"Everything is as it should be."

                                                                                  - Benjamin Purcell Morris

 

 

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The Awful File - Oscars, Millennials, Brie Larson and More!

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Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes 01 seconds

 

I keep a file on my computer that I call the "Awful File", in which I store all stories of awfulness upon which I stumble. As you can imagine...it is a big file. There is always a plethora of awful things going on in the world but writing about them all is a Sisyphean task. So instead of tackling the big awful issues, I thought today that I'd write about some of the more minor awful things floating around in my Awful File.

ACADEMY AWARDS NEW CATEGORY

To begin, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) also known as The Academy, home of The Oscars, made a big decision last week to expand their awards. The geniuses over at the Academy decided to create the new category..."Outstanding Achievement in Popular Film"...or as I like to call it the "Award for Outstanding Achievement in Pandering" or the "Desperation Award".

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Some in Hollywood, like Mark Wahlberg, are pleased with the new category, of course Marky Mark is happy about the new award because it gives his sellout ass a shot to win an Oscar, but those with any semblance of artistic integrity are dismayed if not disgusted by the move. .

The biggest problem with the the "Achievement in Popular Film" award is that there is already a metric by which that talent is measured...it is called the box office...and the entire populace votes on it by either attending or not attending a movie.

The Oscars are supposed to be about excellence in cinema, not popularity, that may rub some rubes the wrong way, but that is the truth. The Oscars are meant to reward artists and craftsmen, not salesmen.

By creating this new populist award, AMPAS is pandering to the lowest common denominator and is diminishing the value of an Oscar. But this isn't the first time they've done that in recent years.

After the inane moronity of the #OscarsSoWhite nonsense a few years back, the Academy pandered to the outraged online mob by jettisoning older White members and bringing in a cavalcade of minorities and women. The Academy made it very clear that they wanted more Black actors and films nominated and winning awards regardless of their artistic merit...and sure enough we got more Black artists and films winning Oscars. To their great discredit the Academy managed to water down the prestige of the Oscars by making it based on identity and more a minority achievement award than one based on merit.  

The "Achievement in Popular Film" award is once again another attempt by the Academy to water down the awards and is a blatant attempt to make sure that the stultifyingly average Black Panther wins an Oscar, even though it is, at best, the third best comic book film of the year so far (behind Infinity War and Deadpool 2).

I bet dollars to donuts that the Academy will also prop up with nominations other identity-driven "popular" films like...God help us all...A Wrinkle in Time...in order to pad their "woke" bona fides. This is the shameless beast that has been unleashed by the Academy of dopes desperate to snag television ratings in an ever splintering television market.

Sadly, by watering down the prestige of the award, the Oscars are unwittingly creating a much larger pool of competition for viewers attention for themselves. Since the Oscars are no longer the gold standard of awards they have sullied themselves enough to be lumped in among the hoi polloi of other forgettable awards like the Golden Globes, People's Choice Awards and MTV movie awards and the like.

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By stooping to appease a non-existent audience yearning for blockbusters to be included in a prestigious industry insider event, the Academy Awards have cut off their nose to spite their face. It is a foolish, hapless and hopeless maneuver, and its level of delusion reminds me of Norma Desmond's famous line from Sunset Boulevard, "All right Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up!"

Rest assured, the Academy's attempts to be relevant will only hasten to make it all the more irrelevant.

MILLENNIALS

I read an article in The Guardian last week that claimed that there was a survey taken that asked Millennials what movies from the 2010's should be put in a time capsule. I will get to their answers in a moment, but let me first say that I have no idea what the survey question was, or who did the survey or any of the parameters of the survey because the hack who wrote this dreadful column, Stuart Heritage, never tells me or provides a link. Great work, Stuart. How this numbnuts can be employed as a writer at a major newspaper is beyond me.

Now...back to the list of films that millennials allegedly chose for the time capsule. Here it is...

1. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
2. Black Panther
3. Frozen
4. Wonder Woman
5. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part II
6. La La Land
7. Fifty Shades of Grey
8. Moana
9. Get Out
10. Coco
11. Moonlight
12. The Social Network
13. The Greatest Showman
14. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
15. Blade Runner 2049
16. Call Me By Your Name
17. The Post
18. Spotlight

Ummm...my initial reaction is this...what in the fuck is wrong with millennials? I mean, Holy Shit that list is an abomination.

Out of the top ten, only two films are even decent, Wonder Woman and La La Land, and only La La Land is cinematically noteworthy.

As for 10 through 18, The Social Network is the best choice on the entire list, as it perfectly encapsulates the cold, disconnected social media world in which we live. Even though I disagree with it, I can see why they'd choose Moonlight, it did win Best Picture after all, as did Spotlight, a choice with which I can agree. But The Post? Call Me By Your Name? The Greatest Showman? What in the hell is wrong with these people?

As for the problems with the top ten they seem so glaring as to be obvious...why in the world would anyone in their right mind have Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the seventh movie in a franchise that was iconic back in the 70's, as the number one choice for anything? Black Panther? Frozen? The eight and final film of the Harry Potter franchise? The steaming pile of cinematic excrement also known as Fifty Shades of Grey?

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What this list shows me is that millennials are corporatized and infantilized to such a degree that they are morally distorted beyond human recognition. For example, seven of the top ten films are franchise or Disney animated kid's films. This is contrasted by number sixteen, Call Me By Your Name, which is a pedophile love story and number seven, Fifty Shades of Grey, which is a degenerate story of sadism and masochism. So you have a generation emotionally and intellectually stunted who have been conditioned to enjoy childish entertainments and yearn to be sexually controlled or manipulated by a dominant elder. Yikes.

I am joking...about millennials...sort of. I actually coach a lot of millennials and have found them to be a decent bunch of human beings whose main failings are that they are addictively myopic to a self-destructive degree. That said, what concerns me most about them is their taste in film...which according to this survey is atrocious.

Here is a list, off the top of my head, for films that I nominate to put in the time capsule. This isn't the list of best films, but a mix of best, most relevant and most insightful about the decade. In no particular order...

Hell or High Water, Sicario, Phantom Thread, The Master, Dunkirk, Inception, Ex Machina, The Social Network, A Quiet Place, The Big Short, Whiplash, Nightcrawler, The Tree of Life, Django Unchained, Her, 12 Years a Slave, Deadpool, Logan, Thor: Ragnarok, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and War for the Planet of the Apes.

BRIE LARSON

Back in June, according to Variety, Brie Larson said this at the heretofore unheard of Crystal and Lucy Awards show,

“Am I saying I hate white dudes? No, I’m not"...

But then she went on to say...

"I don’t want to hear what a white man has to say about ‘A Wrinkle in Time.’ I want to hear what a woman of color, a biracial woman has to say about the film. I want to hear what teenagers think about the film.”

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“If you make a movie that is a love letter to women of color, there is a chance that a woman of color does not have access to review and critique your film,” she said, while revealing plans to roll out an opt-in program that will provide studios with access to underrepresented journalists and critics. “Do not say the talent is not there, because it is.”

Ok. Well...let me preface this by saying, just like Brie Larson doesn't hate "White dudes", I don't hate White "chicks" or "chicks" of any color...BUT...that being said, I think Brie Larson may have huffed a little too much King Kong dung.

Let's embrace Ms. Larson's logic for a moment and see where that gets us. Fine...she doesn't want to hear what White "dudes" think of A Wrinkle in Time. Great...so then White dudes don't have to go see that piece of shit movie...thank you...that is a relief.

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According to Ms. Larson, that movie is a love letter to teens of color, I wonder if the director Ava DuVernay told Disney that before she got financing, that she was only interesting in teen girls and girls of color seeing the movie? Disney would have absolutely loved that idea since, as their history shows, they don't care about money at all. Also, Brilliant Brie might want to consider what it means for the box office if a film is meant to exclude White dudes, she might discover that White dudes not seeing a movie could possibly, maybe...oh, I don't know...hurt the film at the box office? Maybe Ms. Larson might reconsider that alienating "White dudes" might end up being not such a great deal for the filmmaker or the people at Disney.

And is A Wrinkle in Time really hill Ms. Larson wants to plant her flag on in trying to make the case for more diversity in film criticism? The film has a 40% critical score at Rotten Tomatoes, which Ms. Larson will no doubt blame on vicious White male critics, but the problem with that is the audience score, which is no doubt made from many women, women of color and teens, is a dismal 29. So instead of implying White male critics sabotaged A Wrinkle in Time's chances for success, maybe she should listen to all the female and minority amateur critics who are saying the movie sucks.

Ms. Larson's Identity-Based Critic Policy basically mirrors the argument heard from nerds she would deem hateful in regards to Gamergate and Star Wars movies and such. Nerd stuff is overwhelmingly guy stuff, and so if we follow Ms. Larson's own rules, women are no longer allowed to review stuff made for guys...you know...like Star Wars and Marvel movies...or Martin Scorsese, PT Anderson, Terence Malick or Christopher Nolan films. I am happy about that because, like how Ms. Larson doesn't hate "White dudes", I don't hate "chicks", and just like Ms. Larson doesn't "want to hear what white dudes think of A Wrinkle in Time" and wants their voices excluded regarding "chick flicks", I want all chick's voices regarding the aforementioned guy projects to be silenced.

Much like Ms. Larson's feelings regarding White male critics, I think the opinion of female critics taints the films they review and skews it towards a feminist perspective...so they all must go!! Leave guy stuff for guys and girls stuff for girls. I'll bask in the blockbuster entertainment of Star Wars and Marvel movies and basically all the best cinema on the planet while chicks get to have Ava DuVernay girlie junk like A Wrinkle in Time and the Sex and the City movies. Sweet deal!!

Does any of that sound rational at all? Of course not, it sounds hateful, bigoted, vicious and entirely counter productive. So maybe Ms. Larson should try and actually think before she speaks and takes actions against an entire group of people based on nothing but their race and gender.

And finally...Ms. Larson's demand that I not say that "there is no talent there"...is something I will completely ignore. There is no talent there...you know how I know that? Because if there were talent there, these allegedly ignored minority/female critics would write a review and someone would read it and like it. How do I know that? Because that is what I did and now I have people all over the world reading my reviews and I never had any special access to film festivals or studios or any special program to give me a leg up...hell, I never even used Facebook or Twitter...ever.

It is amazing that all you have to do to become a writer is to...you know...write something. In my case, I love cinema, I studied it as a young man and now I write about and some people read it...there is absolutely nothing stopping women or minorities from doing exactly the same thing...nothing.

And by the way Ms. Larson...there is plenty of access for writers to write film reviews...tons in fact...look at me...I review films on my blog...amazing...how did I think of something so ingenious? People can write reviews on Facebook or they can write reviews and leave them on Rotten Tomatoes if they like..lots and lots of people do!

So instead of bitching about lack of access or diversity or opportunity, why not encourage women and women of color to actually, you know, learn something about cinema and then actually write reviews of the movies they see. What an incredible idea!! But Brie Larson wouldn't go for that because all that matters to her and her ilk is a person's identity, not their ability.

RUBY ROSE - BATWOMAN

Speaking of the bat shit crazy world of identity politics, there is now the story of the outrage over Australian actress Ruby Rose being cast as Batwoman in the CW's "Arrowverse". Ms. Rose has quit Twitter (a healthy choice) and Instagram because of the vitriol she has received in response to her casting.

Now, Ms. Rose is not the first actor to face a backlash by fans after being cast to play a beloved character. The choice of Michael Keaton to play Batman in Tim Burton's original film and Heath Ledger being chosen as The Joker in The Dark Knight were both met with cries of despair and anger from the DC comic fan base.

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What makes the outcry over Ms. Rose's casting is that those creating the uproar are not "fanboys", but "fangirls" in general and lesbian and Jewish fangirls to be more precise. You see Batwoman, according to the DC comic book canon, is a Jewish lesbian and apparently Ms. Rose, who has been out as a lesbian since she was 12, has been deemed not "gay enough" for the lesbian contingent and she is not Jewish at all which offends some in the Jewish fanbase.

Obviously, this is identity politics run amok. Actors can play characters that are not exactly like them...gay actors can play straight characters and straight actors can play gay characters. This is what acting is...and if identity politics adherents in Hollywood want to really think about it, by holding such stringent requirements for actors that they can only play roles for which they already "identify" in their real lives, then it is minority actors who will suffer most.

For example, in a recent New York Times op-ed by Jennifer Finley Boylan (a transgender woman), Ms. Boylan wrote that she thought Scarlett Johannsson should not play a trangender character because she isn't trans. I get the feeling behind the thought, but taken to its logical conclusion that means that trans actors can only play trans characters...and gay actors can only play gay characters. Therefore, since LGBTQ people make up about 3.8% of the population, there will be a considerable disadvantage for LGBTQ actors to get work since there will be far fewer characters that identify as LGBTQ just because of the reality of their statistical insignificance in the general population.

I find the identity politics fury and the charges of "cultural appropriation" and things like that to be so devoid of substance as to be ridiculously absurd. My counter argument is that we should be judging actors, writers, filmmakers and other artists on the quality of their work not on whether or not they check the right identities on the racial, ethnic, sexual and gender boxes.

I would like to say that this storm of idiotic identity politics will pass...but I have a sinking feeling this is the way it is going to be from here on out, and the arts are going to suffer greatly because of it.

JOHN OLIVER

No discussion of awful things is complete without mentioning John Oliver.

