester. Using his experiences in those publications, Alex has been raving and ranting about the movies online since 2003 at various web sites, including Amazon, Ciao and Epinions. In addition to writing reviews, Alex has written or co-written three films ("A Simple Ad," "Clown 345," and "Ronnie and the Pursuit of the Elusive Bliss") for actor-director Juan Carlos Hernandez. You can find his reviews and essays on his blogs, A Certain Point of View and A Certain Point of View, Too.

2 thoughts on “Memories of a College Journalist: Reviewing ‘Amerika’

  1. I barely remember that. I’ve been thinking lately what should be taught in high school, since—you know—we’re the land of the free and all that, is how to spot and avoid a dictatorship, with topics like, What is a Cult of Personality? What are the Benefits of Separation of Church and State? And Why is White Supremacy Such a Bad Idea?

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