This past Sunday John Oliver did a brief bit on Saudi Arabia being pissed at Canada during his God awful show Last Week Tonight. It was...as usual...the most flaccid and impotent of comedy imaginable. What made it egregiously insipid and insidious though was that Oliver never mentioned the U.S. involvement in the grotesque war and genocide in Yemen. It is like the war in Yemen barely exists and even if it does then America certainly has nothing to do with it. This whole segment is strong evidence in my case claiming Oliver is a shamelessly venal shill for American neo-liberalism and the establishment.

To Oliver's credit, he did mention, sort of, Saudi Arabia's involvement in 9-11, something he has failed to do in the past...but again never spoke of the oddity of the US supporting a brutal dictatorship that is not only committing war crimes and genocide in Yemen and being aided and abetted in those war crimes and atrocities by the U.S.)...but attacked the U.S. on 9-11 and killed 3,000 people.

Instead of spending his precious HBO time making liberals painfully aware of the atrocities in Yemen and America's complicity in that evil, Oliver instead did a lengthy piece on that most pressing of issues...astroturf (fake populist ads)...oooh...how daring! Oliver is such a dissembler and disinformation agent that it is staggering and frankly horrifically disheartening that so many liberals hang on his every word and take it for gospel truth.

The bottom line is this...John Oliver is a scumbag shill of the highest order. I think we should toss him in a sack and fucking airmail this useless douchebag back to whatever British shithole he crawled out of.

And thus ends a brief foray into my Awful File...sadly, it is still chock full of awfulness but I don't have the heart to keep going through it. But know this, there is always one thing you can count on...the Awful File will never run out of material.

©2018

 

BlacKkKlansman: A Review

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****THIS REVIEW CONTAINS ZERO SPOILERS!! THIS IS A SPOILER FREE REVIEW!!****

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation: SEE IT. A flawed but insightful, incisive and compelling film that speaks to the struggles of our time.

BlacKkKlansman, directed by Spike Lee and written by Lee and a coterie of others (based on the book Black Klansman by Ron Stallworth), is the true story of Ron Stallworth, a Black cop in Colorado Springs who infiltrates the Ku Klux Klan. The film stars John David Washington as Stallworth, with supporting turns from Adam Driver, Laura Harrier and Topher Grace.

At one time, in the late 1980's and early 1990's, Spike Lee was one of the most important filmmakers in cinema. His breakthrough film, 1989's Do the Right Thing, which featured Lee's signature aesthetic of humor, drama and cultural commentary was an explosive piece of cinema that catapulted Lee into the spotlight and into the hearts of cinephiles everywhere.

Lee followed up Do the Right Thing with two films that weren't quite as ground breaking but were noteworthy films nonetheless, Mo' Better Blues (1990) and Jungle Fever (1991). Following those two critical and commercial successes Lee then made his masterpiece, the phenomenal Malcolm X (1992), which is a staggering cinematic achievement.

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After reaching the summit with Malcolm X, the cinematic world seemed his for the taking, but then something strange happened to Spike Lee...he lost his fastball. I am not sure why it happened, whether it was a case of the muse abandoning him, his mojo shrinking, his spirit being broken or his just not giving a shit anymore, but I know it most certainly did happened. To be clear, he didn't lose it all at once...but there was a noticeable and precipitous decline in the quality and artistry of his work in the wake of Malcolm X.

The middling movies Crooklyn, Clockers, Get on the Bus, He Got Game and Summer of Sam are all painfully lackluster efforts, especially in the shadow of the murderers row of Do the Right Thing, Mo' Better Blues, Jungle Fever and the Babe Ruth of the canon Malcolm X. The precipitous decline in Lee's filmmaking ability was equaled by his fall from cinematic relevance.

Lee wasn't just losing his artistic and critical fastball, the box office had left him as well as none of those films even made back their production budgets, making this unfortunate streak a near death blow to Lee's career. Directors can churn out average and below average films for decades...but only if they make their investors money or at the very least do not lose their investors money...a perfect example is Ron Howard.

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The last Spike Lee film I saw in the theatre was also the first Spike Lee film to make any money since Malcom X, and that was 2002's 25th Hour. Three things stood out about this movie in regards to Lee's other films, the first is that it is a story about a White protagonist and stars a White cast. Secondly, it made more profit than all of the previous seven second tier Lee films (post Malcolm X) combined, and actually made more in net profit than even Malcolm X. And third, even though I thoroughly enjoyed 25th Hour, it was not a "Spike Lee film" as his signature aesthetic was noticeably absent. While I hoped 25th Hour signaled a new phase in Lee's career and began his long climb back into relevance...it didn't. Lee's descent into cinematic irrelevance only seemed to quicken its pace.

In 2006, Lee had a financial hit on his hands with the film Inside Man (which was originally supposed to be directed by...ironically, Ron Howard), but while the box office was stellar, the biggest of his career, Lee's artistry was lacking, and the movie was little more than a Denzel Washington star vehicle rather than a Spike Lee joint, and again, could have been directed by anyone. After Inside Man the wheels came off the cinematic wagon for Lee as he churned out a string of films, one more awful and irrelevant than the next.

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Which brings us to BlacKKKlansman. With BlacKKKlansman Spike Lee has done something extraordinary...he got his fastball back. Now, it isn't all the way back, not by a long shot. If Lee was throwing 98 MPH heat in his early 90's heyday, and in his post-Malcolm X phase dropped to an anemic 90 MPH, and in the last decade has been hurling up grotesque 84 MPH meatballs, with BlacKKKlansman he hits a solid and very respectable 92 to 94 MPH on the radar gun.

The story of BlacKKKlansman is the right story at the right time with the right filmmaker. BlacKkKlansman is right in Spike Lee's wheelhouse and shows him to be artistically and cinematically invigorated by the material because it allows him to highlight his best quality...namely his flair for mixing of humor, politics and cultural commentary. Though not as sharply crafted as his sterling early works, this movie is easily Lee's best effort in the last 25 years, hands down. It is vibrantly relevant, pulsatingly alive and at times gloriously infectious.

Lee's direction is energetic as he unfurls an insightful and incisive story that lays bare the perilously combustible nature of our time. Lee's politics, particularly his racial politics, have always been overt in his films, but in BlacKKKlansman he is not only able to get a blunt and brazen message across out in the open, but also covertly weaves a subtler, yet ultimately more nuanced, mature and impactful political message just beneath the emotionally furious surface of the film.

As much as some may take this film as an anti-White and pro-Black screed, they would be missing the deeper messages embedded in the movie. If you can leave your preconceived notions at the door and watch the film looking for Lee's masterful weaving together of the dynamics at play in the Black and White power struggle, you will be surprised, if not downright shocked, as to what the film is telling/teaching you. In my reading of the film Lee's vision is not so starkly black and white (pardon the pun) but he appears to be trying to find allies where he once saw enemies, and is trying to solve problems rather than exacerbate them.

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The film's star, John David Washington, gives a charismatic and magnetic performance as Ron Stallworth. Unbeknownst to me prior to seeing the movie, John David is Denzel Washington's son, and the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. John David is certainly not the skillful actor and master craftsman his father is...but that is an unfair bar to set...rather John David is his own actor, and to his benefit he isn't a look-alike of his father either. John David does have his father's undeniable charisma and charm though and he carries this film from start to finish with aplomb and ease. Funny, likeable and genuine, John David Washington's confidence never crosses the river into arrogance, and that is a quality that will serve him well in the future, which will hopefully be very bright.

Adam Driver is an actor I generally do not understand. I do no think he is very good and cannot for the life of me understand why other people do. That said, he does solid work in BlacKKKlansman and is an asset to the movie. Driver's character is a bit underwritten, but he makes the most of what he is given.

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The luminous Laura Harrier plays Patrice, the love interest of Ron, and she is excellent. Harrier is able to embue Patrice with not only a determined strength, but a nagging fragility that is compelling to behold. Harrier makes Patrice a complex character where a lesser actress would've made her a two-dimensional bore.

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Topher Grace is spectacular as Klan leader David Duke (yes, THAT David Duke). Topher's performance is so understated and comedically genius as to be sublime. Of course, Topher is aided by the fact that David Duke is such a repulsive and captivating character as to be amazing, but to Topher's credit, he does not make Duke a caricature but rather a very real and genuine human being. Topher's ability to seamlessly and subtly make the Duke character's emotional transitions elevates the film considerably.

It is also worth noting that two actors give terrific performances in very small parts. Alec Baldwin has a cameo as Dr. Kennebrew Beaureguard, and he crushes his minimal screen time, which was a treat since the last time I saw him he was embarrassing himself with his hackneyed performance in Mission Impossible. And Corey Hawkins has a small supporting role as Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael) that is electric. The scene where Ture gives a speech is one of the best in the film and Hawkins' performance (and Lee's direction) is dynamic.

As much as I liked BlacKKKlansman, it isn't a perfect film. I thought the Klansman characters were very poorly written, or underwritten as the case may be. The caricature of all Klansman as stupid and redneck is a cheap and easy way to make fun of them, but a bad way to make the case that racism is a prevalent and predominant evil in our society. The Klansmen in the movie lack a genuine desperation and fear which would make them much more complicated (and believable) characters instead of being the cartoon cutouts that are only motivated by sheer lack of I.Q./hate that the movie makes them out to be.

Lee may have some of his fastball back, but certainly not all of it. The final 1/3 or 1/4 of the film shows the cracks in Lee's skill level. As the story accelerates towards its climax Lee's direction gets messy if not downright sloppy. Lee's cinematic incoherence is matched by some dubious writing and plot twists that make for a muddled and mundane finale to an otherwise pretty riveting narrative.

Lee then adds a coda to the film that is completely extraneous, indulgent, logically absurd and frankly embarrassingly idiotic, that in many ways scuttles the exquisite cinematic experience of the movie. This coda is so amateurish and dreadfully awful it is truly amazing, so much so that I felt myself and my opinion of the movie deflating as the scene wore on. This scene feels like it is from a bad high school morality play rather than a quality piece of cinema. But then...Lee redeems himself with a second coda that ends the movie...which I will not spoil...only to say that it is dramatic and emotional dynamite and is extremely well-done and poignant.

In conclusion, BlacKKKlansman is easily Spike Lee's best film of the last 25 years. It is a relevant piece of cinema that speaks to the troubles of our time by equating it with the troubles in our past. Buoyed by a strong lead performance from John David Washington, BlacKKKlansman is a smart, often subtle and insightful film that packs a wallop, and is well-worth your time and money to go see in the theatre.

©2018

Thar He Blows: Charles Blow Has a Question...I Have an Answer

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Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes 48 seconds

This past Friday, after a very long day, I sat down to try and unwind by watching some television. I then remembered that my work was not yet done as it was Friday and that meant Bill Maher's Real Time with Bill Maher was on and I would be obligated to watch that heinous show so that you dear readers wouldn't have to. So I turned on HBO, sat back and took in the vacuous shitshow.

After Maher's as-usual completely forgettable monologue, Little Bill fellated Intelligence agency charlatan Malcom Nance, including using Maher's signature pucker up line, "thank you for your service". One of the many downsides of having a con artist reality TV president is that dung beetles like Malcolm Nance crawl out from their pile of shit to inflate themselves and exploit the wishful thinking opposition in order to cash in on their 15 minutes of fame.

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After Maher wiped his chin of Nance's precious bodily fluids, this week's panel of mid-wits arrived, led by Steve Schmidt, the former Republican strategist. Schmidt, or as I affectionately call him Schmidty, in a glaring case of 'the lady doth protests too much, methinks", now is a rabid anti-Trumper and blames Trump for absolutely everything wrong with America and the Republican party. I think it is awesome how Schmidty and every liberal, Maher included, who have him on as a guest totally forgets that it was good ole Schmidty who thrust Alaska's genius hockey mom Sarah Palin onto the American people in 2008, thus unleashing the voracious beast of American Idiocy into the mainstream of politics. In keeping with the current media trend of revisionist history or outright ahistoricalism, Sarah Palin, or as I call her Poor Lady Trump, was never mentioned on Real Time.

The other two panelists were pollster Kristen Soltis Anderson, who seemed very out of place on the show because she is someone who bases her opinions on facts and numbers as opposed to emotions, and the aptly named Charles Blow, the resident hysteric and columnist at New York Times.

Reading Blow in the Times is one of the more uncomfortable things I have to do in my life...not because he reveals uncomfortable bold truths or anything, but because his writing is little more than masturbation meant to derive his own self-pleasure rather than illuminate or elucidate an issue or perspective.

Blow writes essentially the same column every single week where he ejaculates his self-serving emotionalist nonsense that only the most ardent true believers take seriously. Blow's formula begins by his proving to his liberal admirers that his panties are in a perpetual bunch and finishes with his bitching and moaning that Trump is a racist who must be stopped. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

In keeping with Blow's signature irrational emotionalism, on Maher's show he vomited his standard holier-than-thou diatribes and was a bookend to the self-righteous and self-delusional pontificating done by Sarah Palin's enabler and accomplice Steve Schmidt.

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The most interesting guest was the final interview, Duke University professor Nancy MacLean. MacLean, author of the book "Democracy in Chains", was a rapid fire information machine as she spoke fast and furious in a bid to get all of her very relevant and insightful knowledge to a wider audience before Maher interrupted with his usual buffoonery. Watching the thoroughly informed and insightful MacLean I wished that she had a weekly show in HBO instead of Maher, granted she isn't a comedian but God knows neither is Little Bill.

As the show wore down MacLean made some vital points about liberals needing to stop being distracted by Trump and his tweets and instead to look at the long game and what the Koch brothers are doing. She also said that liberals should be more curious about the other side and read what they are writing and talking about. Maybe I liked Ms. MacLean so much because she sounded a hell of a lot like me.

Ms. MacLean finished her breathless dissertation by saying liberals need to be much more "strategic" in dealing with Trump voters...and that comment was what triggered Charles Blow to jump in. Blow rose up in his chair and asked Ms. MacLean accusatorily, "I'm curious about that argument, I keep hearing it...but...how do you meet a bigot halfway?"

Blow's comment was received with rapturous applause by the dopes and dullards in Little Bill's studio audience, and Blow responded as smugly as he could, like a toddler proud of the mess in his diaper.

Blow followed up by declaring "it was curious" that people keep asking how to make White people less anxious. Ms. MacLean never got a chance to respond to Blow's veiled accusation because both Schmidty and Little Bill chimed in with nonsensical comments of their own and then the show ended...thank the good Lord.

But since Mr. Blow opined..."how do you meet a bigot halfway?"...I thought I'd answer him. You meet a bigot halfway by finding common ground between you. For instance, like common economic issues such as de-unionization that adversely affect working class Black, White, Latino and Asian people who are routinely exploited and feel immense economic anxiety under the boot of American capitalism. Gee...meeting a bigot halfway by finding common ground wasn't so hard at all.

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Of course, the real question Blow is asking is not "how" you meet a bigot halfway...but "why" you would meet a bigot halfway. The answer to that is pretty clear too...you meet a bigot halfway because it is in your best interest to do so. How could working with bigots be in your best interest...oh...I don't know...by maybe being a strategically wise thing to do to advance your agenda and make allies where enemies once stood. So, to use our first example, Black, White, Latino and Asian working class people could see put aside their racial bigotry in order to come together (in a union maybe) and demand better pay, working conditions etc. In this example economic issues trump bigotry.

Blow, and most of #TheResistence, believe that anyone who voted Trump is a irredeemable racist. This conveniently ignores all the Trump voters who voted for Obama and then voted Trump in 2016 or who were fed up with business as usual in Washington and chose Trump to shake things up. You can call those people bigots if you like, but it is strategically unwise and as a matter of fact, difficult to prove based on previous actions, namely voting for a Black man for president twice, thus revealing that calling all Trump voters bigots is actually a form if ignorant bigotry.

In Blow's hypocrisy is glaring on the "meeting bigots halfway" issue, as in his own life he meets bigots halfway all the time. It is ironic that Blow would publicly ask "how do you meet a bigot halfway" the same week that the New York Times hired Sarah Jeong to their editorial board, as Ms. Jeong has been exposed as an anti-White bigot after it was revealed that she wrote numerous anti-White racist screeds on social media. So Charles Blow has met anti-White bigot Sarah Jeong halfway by ignoring her predicament in his weekly column and never mentioning it on Maher's show.

Blow has also previously proven himself capable of meeting bigots halfway in order to find common cause...like how he doesn't chastise and attack the Black community for their long and notorious history of bigotry against LGBTQ people...of which Mr. Blow is one.

Blow is able to meet his own community of African-Americans halfway even though there has been historic animosity towards people of Mr. Blow's sexual persuasion, and he is also able to meet Ms. Jeong halfway even though she is bigoted but he is unable to fathom why or how he could ever meet allegedly bigoted Trump voters halfway....I find that...to borrow a loaded accusational word from Mr. Blow himself..."curious".

As for Blow's "curiosity" regarding why people are interested in how to make White people comfortable...the answer is extraordinarily obvious too. White people are nearly 70% of the U.S. population. Making them feel comfortable is obviously important because besides being the overwhelming majority of the population, they are also the overwhelming majority of the electorate. Ignoring White people is electoral suicide.

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And just to make the math even more clear...White's are two-thirds of the population and Mr. Blow's racial group, African-Americans, make up roughly 14% of the population. So...it is pretty glaringly obvious why understanding the White voter is important if you want to succeed. I understand Blow's discomfort with the reality of his minority status, and I keep hearing that White's will soon become a "minority" in America...but I have bad news for Mr. Blow...that still doesn't mean that he will be able to ignore White people in the future. America will supposedly become a minority majority country by 2050, but White's will still be largest minority group and African-American's will, if historical trends hold, be an even smaller minority as their population will decline while Latino and Asian populations grow.

The bottom line is this, as much as it pains Blow to "meet bigots halfway" or to have to 'understand White people', if he wants to advance his agenda, it would be in his best interest to do both of those things.

The reality is that Blow claims he doesn't know how to "meet bigots haflway" because he is full of emotionalist shit. Blow is emblematic of the hysterical, effeminate and inept bunch of fools leading the alleged resistance against Trump. The problem is that Blow is the flip side of the same coin as Trump. Blow is downright Trumpian in the scope and scale of his embrace of victimhood and his naked tribalism and emotionalism. Just like Trump, Blow is self-righteously full of himself and is unquestioningly positive that he is totally 100% "right".

Blow's blindness to his own bigotry and the bigotry of his own side, which was brazenly on display even during his guest appearance on Maher's show, where Little Bill did a bunch of impotent gags making fun of Christians, is staggering. Just like Little Bill's tv show, Blow's commentary is shallow, vapid and vacuous commentary and should be an embarrassment to all thinking liberals.

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The truth is that yes, White people are bigots, but so are Black people, Asians, Latinos and any other "group" you want to mention. Even the liberal saint Charles Blow is a bigot, but he thinks bigotry for his own side is no bigotry at all. In the case of Charles Blow, bigotry is only something other people are guilty of, and if Blow were able to recognize his own bigotry and put aside his intellectual and political paralysis in the face of what he deems White bigotry, just like he is able to do at work and in the Black community, then he might be able to convince others to help  do what he claims is so imperative...namely to topple the "racist" Trump. But that isn't Charles Blow's, #TheResistance or the New York Times business model...they are more interesting in satiating their audience's desire to feel morally and intellectually superior...so that ain't gonna happen...thus proving that the establishment is not interested in actual change, just emotional catharsis through venting while maintaining the status quo.

As the mid-term elections fast approach, and right on their heels the 2020 presidential election, establishment Democrats like Blow better quickly come to understand that outrage isn't a strategy, fury isn't a plan and quenching your emotional needs will not solve the problem. Locking yourself in the self-gratifying Charles Blow echo chamber and ignoring reality will not defeat your enemy. If the threat of Trump is as grave as Democrats keep saying it is then they better start acting accordingly. Charles Blow is an establishment errand boy, a sheep in #Resistance wolf clothing. He is a pied piper of failure, follow him and mimic his thought process and liberals will end up in an even worse spot than they are now.

So to answer the question...how do you meet a bigot halfway, Charles Blow? You think and act strategically by keeping your eyes on the big picture prize and your myopic, self-righteous, self-serving and self-defeating diatribes in the closet.

©2018

Eighth Grade: A Review

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****THIS IS A SPOILER FREE REVIEW!! THIS REVIEW CONTAINS ZERO SPOILERS!!****

My Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation: SKIP IT/SEE IT. This films never rises to the level of being worth the effort to go see it in the theatre, but if you stumble across it on Netflix or cable it is worth checking out.

Eighth Grade, written and directed by Bo Burnham, is the story of Kayla Day as she goes through the final weeks of eighth grade. The film stars Elsie Fisher as Kayla with supporting turns from Josh Hamilton and Emily Robinson.

Eighth Grade is an occasionally funny, often uncomfortable and unwittingly insightful film.

The highlight of the film is Elsie Fisher who does a tremendous job as Kayla, the early teen protagonist who must suffer the excruciating slings and arrows of adolescence in modern America.

Fisher's performance is so gloriously uncomfortable as to be remarkable. Fisher fearlessly embraces being the ugly duckling in a world of cool kids, no doubt mirroring her experience in Hollywood being a "normal" looking kid among the sea of model wannabes. And while the script often lets the film down, Fisher never does. Her performance is so honest and vulnerable as to make you squirm...and that is a compliment.

The rest of the cast are not so good. The other kids give rather one dimensional performances that are only further hampered by a thin script.

Josh Hamilton plays Kayla's dad Mark and ironically enough he misses the mark. I have always liked Hamilton as an actor, having seen him many moons ago at the Atlantic Theater Company in a production of Cider House Rules back when I studied there. I have always rooted for Hamilton to make it big and thought he had the potential to be a movie star. Sadly, it never happened for Hamilton, and after seeing his rather off kilter work in Eighth Grade I wonder if he hasn't simply lost his mojo. Hamilton seems entirely out of sync and rhythm in his scenes and it is pretty startling to witness. 

As for writer/director Bo Burnham, this is his first feature film and his inexperience shows. Burnham's script has moments of magic in it, but it is also very poorly compiled and extremely thin. Burnham seems more adept at writing skits than screenplays, as the movie feels more like a compilation of bits than a true, fully formed narrative.

Burnham as director also shows flashes of inspiration, but too often is scuttled by his own lack of artistic depth and vision. Maybe with a bit more seasoning Burnham can develop into a powerful storyteller, but for now he seems more adept in creating vignettes than vistas.

The one thing that really stood out to me regarding Eighth Grade is that it unintentionally and unwittingly (no doubt) highlights the current crisis of masculinity in America. I know, I know, you are wondering how can I see a movie about a adolescent girl and only come away with insights on masculinity...well...forgive me...I find my insights where I can.

In the film Eighth Grade, there are no real men. None. There are men, but they are all these rather feminized, weak kneed fools (Hamilton's father character or Kayla's dinner date), or are twisted and tortured versions of the American male like the sex-fueled perverts who inhabit her world.

I doubt Burnham did this intentionally because he himself has probably never known a real man, as they are an endangered species. But the world portrayed in Eighth Grade is an accurate one in that respect, and part of the reason it is such a repugnant, repulsive and frankly hopeless world is that there are no true men inhabiting it.

In many ways, Eighth Grade is a companion piece to Leave No Trace, as the female protagonist of that film, Tom, is older than Kayla is in Eighth Grade, and Tom's generation is saying goodbye to the last of the real men...and Kayla must now grow-up and inhabit that male-less world. Leave No Trace gives viewers the proper diagnosis of the disease infecting of American masculinity and Eighth Grade shows us the symptoms of that disease. And contrary to what many think, a world eradicated of real men, is not a safer world but a much more dangerous one, as Kayla could attest. Of course, the saddest part is that Kayla doesn't even know what her world lacks...she is only left to flounder with a void in her being that she cannot comprehend.

There is a scene in Eighth Grade where director Burnham slowly moves his camera in on the school band as they play an off-key and horrendous version of The Star Spangled Banner. This scene was the best thing about the movie because it accurately depicts how much trouble America is in. As Eighth Grade expertly shows us, the next generation of youth, who are all addicted to social media and who live on line or with their face in their phones, and who have no religion or philosophy beyond self-help platitudes and new age nonsense, are the future of America...to put it bluntly...we are fucked. When these sad and sorry sons of bitches come of age it isn't America's anthem that will be butchered beyond recognition, it will be America. If you can watch Eighth Grade and come away feeling anything other than an impending sense of doom...you are a better person than I.

In conclusion, I didn't like eighth grade when I went through it years ago, and I was less than thrilled about sitting through Eighth Grade now. While Elsie Fisher does a solid job in the lead role, the rest of the cast and film never quite measure up. While I didn't hate Eighth Grade, I certainly didn't love it either. If you come across it on cable or Netflix than I recommend you watch it, but I do not believe it is worth spending the time, money and energy to go see it in the theatre. That said, your mileage may vary, as this film might resonate more with women/girls or parents of girls who might be able to relate more to the social struggles of Kayla...but for cinephiles of any gender, Eighth Grade leaves you unsatisfied.

©2018

 

 

Shots Fired - James Gunn Part Two

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Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes 57 seconds

"FREEDOM OF SPEECH...JUST WATCH WHAT YOU SAY" - ICE-T

On July 27th, I published an article at RT.com about Disney firing Guardians of the Galaxy 3 director James Gunn over some nearly decade old tweets in which he made bad rape and pedophilia jokes. In that essay I made the argument that Gunn's firing was the result of expansive corporate power and the effects of suffocatingly myopic political correctness on both corporate and American culture.

I got a lot of push back from readers of the piece in my inbox and at the comment section at RT. A reader left a comment on this website (oddly enough on a different article) that accurately represents the arguments made against my essay.  The comment is as follows:

"Just read your spirited defense of child rape enthusiast James Gunn. I have to assume you haven't read those vile tweets by Gunn, and that they go back nearly a decade doesn't make them funny, nor is it an excuse to defend this vile filth.

There is NOTHING funny, tweeting about doing degenerate perversions to kids, no matter what movies he directed.

But I see you're part of that Hollywood crowd that chortles about raping kids and babies, so either you're a pedo or just trying to protect your business.

Either way, that RT article almost made me vomit, they way you vigorously defended Gunn, making him out to be the victim of a nation gone mad on PC. I'll agree the PC/SJW crowd have gotten out of control, but not in this case.

What's your next article, defending Dan Harmon's skit about raping a baby doll? Oh yes, that's a real knee-slapper. Or maybe you'll claim that 'Steve-O' from the aptly name "JACKASS" franchise, who had a tattoo of a grown man sodomizing a baby was just youthful ignorance, and he has since repented by covering up the baby with the man now engaging in bestiality with an ostrich.

This is the crowd of sickos that love, and support that traitor Hillary Clinton, who had a good laugh about Qaddafi getting sodomized to death with a bayonet, and that crowd still wonders why she lost?

Looks like the Hollywood casting couch is still very much alive.

Greg Bacon"

THE JOKES POLICE

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Mr. Bacon's thinking, or lack thereof, is emblematic of the rot at the core of American culture. He agrees that "the PC/SJW crowd have gotten out of control"...except in the case of Gunn. This sort of intellectual acrobatics is always how it goes when it comes to issues like this...we want freedom of speech for the things we agree with but not for the things we dislike. There is always some bright red line but it is always drawn around only the topics we hold dear. Mr. Bacon is either genuinely distraught by James Gunn's rape and pedophilia jokes or is cynically using them to take down a prominent member of the opposing political tribe, either way, Mr. Bacon is cooked in the grease of his own lack of intellectual integrity.

So, for example, while Gunn's rape/pedo jokes offend Mr. Bacon no end, there are people I know who would find his calling Hillary Clinton a "traitor" to be extremely offensive. He would laugh that off as absurd, just like others would laugh off Gunn's poor attempts at humor. Should Mr. Bacon lose his job as a probation officer or exotic dancer or whatever he does for a living just for his comment? Obviously the answer is no, and in my opinion, neither should Gunn.

Mr. Bacon's entire comment is soaked in the sort of emotionalist distortion that so often clouds rational and logical judgements. For instance, he repeatedly claims that I made a "spirited" and "vigorous" defense of Gunn's comments. If you read my piece it is pretty clear I do no such thing, what I argue is the overarching philosophy that currently drives our corporate and online culture is demented and damaging. I never quote Gunn nor do I defend him, what I am defending is a calm, cool rationalism.

THE SCURRILOUS AND THE RIDICULOUS

As Mr. Bacon's comment continues he descends further and further into his emotionalist fury, ejaculating out accusations that I am either a pedophile or selling my soul in order to "protect my business". If Mr. Bacon had done even a modicum of reading prior to commenting, he would've noticed that if there is one thing I certainly do not do in my writing it is put my business interests above my search for truth. I have written scathing articles here and at RT that have no doubt infuriated and offended numerous clients and prospective clients, the result of which is I have been made a pariah in some circles out here in Hollywood...so this charge is scurrilous at best.

As far as my being a pedophile or giving a pass to pedophilia, Mr. Bacon would be wise to read some of my yearly Slip-Me-A Mickey awards articles, where I repeatedly call out the worst sex offenders in Hollywood for their immoral proclivities. Even before the Weinstein scandal and the #MeToo movement came to the forefront, I had implored actors and actresses to come forward and take on sexual predators in Hollywood.

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Mr. Bacon's lazy charges that I am a pedophile also highlight another issue with his lack of reasoning, namely that James Gunn wrote jokes about rape and pedophilia, he did not rape anyone or prey upon children. Mr. Bacon would be wise to learn that words are not action and there is a big difference between the two. For example, joking about rape, even if it is child rape, is in fact, not rape. This is the biggest difference between me and apparently everyone else on the internet...I do not care what someone says on Twitter (even, as I wrote immediately after the election, President Trump) or Facebook (and cannot understand why anyone would ever be on either of those platforms), what I care about is what people actually do.

THE BEST DEFENSE IS TO TAKE OFFENSE

In terms of being offended by something...here is some news for you...you do not have the right to NOT be offended. If someone or something offends you, that is about you, not the person or thing allegedly offending you. If you do not want to be offended, dig a bunker with no internet access and stay in it for the rest of your life.

If you do venture out into the world and are offended, take that as an opportunity to sharpen your argument against the offender or open your mind to their point of view or to grow thicker skin, but do not take it upon yourself to make sure that the alleged offender loses their job when others like their work or is otherwise punished just for saying something that hurts your delicate sensibilities.

PRINCIPLES OVER TRIBALISM

For me it is pretty simple, I think James Gunn should not have been fired. I also think Roseanne Barr should not have been fired. I also think Sarah Jeong, an Asian woman who just got hired by the New York Times, and who has a history of tweeting racist and hateful things about White people, and who remarkably blames White people for her tweeting those racist things, should not be fired. I am "offended" by Ms. Jeong's tweets, but I think it is more important for me to sit in my discomfort than demand that others rights to free speech be diminished in any way...to react any other way would be hypocritical.

If Roseanne Barr's tweet comparing a public figure, Valerie Jarrett, to Ari from Tim Burton's Planet of the Apes movie, offends you and you think Barr deserved to be fired, but you think Jeong should keep her job, you have zero intellectual integrity. You are nothing but a tribal activist wanting a "win" over the other side. The same exact thing is true if it is reversed, and you support Roseanne but not Jeong, or in the case of Mr. Bacon, you think PC/SJW's are out of control EXCEPT for when it comes to James Gunn. Now if you want to talk about truly offensive things that deserve to end in not just firing but imprisonment, torture and maybe even the death penalty, then Tim Burton and his atrocious Planet of the Apes movie is a legitimate target...I am just kidding...sort of...but not really.

OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS

In terms of Roseanne Barr, I know I am in the minority in not wanting her fired but my reasons are not just principled but strategic. Liberals were elated by the take down of Ms. Barr especially as a proxy in their war on Trump, but I find this thinking to be backward and self-defeating because in my eyes the Roseanne scandal was an opportunity, not for revenge, but for strategic gains.

Roseanne's show was enormously successful and it was a direct line into the living rooms of the Trump voters that liberals need to convince to come back into the Democratic fold. Her ratings were spectacularly high and the top ten cities where she performed the best were in order...Tulsa, Cincinnati, Kansas City (Mo.), Pittsburgh, Chicago, Oklahoma City, Detroit, Buffalo, St. Louis and Indianapolis.

Some may say that getting Trump voters to flip is an impossible task, but the numbers say otherwise, as many of the Midwestern Trump voters were Obama voters in 2008 and 2012...in fact Roseanne used to be a Democrat. Looking at the list of the cities where she performed highest, two are in Missouri, which has a female Democratic senator, and one each in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan...all states where Democrats lost in 2016 and could use all the help they can get in 2018 and 2020.

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In my eyes, using Roseanne's racist tweet as leverage to get Roseanne, whom Midwestern Trump voters admire and respect, to use her show as a conduit to reach White working class Mid-Westerners and explore commonalities between working class people of all colors would have been a much more thoughtful and strategic thing to do rather than just emotionally firing her the same day as her infraction.

Two things could have happened in the Roseanne situation if liberals hadn't reacted so emotionally...the first is they could have attempted to use her as a direct line to communicate their message to White working class voters in the  Midwest, and two they could have maintained the high ground in regards to free speech. By firing Roseanne so quickly, liberals shot themselves in the foot and lost an opportunity to erode some of Trump's voting base. 

If liberals hadn't been so desperate to fire Roseanne and instead saw her situation as an opportunity, they could have not only started to sway Trump voters to change their votes, but maybe even change their perception of people of other races...then that would really shake things up...which is probably why ABC/Disney, the corporate embodiment of the establishment, acted so impulsively (and if Roseanne failed to live up to her end of the bargain than you fire her). ABC/Disney and the rest of the establishment, do not want things to change, they want racial animosity to divide the working class because then they are able to control the working class...but that is a story for another day.

"THEY MAY TAKE OUR LIVES, BUT THEY'LL NEVER TAKE OUR FREEDOM!!" - BRAVEHEART

The truth is that I am also one of those crazy people who thinks that NFL players should not be stopped from protesting during the national anthem and that Colin Kaepernick should have a job. I also think flag burning should never be a crime and that White supremacists should be allowed to march in Charlottesville or anywhere they damn well please as long as they get the proper permits to do so. I also think that corralling protestors into "free speech" zones at political events violates both the spirit and the rule of the law and degrades our Constitutional rights.

I vehemently oppose liberals who demanded the ACLU not defend groups that carry legal weapons to protests. I also vehemently oppose tech companies or any other Orwellian entities policing the internet or anywhere else for content they find offensive.

I have been called a First Amendment fundamentalist by both liberal and conservative friends of mine for these stances. I find that hysterically funny. I've also been called a Second Amendment fundamentalist for my stalwart support of gun rights...and called even worse for my unbending support of all our constitutional, God-given rights.

YOU REAP WHAT YOU SOW

Liberals and conservatives who are so quick to socially police the speech and thought of their opponents will quickly learn that double edged sword will be the tool with which the establishment powers execute you. If you are comfortable with an online mob or the totalitarian tech companies or big media being in charge of policing thought and speech in America, you are a brain-addled fool of epic proportions because they won't silence your enemies, they will end up silencing you.

In our current emotional pique, we have devolved into short-sighted fools who disregard the rights of others while we demand subservience to our personal feelings and whims. As the classical liberal foundation upon which our culture and civilization was built is torn asunder by the impulsive and despotic, we are quickly being stripped of any and all defenses save our over-inflated, self-serving sense of moral outrage and righteous indignation. When the manically totalitarian arbiters of thought and speech come for us, one by one, those flaccid defenses will leave us all at the mercy of our enemies...who, just like the rest of us...have proven themselves to be both vicious and merciless.

In this age of hyper-polarization and emotionalism where we no longer make arguments but only accusations, and where tribalism trumps principles, we are quickly spiraling down into an abyss of vacuousness and vapidity where the foundational pillars of our civilization will be crushed under the weight of our own insidiously myopic narcissism.

 

©2018

 

 

Mission Impossible - Fallout: A Review

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***THIS IS A SPOILER FREE REVIEW!! THIS REVIEW CONTAINS ZERO SPOILERS!!****

My Rating: 1.5 out of 5 stars               Popcorn Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation: SKIP IT. This is a rather absurd and relentlessly inane take on the tired old action movie formula.

Mission Impossible - Fallout, written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie, is the sixth film of the franchise and like all the others tells the story of Ethan Hunt of the Impossible Missions Force as he fights to save the world. The film stars Tom Cruise as Hunt with supporting turns from Henry Cavill, Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg and Rebecca Ferguson.

I have seen some of the previous five Mission Impossible films, I do not actually remember how many of them I have seen as they all blend into one gigantic ball of action, but I know for sure I saw the first (which was decent) and second (which was dreadful), and then the one where Tom Cruise interminably runs along canals in China. I would have skipped this newest member of the franchise except for two things....one - I have MoviePass so I could basically see it for free...and two - I had a conversation the other day with a friend and he said that he heard that it was a really good movie and was the "Dark Knight" of the series. This was high praise indeed, for Dark Knight is the Everest of superhero movies. So...for those reasons I ventured out to the cineplex to see Tom Cruise ply his trade.

Mission Impossible - Fallout is a weird movie and that is evident from the get go. During the opening credits they play the highlights of the movie that they are about to show you...this strikes me as incredibly, incredibly strange. I mean, why in the hell are the filmmakers basically showing us a commercial for the film we already bought a ticket to? Also...why are they showing us everything that happens in the entirety of the movie during the first five minutes?

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These weren't the only questions raised by Mission Impossible - Fallout. Other questions I had were...what the hell is Tom Cruise doing and why the hell is he doing it? Cruise isn't so much an actor anymore as a professional athlete/stunt man at this point in his career. The plot of Fallout is nothing more than just an excuse for Tom Cruise to run, jump, fall, fly, drive, crash and fight with his usual over-the-top aplomb and as he is the first one to tell the world over and over again...Cruise does his own stunts...each more insane than the next. The marketing campaign for M.I.-Fallout is basically Tom Cruise doing interviews talking about all the stunts he does...which is all he has to talk about because the movie is so stupid that actually talking about it with a straight face is...ironically...an impossible mission.

Some of Cruise's stunts (did I tell you that Cruise does his own stunts?) are certainly daring...like Cruise doing his own skydiving and hanging from a helicopter, but the problem is, as challenging as those stunts were for Cruise to perform, they simply aren't very visually or cinematically interesting or satisfying. It is cool for Cruise to be able to say "hey I did this!" but it seems more important to me for those feats of derring-do to be filmed in a way to maximize their cinematic impact.

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Cruise used to be the biggest move star in the world but now the world is sans movie stars and Cruise is reduced to jumping out of planes or zipping around Paris in a motorcycle or hanging off of a cliff or helicopter or whatever is in reach for him to grip. But if you are Tom Cruise...why the hell do this junk? It isn't like he needs the money or help getting women (or men or whatever he is into). It isn't like MI-Fallout will garner him respect from his peers or awards. So why do this soulless, mindless crap?

Of course the answer to that might just be that Tom Cruise is not an actual person but a business entity, and the flesh and blood Tom Cruise is subservient to Tom Cruise Inc. which is as soulless and mindless a venture imaginable and which leaves the person Tom Cruise less a human being and more an automaton...which is why Cruise fits right in as the Christ of Scientology.

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What makes Cruise's absorption into the dead-eyed entity that is Tom Cruise Inc. is that there was a time in his career where he was a decent actor who strove to be better at the craft of acting. Cruise sought out great directors like Coppola, Scorsese, Oliver Stone, Kurbick and PT Anderson in order to try and become a great actor. These directors took Cruise out of his comfort and control zone and forced him to get better in films like Born on the Fourth of July, The Color of Money, Magnolia and even Eyes Wide Shut. It seems that Cruise threw in the acting towel after having not won an Oscar and now just churns out the worst sort of second rate action junk he can get made. This is a bad career decision as Cruise's time as an athletic action star are diminishing with every passing day...as any athlete will tell you, the older you get the harder it gets...and Cruise ain't getting younger. I think Cruise would be wiser to pursue the Magnolia approach, meaning he works with superior directors in smaller roles or smaller films in order to try and regain some artistic mojo before the lights go out on his career when he can't take the pounding of doing his own stunts.

Regardless of the Tom Cruise questions...the bottom line is this...Mission Impossible - Fallout is a terrible movie. I guess all things are relative, but calling this the "Dark Knight" of the franchise is sort of like telling a guy who stands three foot high that he is extremely tall for a midget. The Mission Impossible franchise has devolved into a parody of itself and the ever expanding absurdity of the films were highlighted by the resounding guffaws by audience members at my screening.

Fallout follows the tried and true formula of the other films in the series as there are a series of double and triple-crosses usually involving masks that are also accompanied by cheap fake out dream sequences, flash forwards and flashbacks and of course, to top it all off, Ving Rhames wears a hat.  

Two things stood out to me in Fallout...the first is that there is a climactic sequence that I have titled "The Longest Fifteen Minutes in Human History" that is so inane that the audience in my screening laughed out loud multiple times during the endless, allegedly fifteen minute sequence. Secondly, Alec Baldwin does one scene in which he does the worst acting of his entire career and maybe in the history of the artform. I found it incredulous that Baldwin didn't burst out laughing as he was saying his eye-rollingly awful dialogue and look to the camera and wink to let us know he was in on the joke that was this script.

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There were some brights spots for me regarding Fallout...but I had to look very hard to find them. The first was Vanessa Kirby as the White Widow. I liked Kirby on Netflix's The Crown where she played the Queen's party-girl sister. I was pleased to see she is able to adequately fill the big screen...something television actors can at times struggle with...in Fallout. The other thing is actor Sean Harris who plays the bad guy Solomon Lane. Harris isn't particularly great in the movie but I just like him as an actor and was happy to see him getting a paycheck.

In conclusion, I found Mission Impossible - Fallout, to be repetitive, boring and entirely forgettable. Even though Tom Cruise puts himself through the ringer for this movie...have I mentioned that he does his own stunts?...the whole endeavor is for naught. Mission Impossible - Fallout will no doubt make a tsunami of dollars, but my recommendation is that you withhold your money from that green tidal wave.

ADDENDUM: WARNING - THE FOLLOWING SECTION HAS SPOILERS

And finally, another thing I found interesting about the movie is that in some ways it plays into my Isaiah/McCaffrey Wave Theory. Tom Cruise/Ethan Hunt, symbolic of the neo-liberal world order, with his puffy, bloated cheeks, a result of his narcissism in the form of bad plastic surgery to, just like that tired old political philosophy, try and look young and vibrant again, is literally hanging by his fingers to stay alive and maintain the current world order. The bad guys...Solomon Lane and company...are fighting to take down that world order and only preposterous movie magic can stop them. Add in the fact that Cruise's character, Ethan Hunt, works for the IMF, which is supposed to be the Impossible Missions Force, but is also the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which is the flagship of the neo-liberal world order, and you have a perfect storm for my wave theory.

The neo-liberal world order of the IMF (both the real one and the movie one) is hanging by a thread, and the likelihood of it surviving gets more and more unlikely with every passing second. Solomon Lane, the red headed anarchist...sound familiar (Donald Trump)?... has his heart set on destruction as the first act of creation "the greater the suffering, the greater the peace"...which sounds a lot like the best case scenario for the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Henry Cavill, who plays August Walker (is he a cross between August Wilson and Walker Percy...symbolic of the outcast modern man?), a CIA assassin. Cavill also famously plays Superman, and here he also represents the Nietzschean Superman. Walker (he is a White Walker...sort of like the villainous army in Game of Thrones) is the White Working class seduced by the red headed Solomon Lane/Trump...and does his bidding to destroy the world order.

I assume Fallout will be in the top ten in terms of box office this year, so its narrative/sub-text about a charismatic anarchist leader using his minions to destroy the world order is something that resonates in the collective unconscious right now and will continue to do so in the near future.

©2018

 

 

 

Leave No Trace: A Review

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****THIS IS A SPOILER FREE REVIEW!!! THIS REVIEW CONTAINS ZERO SPOILERS!!****

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation: SEE IT. An understated but well acted and directed film that speaks quietly but says volumes.

Leave No Trace, written and directed by Debra Granik (based on the book My Abandonment by Peter Rock), is the story of a father with PTSD and his teenage daughter who live off of the grid in the woods of Oregon.. The film stars Ben Foster and Thomasin McKenzie as the father Will and the daughter Tom.

Leave No Trace is not a spectacular film riddled with dazzling camera work or explosive dramatic gems, instead it is a deliciously understated and subtle movie exquisitely acted and masterfully directed.

Director Granik's last film was 2010's Winter's Bone which was Jennifer Lawrence's coming out party as a major talent and movie star. Lawrence was nineteen when she shot Winter's Bone, and her performance was so transcendent it garnered her an Oscar nomination and catapulted her to the A-list.

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Leave No Trace's teen star is Thomasin McKenzie, and while she won't be on the express train to the A-list just yet, she certainly proves she will have a very bright future with her genuine work in the movie. McKenzie is a much more reserved actress than Jennifer Lawrence (and at 17, younger than Lawrence when she worked with Granik), but she shares the same vibrant inner life and grounded humanity that JLaw possesses.

What is so endearing about McKenzie's work in Leave No Trace is that, like a fawn taking its first steps, she carries the awkwardness of a teen girl with both a compelling mix of insecurity and bravado that is a joy to behold. When a scene arises where a typical actress would be trying to cry, McKenzie takes the wise and inspired choice to try and NOT cry. Watching her contain her emotions and only allow them to sneak through in the most understated of ways, like a quivering chin, made my acting coach heart burst with joy.

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Teaming McKenzie with Ben Foster, one of my favorite actors and also one of the most underappreciated actors working today, makes for a dynamic pairing. Foster is blessed with both a gravitas and air of combustibility that makes him a magnetic and uneasy screen presence. Foster is, like McKenzie, understated in his performance in Leave No Trace, but the less he does the more mesmerizing he becomes in the role. Foster's layered and subdued work, sans his usual fireworks, is a testament to his skill and mastery of craft.

Speaking of mastery of craft, director Debra Granik takes the same subtle route as her actors. Leave No Trace is a straight forward film, and Granik shows her craftsmanship with her impeccable pacing, letting the narrative take its sweet time. Never in a rush, never showy, never over the top or even nearing it, Granik's proficient direction is proof that being able to tell a story without dramatic pyrotechnics and camera acrobatics is a dying art form.

Granik's Winter's Bone was a similarly directed film and proves that Ms. Granik is a throwback type of director from a fading cinematic era, the 1970's, when story and characters were the most important part of the film making process. I hope Granik becomes more prolific as a director in the coming years as her style and approach to the art form are a breath of fresh air in a sewer of over-the-top, look-at-me conformity.

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While Granik's film is deeply poignant for many reasons, as a coming of age story, as a story of a wounded parent, I found it most poignant of all as an unwitting epitaph for the American male. Our society and culture has been emasculated and is feminized beyond recognition. All we are left with is a distorted masculinity (think of Trump or hip-hop culture) that no longer nourishes the society that contains it, but rather is a cancer that is toxic to all that come into contact with it. Real men...defined as self-sufficient, independent, individualistic, rugged, rough, straight-forward and trustworthy, are reduced to being either outlaws (echoes of writer/director Taylor Sheridan) or phantoms left to wander the wilderness but never be seen...like the mythical Sasquatch. As father to a young son, this is the reality that disturbs me to my core. In modern day America men like me and the man I am raising my son to be, are dinosaurs post-comet, a dying breed playing out the string while waiting for our extinction to become official.

As evidenced by the work of Taylor Sheridan (Wind River, Hell of High Water, Sicario), women cannot survive in the world of men, but as Granik shows in Leave No Trace, men cannot survive in the world of women either. Containing the unruly beast of man is no easy task, as evidenced by Tom, who enjoys being able to control her toy horses and who learns to lose her fear of bees and enjoy handling them even though they could kill her (but would die in the process), but she realizes that man (her father) is a hell of a lot more difficult and dangerous to control than honey bees.

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The film also highlights the broken promise of America, especially to men. Leave No Trace peels back the band-aid that covers the bullet wound of America's forgotten. The dark underbelly of America, populated by men sold a bill of goods and exploited for their misplaced sense of duty and patriotism, is a striking indictment of the vacuousness of American culture and political rhetoric.

As the film shows us, America is dying because the American male is dying and with him the American dream. An entire generation of American men are being corporatized and neutered, thus left without any sense purpose or meaning in their lives. This America of eunuchs is a nation that simply will not survive for very long as it will collapse under its own pretensions.

In conclusion, I really loved Leave No Trace. I found the acting and directing to be top notch and the storytelling and sub-text to be truly fascinating and insightful. I recommend you go see Leave No Trace in the theatre, not because it is the type of film that demands the big screen, but rather to send a message to Hollywood that smart, well-crafted, understated and character-driven stories can garner an audience and make them some money.

Whether you are a man or woman, I believe that Leave No Trace will move you, as it reveals that the painful wound currently afflicting America is ultimately fatal...and that there is no turning back and walking away. Go see it now.

©2018

 

 

Guardians of the Galaxy Defeated by the Most Fearsome Super-Villain of All...Political Correctness

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Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes 08 seconds

America is spiraling downward into a politically correct madness and big Hollywood corporations like Disney are hastening the descent.

On July 20th Disney fired outspoken liberal writer/director James Gunn from the film Guardians of the Galaxy 3 for a series of tweets he had written from 2008 to 2011 which the company deemed “offensive”.

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The tweets in question, which were Gunn’s attempts at humor, were jokes about rape and pedophilia that were dug up by alt-right firebrand Mike Cernovich looking to bring the archliberal Gunn down a peg. Cernovich and his merry band of alt-right tricksters couldn’t have imagined in their wildest dreams that due to their twitter/media campaign against Gunn, the man who wrote and directed the first two  highly successful Guardians of the Galaxy franchise films, he would end up being kicked to the curb by Disney.

Many liberals in Hollywood are outraged that Gunn was fired and a petition with 200,000 signatures is even going around to get him re-hired.

Others in the film industry, like the writer and director of Star Wars: The Last Jedi (a Disney production) Rian Johnson, are quaking in their designer space boots over Disney’s reactive and swift punishment of Gunn. Johnson wisely erased his entire twitter history in the wake of Gunn’s firing, no doubt fearful he may have unwittingly violated Disney’s moronic retroactive bad joke policy.

Regardless of how entertainment professionals feel about Mickey Mouse being quick on the draw to take down Gunn, they better understand that this sort of hypersensitivity combined with zero tolerance is now the new normal in corporate Hollywood.

Proof of this is that Gunn is not the only Tinseltown big shot to have recently had their careers tossed overboard from the good ship Hollywood after running afoul of the p.c. police.

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The most high profile case occurred on May 29th when ABC, a subsidiary of Disney, fired vociferous Trump supporter Roseanne Barr from her show Roseanne, the most popular new TV show in America, after she had tweeted racist remarks about a former Obama official.

Also, the same week that Disney had Gunn walk the plank, Paramount fired Amy Powell, head of their television division, after Powell allegedly made a comment about “angry Black women”. Powell strenuously denies the allegations, and is planning on suing Paramount for wrongful termination. The irony is that the comment in question was made during discussions about Paramount’s production of a series based on the film First Wives Club that has an all-Black cast.

While the obvious through line of all of these stories is political correctness run amok and the internet mob targeting and destroying people’s careers, another common feature of these stories is just as insidious…the expansion and abuse of corporate power.

It is bad enough that corporations are so short-sighted as to only make decisions based on quarterly earnings rather than long-term financial health, but now these business behemoths no longer seem beholden to shareholders or the bottom line at all, but rather, like impetuous adolescents, are slavishly and myopically addicted to such frivolous and fickle short-term measurements of their success as online popularity.

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The fact that Disney would fire Gunn, whose two previous Guardian of the Galaxy films made the company nearly two billion dollars, over years old bad joke tweets, is astonishing for a media giant that has built its exorbitant power making money, not friends.

ABC/Disney’s decision to fire Roseanne, while more understandable in terms of the offensive content and recent timing of her tweets, also goes against the financial bottom line as it is estimated that it will cost the network tens of millions of dollars. And yes, firing Roseanne will appease people who were offended by her tweets, but in this hyper-polarized political atmosphere it will also alienate people who are her fans, making the whole enterprise a public relations wash at best.

Paramount’s firing of Powell will no doubt hit the company in its pocketbook as well, since Powell has stated she will sue for wrongful termination, and from all of the information currently made public, she has a very strong case.

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This recent upsurge in political correctness and zero tolerance in the entertainment industry is born out of impotent liberals in Hollywood needing to vent their rage at Trump, so they use any chance they get to punish a proxy, whether deserving or not. Barr and Powell are no doubt stand-ins for racist Trump in the eyes of Hollywood liberals and make for useful and momentarily satisfying scapegoats.

The big studios have now co-opted the mindset of their liberal La La Land neighbors, enshrining into corporate policy the idea that error has no rights, and that those who don’t preach the politically correct party line are not only wrong but irredeemably evil.

While liberals cheered Roseanne’s firing as a victory over “racist” Trump supporters, hubris blinded them to the uncomfortable fact that using politically incorrect tweets as a cudgel to bludgeon their enemies is a tactic that others could turn against them, thus the alt-right used the same approach to bag their own big game in the form of James Gunn.

The inevitable outcome of Hollywood social justice warriors using revenge fueled, emotionally driven political correctness as a weapon is that it will invariably devolve into a self-defeating circular firing squad where liberals destroy and alienate just as many allies as enemies in their scorched earth approach at policing speech and thought.

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This approach also conditions corporations into abandoning context and logic from their decision making, such as being able to see the difference in severity between Gunn’s old rape jokes and Roseanne’s recent racist barbs, and replacing them with a draconian and manic zero-tolerance policy in order to satiate whatever online mob, regardless of their political affiliation, targets them.

And so, while Trump-loving Roseanne is out at ABC, so is devout Democrat James Gunn at Disney. And while the liberal goal is for more diversity and racial sensitivity in studios, Amy Powell’s quick-trigger firing from Paramount will result in White studio executives being less willing to work with minorities for fear that they will unwittingly say something offensive and instantly lose their jobs. In mediation this is what they call a lose-lose scenario.

The scariest part of all this is that since the disease of zero tolerance political correctness has spread from universities to Silicon Valley and now to the behemoths of corporate Hollywood like Disney, which is on the precipice of controlling an astounding 40% of the box office market with their pending purchase of Fox, the contagion will only spread further to the rest of American industries through the mindless and spineless group think of human resource departments in corporations across America.

Being beholden to the whims of whatever mob of snowflakes or cynically inspired career assassins shriek the loudest is no way to run a business, an industry or a nation. The sort of Orwellian, Stasi level policing of thought and speech that brought down James Gunn, Amy Powell and even Roseanne Barr is pure and utter madness. I can assure you one thing…this insanity can not and will not end well for Hollywood or America.

A VERSION OF THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED AT RT.COM

UPDATE: Right on schedule...Sarah Silverman is the newest Hollywood liberal to be idiotically raked over the coals for old pedophilia jokes on twitter. Once the Politically Correct beast is unleashed it cannot be controlled...a lesson Hollywood liberals are learning the hard way.

 

©2018

Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot: A Review

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***THIS IS A SPOILER FREE REVIEW!! THIS REVIEW CONTAINS ZERO SPOILERS!***

My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation: SKIP IT/SEE IT: Skip it in the theatre (unless you have MoviePass) but due to terrific acting you should see it on cable or Netflix.

Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot, written and directed by Gus Van Sant, is a dramedy bio-pic based upon the memoir of the same name by quadriplegic cartoonist and recovering alcoholic John Callahan. The film stars Joaquin Phoenix as Callahan, with supporting turns from Jonah Hill, Rooney Mara and Jack Black.

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I have been to rehab more times than I can even remember...maybe it's because I was in a booze-fueled blackout during those years...who knows? The thing that I do remember from my various rehab stints was that at every single one of them they were so bereft of ideas on how to help us degenerate drunken sons of bitches that they would always, at some point, resort to having us watch a movie. The movie they ALWAYS showed at every single rehab was the 1988 film Clean and Sober starring Michael Keaton.

The showing of Clean and Sober was preceded by comments from counselors as to what a "great movie" it was...which only further undermined my trust in them. Clean and Sober is a decent enough teaching tool for a rehab...but it sure as hell is not a "great" movie.

I thought of my seemingly endless rehab days often as I watched Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot, and couldn't help but wonder if this film could morph into the new cinematic entertainment/teaching tool for rehabs across the country. 

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You never know what you're going to get with director Gus Van Sant. Sometimes he rolls out a total impressionistic arthouse piece of cinema (Elephant) and other times he'll give you a rather solid but conventional movie tinged with some arthouse flair (Milk, Good Will Hunting). With Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot, he falls decidedly into the former category, as the film is a surprisingly standard and conventional "sobriety" bio-pic.

Van Sant does mess around with some less than linear storytelling, but that only confuses matters, as it is at times hard to tell where Callahan is in his recovery or non-recovery as the case may be.

As a recovery story the film works but for all the wrong reasons, namely the incoherent timeline mimics the confusion inherent in addiction, but also makes for a discombobulating cinematic experience. It is frustrating to the point of infuriating watching Callahan consistently get in his own way and stumble and stagger his way from bar to bar and AA meeting to AA meeting and back again and not knowing if we are in "real time" or a flashback or flash forward.

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The cycle of alcoholism and addiction is highlighted in a cartoon by John Callahan which shows the evolutionary scale from an amoeba in a swamp all the way up to a man accepting an award at a podium. Watching someone on screen so convincingly go through that heart breaking, gut wrenching and shame-filled struggle from the drunken swamp creature to the victorious award winner is uncomfortable for anyone like me who has made a similarly arduous journey.

In this context, Van Sant's less than coherent narrative is effective in relaying the psychological and spiritual vertigo that accompanies addiction, which is like a hall of funhouse mirrors where up is down, left is right and right is wrong. It is a horrifying and soul crushing experience to endure (and for loved one's of the afflicted to endure as well) the climb up and then falling back down of Callahan's evolutionary scale. The climb to sobriety is much like Christ's gauntlet to his own crucifixion, but at least Christ had the benefit of a clear path to Golgotha where he wasn't constantly taking one step forward and two steps back.

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John Callahan's struggle for sobriety is doubly difficult because of how painful and hopeless his unique situation is in regards to his spinal injury. Being unable to literally run away from his demons is an added burden that makes his climb all the steeper and also gives him a built in self-pitying excuse. Addicts love to self-pity and embrace the victim archetype...whining "poor me, poor me, poor me...pour me another drink". Callahan's victimhood is valid, but that doesn't make it useful in trying to ease and transform his feelings of emotional myopia, abandonment, betrayal, self-loathing and rage that can strangle recovery in its cradle.

I don't know if Don't Worry He Won't Get Far on Foot will be embraced by rehabs in the coming years as it is a little too realistic in showing how sobriety is a series of very small victories floating in an ocean of abysmal failures. That cold, hard reality might be too much for the newly sober to grapple with in such a fragile and delicate stage of their very long journey up and out of the muddy pit of addiction and onto the terra firma of an "ordinary" life.

As far as the particulars go, the film is definitely elevated above the likes of Clean and Sober because it boasts two top notch performances, one from lead Joaquin Phoenix, who I believe is the best actor in film today, and Jonah Hill, who plays sobriety guru Donnie Green.

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Phoenix's Callahan has a festering wound eating away at his soul that is only heightened when he (literally) cannot run away from it any longer. Phoenix is a combustible talent, but his skill and mastery of craft is equal to his prodigious talents, and watching him imprisoned in a motionless body for two hours is a masterclass. At once charming and infuriating, self-destructive, self-absorbed, self-pitying and yet always magnetically compelling, Phoenix does Callahan justice by pulling no punches in his complex portrayal of him. . 

Phoenix uses his breath to great effect to simulate Callahan's sensation of suffocating as his body struggles simply to inhale and exhale as he is born again in a useless body. He speaks so softly at times you lean forward in your seat to hear him, and at times explodes in such a visceral rage that you recoil from his inner ugliness being vomited upon the scene.

Phoenix is the best acting going right now, and his work in Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot, is just another monument to that fact.

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Jonah Hill is tremendous as Donnie, a sort of new age aristocrat and golden haired Dr. Phil. Donnie is definitely a character, but Hill never pushes or gets showy with him, he keeps it grounded and contained and so fully inhabits Donnie that he disappears into him. Hill is an actor you never would have guessed would end up being so good. As a comedian and a comic actor he is pretty predictable and rather mundane, but as a serious actor he has developed a solid base of skill and craft along with the courage to abandon his ego and persona and lose himself completely in roles...and it is a joy to behold.

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Rooney Mara is such a luminous screen presence in the film that I kept expecting her to be revealed to be an angel or a figment of John Callahan's imagination at some point...but she isn't, she is a real person...well...sort of...her character Annu is so thinly written she is little more than a sparkle of sunshine dancing ever so briefly on a butterfly's wing.

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In terms of the hidden sub-text of the film...there was one little gem that I discovered and was surprised by...namely that John Callahan is symbolic of Donald Trump. Yes, I know, maybe I, like the rest of America, am seeing Trump in every Rorschach test, but bear with me, I think this is valid as the similarities are striking. For instance, Callahan is an orange-haired cripple and Trump is an orange-haired emotional cripple. Both men are victims of an absent mother who abandoned them to either a cruel world or a cruel father. And both men vented their shadow by flouting political correctness and finding validation by offending other people. They also both claimed to be merely "saying what everyone is thinking" when they disregarded political correctness. Trump, like Callahan, is a shameless liar who is able to deceive nearly everyone, including himself. And finally both men have a thing for beautiful European women.

In regards to Callahan's evolutionary scale cartoon in relation to Trump, both men think they are on top of the scale, when in reality they are just at the top of this cycle of the scale, and will frequently devolve back into the swamp of their own tormented psychology, only to rise again over time.

Trump's presidency is a sign that America is in a stage of devolution right now (and frankly a much needed devolution). We are returning to the swamp in order to purge ourselves of everything but our most basic survival needs. As the cycle dictates, we will return to the mountaintop eventually and will stand at the podium to accept our award...only to be followed by our neck breaking dive head first into the swamp once again...and so goes the circle of life.

In conclusion, overall as much as I loved the performances, Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot was slightly underwhelming and dare I say it disappointing due to structural flaws in the narrative that prove dramatically fatal. Van Sant was definitely off his game with this film because the second half loses momentum and also Callahan's drawing ability seemingly comes out of nowhere and is never satisfyingly explained.

Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot is worth seeing on cable of Netflix for free (or in the theatre's with MoviePass if you like), but even with the great cast it doesn't rise to the level of paying full price to see it at the theatre. So there is no need to run, walk or crawl to the cineplex to catch Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot...but if you they show it at your rehab be thankful, it is much better...and more honest...than Clean and Sober.

©2018

Captain America v Trump in Battle of the Useful Idiots

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Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes 38 seconds

President Trump’s summit and press conference with Vladimir Putin on Monday in Helsinki went so poorly that even superheroes and superhero wannabes went into hysterics over Trump’s alleged betrayal of the American intelligence community.

The reason for the media uproar in the wake of the Helsinki summit was that in reply to a reporter’s question Trump stated, or misstated depending on whom you listen to, that he believed Putin when the Russian leader claimed there was no Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election in 2016.

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On CNN, that silver-spooned, silver-haired Silver Surfer clone Anderson Cooper, immediately responded to Trump’s performance by shrieking,

“You have been watching perhaps one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president at a summit in front of a Russian leader certainly that I’ve ever seen.”

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Former head of the CIA John Brennan, who looks and acts frighteningly similar to Thing of the Fantastic Four, tweeted…

“Donald Trump’s press conference in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of “high crimes & misdemeanors.” It was nothing short of treasonous. Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican Patriots: Where are you???”

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Former director of the CIA and NSA Michael Hayden went full Hulk when in response to Trump’s contradicting the Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, Hayden monosyllabically rage tweeted

“OMG. OMG. OMG”

Then a “real” superhero jumped into the fray. Chris Evans, the actor who plays Captain America in the Marvel franchise films who is the perfect representation of America because he is so boyishly handsome, ridiculously muscular, emotionally infantile and staggeringly empty-headed, tweeted of Trump…

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“I don’t even know what to say. Today was a disgrace. @realDonaldTrump embarrassed America and should be ashamed of himself. Shame on anyone who chooses to ignore Russia’s interference in our democracy for the sake of Trump’s political well-being. I’m at a complete loss.”

I have a sneaking suspicion Mr. Evans is often at a complete loss…like when he comes upon a doorknob. Apparently the Captain’s twitter finger is even more powerful than his vibranium shield because he didn’t stop there…he followed up by tweeting

“This moron, puppet, coward sided with Putin over our own intelligence agencies! On a world stage!! BASED ON NOTHING MORE THAN PUTIN’S WORD! Why? Can ANYONE answer that?? What the hell is happening. Politics aside, this is 100% un-American. Where are you @GOP???”

Captain America’s logic is pristine…I mean how could anyone in their right mind dare to question America’s saintly intelligence community about their limited and still evidence free “assessment” that Russia interfered in the American election?

Sure, the American intelligence agencies were asleep at the wheel on 9-11, wrong about WMD’s in Iraq, ran a secret rendition and torture program, spied on American citizens, international allies and the U.S. congress, and then lied and perjured themselves about all of the above in order to cover their backsides…but when it comes to what happened in the 2016 election we should totally take their word for it!

Evans was joined in his twitter rampage shortly thereafter by fellow Marvel talent James Gunn, who in addition to writing and directing the Guardians of the Galaxy movies also produced this year’s smash hit Avengers: Infinity War movie. Gunn re-tweeted this…

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In an ironic case of “he who liveth by Twitter, dieth by Twitter”, Gunn, who is notoriously quick on the draw when it comes to tweeting, transformed into an ex-Marvel talent later in the week when he got fired from directing Guardians of the Galaxy 3 after some entirely unrelated decade-old tweets of his surfaced in which he joked about rape and pedophilia. No doubt Gunn’s Twitter handle will now be holstered.

While Gunn’s re-tweeted Thanos meme is legitimately funny, equating Thanos, the villain in Infinity War who kills half of all beings in the universe in order to restore balance, to Putin, is hysterical…literally.

The mainstream media may claim otherwise, but the truth is Putin is not some omnipotent super-villain intent on universal or even global domination. Putin presides over a nation with only the 9th largest population, 11th largest economy (by projected GDP) and the 4th largest military budget (which is nearly ten times smaller than the U.S. military budget), that is not a Thanos level of super villainy…that doesn’t even rise to the level of Ultron, Loki or Lex Luthor for goodness sakes.

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If Putin were truly a Thanos-level super-villain he would at least have the world’s largest economy, largest military budget, more foreign military bases than any other nation in human history, the largest prison population, a vast worldwide eavesdropping surveillance system along with extra-judicial kill lists and also have fomented coups and waged wars  in such far off and diverse lands as Ukraine, Libya, Egypt, Honduras, Yemen, Syria and Afghanistan. Of course in order to have all of those things Putin would have to be the President of the United States.

The reality is that Putin is nothing more than a Russian nationalist whose interest is in protecting Mother Russia and its people from existential threats, which historically for Russians are a much more pressing matter than for those of us living in the United States.

It is difficult for Americans like James Gunn and Chris Evans to grasp, but a little over 75 years ago the elite of the Nazi war machine were a stones throw from Moscow. Maybe if we Americans learned our history from somewhere other than Marvel movies we would know that it wasn’t Captain America that defeated the Nazis, it was the Soviets who broke the back of Hitler’s military monstrosity and who lost more than 26 million lives in the process.

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Even in the last thirty years, Russians have had to survive the chaos and calamity that befell them when the Soviet Union collapsed, NATO encroached on their borders and America shamelessly meddled in their elections and economy.

The truth is that Anderson Cooper, John Brennan and Captain America Chris Evans, all inhabit different wings of the same American propaganda machine that has no interest in hearing differing or nuanced view points and has its heart set on demonizing and castrating Russia.

Cooper, a former intern at the CIA, cheerleads for American militarism and stokes the flames of Russo-phobia nightly on his CNN “news” show.

Brennan now plays a “serious” pundit on MSNBC, who routinely calls Vladimir Putin a “low-life thug”.

Since Brennan aided and abetted torture and treasonously spied on his own government while he was at the CIA, should he be considered a “high-life” thug because he is well paid as a member of the political and media establishment?

Chris Evans is also part of the American propaganda machine – the Hollywood wing. Is Evans aware that most of Hollywood, including Marvel and its parent company Disney, make movies in cooperation with the Pentagon? Does he know that in exchange for use of military equipment, personnel and expertise, the Pentagon gets creative control of those projects and eliminates any negative narratives that shed a bad light on the U.S. or its military to insure that those films will be coercive advertisements for American militarism?

Is Chris Evans aware and comfortable with the fact that America’s intelligence community also has a fruitful working relationship with Hollywood that has distorted history and whitewashed torture?

Does Chris Evans also support the cavalcade of anti-Russian films and television shows being churned out in recent years by Hollywood that brazenly dehumanize Russians and make Americans more susceptible to believe any negative story they hear about Russians in the mainstream media?

Maybe the vacuous gruel that is the Russiagate case will expand to become a sumptuous feast of evidence proving Putin’s guilt and Trump’s complicity. And maybe Trump is exactly what the media and Captain America claim he is…a useful idiot who is a “moron, puppet and coward”…but upon closer examination, the same could also be said of Evans who, wittingly or unwittingly, enables the Pentagon and Intelligence agencies’ militaristic and Russo-phobic propaganda campaigns to indoctrinate the American people to be gullible to the media, subservient to authority and aggressively belligerent toward Russians.

Add in the fact that liberals in Hollywood and the media are now so deeply in the throes of their virulent anti-Russian hysteria that they actually equate any alleged Russian election interference with the atrocities of 9-11 and Pearl Harbor, and you have a perfect recipe for a potential war…talk about useful idiots.

This article was originally published at RT.

©2018

 

 

 

Disturbing Dispatches From "Real America"

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Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes 11 seconds

I just returned from two weeks spent outside of my Hollywood enclave in what some would describe as "real America" where I went on a road trip from Central Pennsylvania (aka Pennsyl-tucky) to Cape Cod with various stops in between. On my journey I spoke with some regular people about their thoughts on Trump and American politics and came away struck by the disconnect between those ordinary folks and the liberal bubble in which I exist.

Since all of the information that I gathered is entirely anecdotal it should be subject to skepticism as it may very well be a result of my own confirmation bias, but with that said, the conclusion I came to after this jaunt through "real America" is that I am positive that in the battle for hearts and minds here in America, Trump is winning and winning bigly.

As I spoke with these "regular people", none of whom are particularly political, it became clear that Trump is going to win in November of 2018 (Republicans will hold onto the House and Senate) and will win re-election in 2020.

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One of the most glaring things that stood out to me in my travels were the remarkable number of American flags on display. It reminded me of my childhood in Reagan's America as I have not seen that sort of unadulterated display of patriotism since the 80's. But what was fascinating to me was that the definition of patriotism and even of America has changed dramatically. "America" is not what the media thinks it is..."America" is not its institutions - the FBI, CIA or the rest of the establishment and government. "America" is now regarded as only the "regular people" throughout the country and not the leadership class. This new "America" is stridently nationalist and populist and marginally traditionalist.

This new form of nationalist populism is striking because it doesn't bring with it a muscular and belligerent militarism like Reaganism, quite the opposite. The folks I spoke with had no interest in spreading American exceptionalism overseas at the end of a gun but what they were interested in was a nativist isolationism at home where immigration is either slowed or stopped, illegal immigration is dealt with swiftly and effectively and free trade is drastically reduced.

The people with whom I spoke are not members of any political party, are not active in politics and have voted for both Republicans and Democrats at one time or another.  Nearly all of these people, even the ones who usually vote Democrat, commented on how much they loathe the waves of immigration from Central America that they believe negatively effects the "American" culture.

On the bright side, no one I spoke with said they liked Trump, in fact, even among his most ardent supporters, he was routinely called a "jackass" or a "clown", but they still supported him because he "gets things done". To a person, the Trump "voters/supporters" were not enthralled with him personally but they were most definitely much more disgusted with business as usual in Washington than with Trump's antics. Each and every one of them expressed contempt for Washington and most especially the media.

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The venom spewed towards the media by these folks was pretty intense. I was thinking about these "regular Americans" when I sat in an airport waiting for my flight home and saw the news of Trump's summit with Putin and his allegedly disastrous press conference afterwards. CNN had a headline on the screen that read "Trump throws intelligence agencies under the bus". I laughed when I read it because I knew how "real Americans" were going to see that headline and the media coverage of the Russia summit, and it was the exact opposite of what CNN and their establishment media cohorts intended.

According to "regular Americans", the intelligence agencies are symbolic of the corruption of Washington and they, along with the mendacious media, are not to be believed in the slightest. The disconnect between how "regular Americans" view the Trump-Putin summit and how the media and establishment view it, would absolutely shock those making a fuss over Trump's performance at the summit. In addition, the Russian election hacking story and Mueller probe did not even register on the radar of these "regular Americans", as the story held zero interest to them.  

The subjects that did resonate with them were immigration and the economy. They liked Trump's approach on immigration, including the Muslim ban, and were very pleased with the economy, even though many of them felt no tangible results from any of Trump's policies, and in a remarkable bit of disconnect, some even had felt negative consequences from his policies (tariffs).

These "regular Americans" consistently gave Trump the benefit of the doubt whenever he had made an error and blamed the media for being too tough on him. Trump, even though he is President and controls both houses of Congress and the Supreme Court, is seen as an underdog and an outsider fighting against a thoroughly corrupt system. 

My discussions with these "regular Americans" put my Isaiah/McCaffrey Wave Theory research into very clear focus. In an almost horrifying realization...I discovered that the Churchillian archetype that was so prominent last year in the films Dunkirk, Darkest Hour and the television show The Crown, has manifested itself in the form of Trump (and to an extent in other authoritarians like Putin, Erdogan, Xi and Duterte) and not in resistance to him.

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This Churchillian archetype has coalesced around Trump not in a war against an external enemy but rather in the internal civil war against the establishment (globalists). The Trump brand of nationalism, a concoction made up of a pinch of Reaganism, a dash of traditionalism and a glob of reality television populism, that my fellow Hollywoodites see as unadulterated fascism, is what the Churchillian archetype is fighting for, and that is a chilling realization when you understand how compelling that archetype currently is in our collective unconscious. This is why Trump is perceived by "real Americans" as the underdog and outsider and given the benefit of the doubt in his battle against the globalist establishment.

As Jung teaches, archetypes are neither good nor bad, they are amoral and can manifest and express themselves through a multitudes of ways. America being in the throes of the Churchillian archetype and Trump being the one through which it manifests, is a stunning turn of events, but it rather makes sense when you look at it through the prism of the other, overarching archetype also revealing itself in our world (and through Trump) at the moment...Mercury...the trickster god.

Psychologically and emotionally, Trump is terribly ill-equipped to carry the weight of the Churchillian archetype, nevermind the extremely powerful Mercury archetype, which is why we get such erratic and incoherent performances from him, but to be fair, Churchill was ill-equipped to carry the Churchillian archetype as well (which would explain his numerous battles with the Black Dog of depression)...and upon closer inspection the mythos surrounding Churchill is riddled with canyon sized cracks.

Trump supporters are not blind to his faults, they just don't care about them. Trump the man, just like Churchill the man, is almost irrelevant, it is the myth of Trumpism that matters just as it was the myth of Churchill that carried Great Britain through its Darkest Hour.

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In the 80's, America fell for the flag waving, free market nonsense of Reaganism, and we still haven't even come close to recovering nearly 40 years later. Trumpism will have an even longer lasting effect on America, and it may very well be the end of the "American experiment" either because Trumpism wins, or because of the means the #resistance, including the intelligence community, use to rid themselves of this troublesome priest (Trump) will, like Brutus and friends when they conspired to eliminate the threat of Caesar to the Republic of Rome, lead to a path of self-destruction.

Regardless, those who think things will go back to normal when Trump is gone are in for a rude awakening...there is no going back. There is a new normal, and it is Trumpism. The fever of Trumpism is spreading and before it's done America and Americans across the political spectrum will be transformed into something they would not have been able to recognize a mere two years ago.

In conclusion, from my admittedly limited investigation into "real America", I came away stunned by the instinctual support not so much for Trump but for Trumpism out there. This is very bad news for anyone who opposes Trump (I know a lot of people who do), and I know the polls say otherwise, but my impressions are that his support is very strong and growing. Make no mistake about it...Trump is winning and the resistance is losing.

Deserving or not, Trump is the vessel in which the Churchillian archetype has manifested and is a vassal to the powerful Mercury archetype. One result of which is that the old knee-jerk patriotism of Reaganism has morphed into the new "nationalism" of Trumpism, and there is no breaking that spell in the short-term.

We can think that the buffoonish Trump is a joke...but the reality is that the joke is on us, and Mercury, as always, will get the last laugh...on all of us...including Donald Trump.

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©2018

 

Sicario: Day of the Soldado - A Review

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****THIS IS A SPOILER FREE REVIEW!! THIS REVIEW CONTAINS ZERO SPOILERS!!!****

My Rating: 2.25 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation: SKIP IT. No need to see this film in the theatres, just wait to see it on Netflix or cable if you are interested.

Sicario: Day of the Soldado, written by Taylor Sheridan and directed by Stefano Sollima, is the sequel to the highly acclaimed Sicario (2015) that tells the story of U.S. black operators fighting drug and human trafficking along the U.S.-Mexico border. The film stars Josh Brolin and Benicio del Toro, with supporting turns from Catherine Keener and Matthew Modine.

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When I went to see Sicario: Day of the Soldad in the theatre on the morning of its opening day, something odd happened. After an usher introduced the film and showed patrons where the exits were in case of emergency, sort of like a cinema flight attendant, a crotchety old man sitting by himself in one of the first few rows of the second section of the theatre barked to the female usher to "COME HERE". This boorish old man's antics greatly displeased many patrons, mostly for its rudeness but also because of the racial dynamics at play, as the attendant was a young Black woman and the old man was White. As voices of resistance spoke up against the old man he proclaimed very loudly to everyone in the theatre to "mind your own business".

The theatre attendant gave a dismissive laugh and walked over to see what the man wanted. He then said very loudly... and to my great amusement considering Sicario: Day of the Soldad is about Mexican drug dealers..."get me a Mexican Coke". This old guy was obviously an ultra-asshole, but his "Mexican Coke" demand was even more insulting and bizarre than his order of "come here"...are movie theatre ushers waitresses now too? The attendant gave the guy a cursory answer along the lines of "I have something else to do" and stormed off with a laugh...leaving the tension filled theatre in a hurry.

After this rather strange and unsettling incident, I sat back and tried to enjoy my popcorn and root beer which I had, like the grown man that I am, gotten all by myself at the concession stand. At the concession stand I was, coincidentally enough,  served by a fellow who worked crew on a film I shot years ago. We exchanged pleasantries and caught up with each other while he rang me up for my popcorn and root beer. In hindsight, I wish I had sternly told him to get me a fucking Mexican Coke...but sadly I didn't.

Needless to say my movie going experience up to and including the post-old man Mexican Coke incident had been a roller coaster ride, first the pleasantness of catching up with an old comrade followed up by the ugliness of an old man demanding Mexican Coke...and the feature presentation hadn't even started yet. I could not figure out if all of these strange happenings were good or bad omens for my seeing of Sicario: Day of the Soldad...then the movie started.

In my vast cinema experience I have learned that sometimes you go to the theatre and the popcorn is stale and the root beer is flat and it ruins the whole movie for you. Other times, you go the the theatre and the popcorn is fresh and the root beer fizzy, but it is the movie that is stale and flat. Sicario: Day of the Soldad falls into the latter category and is sadly the cinematic equivalent of stale popcorn and flat root beer and all of the accompanying disappointment that goes along with them.

Sicario: Day of the Soldado has some very big cinematic shoes to fill as its predecessor, Sicario, was one of the best films of recent years that boasted Mickey Award® wins for Best Actress - Emily Blunt and Best Cinematography - Roger Deakins and Mickey® nominations for Best Director - Denis Villeneuve, Best Screenplay- Taylor Sheridan and Best Picture.

Sicario: Day of the Soldado does not in any way live up to the high standards of Sicario. The reasons for this are numerous and obvious, the most glaring being the drop in talent among the filmmakers. Day of the Soldado is directed by Stefano Sollima, and he is certainly no Denis Villeneuve. The new film also replaces famed cinematographer Roger Deakins with Dariusz Wolski, and Wolski cannot hold a candle to the grand master Deakins. And finally the movie replaces Emily Blunt with...well...no one.

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Day of the Soldado's failure to replace Blunt isn't just a matter of star power or performance, it is a matter of structure. Sicario 2 has no main protagonist and therefore is so structurally unsound as to be useless, like a rudderless ship lost at sea. Blunt's performance in the original was exquisitely sublime, but even more importantly was the fact that the story was propelled forward by her character. Day of the Soldado has multiple narratives, one of an assassin out for revenge, another of a CIA agent who'll do anything to protect America, one about a teenage trafficker and finally one about a cartel princess, but none of them carry any dramatic or emotional resonance or are compelling enough to keep our interest. 

Taylor Sheridan is the best screenwriter working in Hollywood today, his scripts for Hell or High Water, Wind River and the original Sicario are truly fantastic and speak to the crisis of America and the American Male better than any films of the last quarter century. But Sheridan's screenplay for Day of the Soldado suffers from a stark lack of narrative focus and dramatic power, and is extremely poorly conceived and even more poorly executed. I was absolutely shocked at Sheridan for having written such a dilapidated script that lacks a coherent narrative, dramatic impact and cultural insight.

Director Sollima is simply ill-equipped to tackle the unwieldy beast that is Sheridan's script. Unlike his predecessor Villeneuve, Sollima seems more at home making a "cool" action type movie rather than a powerful drama. Day of the Soldado is littered with "cool guy" moments and one liners that feel more like something from a high-end Liam Neeson shoot-em up movie than an Oscar contender.

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Benicio del Toro does solid work in reprising his role of assassin Allejandro Gillick...but he too falls into the "cool guy" mode of acting to fit the improbable script he is given. Gillick has morphed into a sort of Mexican Dirty Harry or a Charles Bronson character or something. Del Toro is a captivating screen presence but in Day of the Soldado his invincible Gillick jumps the shark into the incredulous.

Josh Brolin also does solid but unspectacular work in reprising his role of CIA black operator Matt Graver. Brolin has grown into a substantial actor and is having a particularly fruitful year, having co-starred in both Deadpool 2 and Avengers: Infinity War. In Day of the Soldado, Brolin is hamstrung by Sheridan's limp script that gives his character an arc that is simply not dramatically believable.

Other actors in the cast do not fair as well as del Toro and Brolin. Catherine Keener is atrocious as government bureaucrat Cynthia Foards. Keener's lack of verbal rhythm combined with her scattered performance, are so clueless as to be uncomfortable to watch.

Matthew Modine plays Secretary of Defense James Riley and is laughably bad. Modine tries as hard as he can to convey gravitas but it is like getting blood from a stone.

Sicario: Day of the Soldad is littered with time and logical inconsistencies as well as a flaccid narrative. None of the motivations of the characters makes sense and none of the conclusions are dramatically satisfying.

Instead of being a taut and tightly wound drama like its predecessor, Sicario 2 is a limp, poorly paced, confusing dark action movie that falls decidedly flat. Even though it has all the trappings of a great movie, it lacks the artistic courage to actually be one, and seems more interested in building a franchise than in telling a compelling story.

In conclusion, I was greatly disappointed by Sicario: Day of the Soldado, and I think you will be too. There is no sense in paying to see this film in the theatres, but if you really want to see it, buy your own root beer (or Mexican coke), make your own popcorn and  watch it when it comes out on Netflix or cable.

©2018

 

 

 

Hollywood's Self-Serving and Misguided Immigration Protests

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Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes 57 seconds

Hollywood celebrities are furious over Trump’s policy of separating immigrant children from their families, but their outrage is selective and often self-serving.

In recent weeks the Trump administration’s policy of separating children from their families when they attempt to enter America illegally or to seek asylum has been the top story.

Media coverage has included horrific pictures and video of young immigrant children in anguish over being taken from their families. Pundits have repeatedly used the phrase “babies in cages” to describe the situation.

Hollywood celebrities like Oprah, John Legend, Ellen DeGeneres and Evan Rachel Wood are among the many stars moved by the plight of these children who have gone public with their disdain for President Trump and his immigration policy. 

While it strikes me as obvious that Trump’s family separation policy is cruel and horrifying, I also have to admit I find the pose of child advocacy on the part of some of these celebrities to be at best misguided and at worst a form of vacuous virtue signaling. 

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For instance, Evan Rachel Wood, star of HBO’s Westworld, went to the Texas border to join in an organized 24-hour hunger strike to bring attention to the issue. She implored people to follow her on Instagram to stay current on her progress. When I read that story I found it so asinine that I had to double check to make sure I wasn’t reading the satirical news website The Onion. Sadly, I wasn’t, it was a real story that left me wondering if she was starving herself for a good cause or starving for attention?

While Ms. Wood’s heart may be in the right place, it’s her mind that I’m worried about. Here are a few things to consider in regards to Ms. Wood’s 24-hour hunger strike.

First of all, if you’re an actor living in Hollywood, if you’re not fasting at least one day a week, you’re simply not trying.

Secondly, starving yourself for 24 hours is not going to do a single thing for frightened toddlers and infants separated from their mothers and fathers at the border.

And third, if the argument is that Ms. Wood and the rest of her fellow 24-hour hunger strikers are, like other famous hunger strikers in the past such as Gandhi, Cesar Chavez, Bobby Sands and the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay prison, starving themselves to bring attention to an issue, in this case the immigrant family separation policy, then they are a little late to the party.

The media has been relentlessly reporting on this topic for the last few weeks and have flocked to the Texas border to breathlessly cover the story. And that, it seems, is the point for some of these celebrities, namely that the media is already focused on this issue and therefore when seemingly well-intentioned stars use stunts like hunger striking or going to the border, they aren’t bringing attention to the issue…but rather to themselves.

Another problem with the spate of Tinseltown voices demanding action to stop Trump’s brutal family separation policy is that these stars didn’t get up in arms when President Obama had a similarly callous policy towards illegal immigrant families.

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Obama’s DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson recently went on Fox News and commented on startling images of young immigrant children separated from their parents and put in makeshift jail cells by the Obama team in 2014. Johnson said, “without a doubt the images, and the reality, from 2014, just like 2018, are not pretty.”

Johnson then said of Obama’s family detainment policy, which at times included child separation, “We expanded it, I freely admit it was controversial, we believed it was necessary at the time, I still believe it is necessary …”.

Johnson also proudly said that the Obama administration had deported and repatriated over a million people.

One wonders why Hollywood bigwigs like musician and actor John Legend only seem to care about draconian immigration enforcement policy when Trump is doing it. Legend, who recently donated $72,000 to the ACLU over Trump’s inhumane border control practices, must have been blissfully unaware that the ACLU lambasted Obama in 2015 for his family detention and fast track deportation policy for Central American illegal immigrants.

Again, Mr. Legend’s heart is in the right place but his failure to advocate for the immigrant children brutalized under Obama, seriously degrades his legitimacy when he chastises Trump for doing the same thing.

Another problem with the celebrity outrage machine regarding the Trump immigration issue is that none of the stars speaking out ever dig deep enough to get to the root of the problem.

For instance, ‘comedian’ Bill Maher postulated on his HBO show Real Time with Bill Maher last week that he thinks the wave of illegal immigration from Central American countries, like El Salvador and Honduras, both of which are among the most violent places on earth, is due to the drug war.

Maher and his panel of establishment sycophants were incapable of seeing the forest for the trees and lay the blame for the immigration fiasco either on Trump, the drug war, or both and entirely failed to notice the neo-liberal elephant in the room…namely, America’s colonialist and imperial foreign policy.

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For example, El Salvador didn’t become a violent hellhole all by itself. From 1980 to 1992 the U.S. fueled a dirty civil war in El Salvador by sending hundreds of millions of dollars in economic and military aid, and military advisors who trained paramilitary death squads that kidnapped, tortured and killed thousands of innocent Salvadorans. 75,000 Salvadorans were killed in that brutal, U.S. backed proxy war that so destabilized El Salvador that it still hasn’t recovered.

Honduras is also a hot mess of a country, in part, because in 2009, in opposition to the Organization of American States, the E.U. and United Nations, the U.S. backed and supported a coup that toppled a democratically elected government.

None of this is new, as children from all over the world have had to pay the price for America’s militarism for a long time now.

For example, America’s recent history of nefarious military meddling in the Middle East has had devastating consequences for children. Millions of children have become refugees, orphans or been killed or maimed by America’s recent military adventurism in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya and Yemen. 

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According to the Pew Research Center, from 2005 to 2015 the number of displaced migrants in the Middle East is a staggering 23 million, the majority of which were the result of American backed wars in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. If Hollywood genuinely wants to protect children, a good place to start would be to stop collaborating with the Pentagon in making muscular propaganda for American militarism that leads to endless military actions across the globe.

And finally, if these celebrities were genuine in wanting to help children separated from their parents, they wouldn’t have to go to all the way to the border to find them.

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Los Angeles County, home to Hollywood, has the largest foster care system in America with nearly 20,000 children in their care. Over 81% of these kids have been removed from their homes due to neglect. These children, just like those taken from their families at the border, have been traumatized and are in desperate need of a warm bed and a kind soul to care for them.

So celebrities, if you want to prove that you are genuine in your concern for displaced and vulnerable children you should start by doing two things: one, become foster parents and two, vociferously advocate against America’s relentless militarism. Because the truth is, preening at the border, posing as a hunger striker and tweeting your outrage doesn’t bring comfort or alleviate a child’s suffering, it only heightens your sense of self-satisfaction and feeds your ego.

A version of this article was originally published at RT.com.

©2018

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom - A Review

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****THIS IS A SPOILER FREE REVIEW!!! THIS REVIEW CONTAINS ZERO SPOILERS!!****

My Rating: 1.5 out of 5 stars                   Popcorn Curve Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation: SKIP IT. No reason to see this movie. Another regurgitated rehash of a retread from the creatively bankrupt studios of Hollywood.       

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, written by Colin Treverrow and Derek Connolly and directed by J.A. Bayona, is the story of genetically resurrected dinosaurs being rescued from their now shuttered island park in order to save them from extinction via a volcanic eruption. The film stars Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard with supporting performances from Rafe Spall, Justice Smith, Daneilla Pineda and James Cromwell.

I, like most children big and small, like dinosaurs…I admit it. Now, do I like them enough to pay $12.50 to see them run around and cause havoc on the big screen? No. But do I like them enough to use MoviePass to basically see dinosaur inspired chaos for free? You betcha. It was in this state of mind that I ventured out to see Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom which is the fifth film of the Jurassic Park series and the second film in the Jurassic World trilogy which began in 2015 with the film Jurassic World. The good thing is, if you have seen any of the other four Jurassic Park films, you have basically seen this one. The stories in this franchise are all, ironically enough, clones of one another, with characters making idiotic or nefarious decisions that lead to a plethora of carnage when dinosaurs are unleashed and end up behaving like…well...dinosaurs. 

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In regards to the specifics of Fallen Kingdom, the good news is...that Chris Pratt has developed into a totally serviceable movie star, sort of a poor man's Harrison Ford. Another bit of good news is that Bryce Dallas Howard is an appealing screen presence who is able to carry the weight of a big budget action movie, which is no small feat. That is the end of the good news section of this review. 

Now for the bad news…writers Colin Treverrow and Derek Connolly, who wrote Jurassic World (2015) and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom as well as the next Jurassic World film, are maybe the worst screenwriters working in Hollywood. Treverrow and Connolly are remarkably inept at writing a cogent and clear narrative, instead deciding to embrace a multitude of flaccid story lines that completely lack originality and drama . Treverrow and Connolly are so devoid of talent, skill and craft that one has to wonder what compromising material they have on Hollywood big wigs that allows them to have careers…it must be a substantial bit of dirt considering how awful they are at what they do.

The screenwriter's failures are only overshadowed by another bit of bad news…director J.A. Bayona's inability to piece together an even remotely coherent film. Bayona's failure is even more disturbing as unlike his screenwriters, he at least showed some signs of promise with his film A Monster Calls (2016). Sadly, with Fallen Kingdom, Bayona churns out a piece of ham-fisted garbage that is riddled with such egregiously poor editing that it is stunning. Bayona's decidedly anemic storytelling combined with Treverrow and Connolly's wretched script, make for a predictable and dull cinematic affair. 

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Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is basically a satire of itself, cannibalizing other better films like Raiders of the Lost Ark or every other Jurassic Park film, for second rate thrills that are so familiar as to breed contempt. For example, Fallen Kingdom repeatedly tries to recreate Spielberg's original iconic scene from Jurassic Park where a T-Rex gives a dominant roar to proclaim his resurgence…so much so that I felt like I was watching auditions for a new MGM lion. Then there is Chris Pratt going full Indiana Jones when he runs away from a volcanic explosion with dinosaurs chasing him just like Indy ran down a hill with natives chasing him in Spielberg's original action/adventure gem…the shots are nearly identical. 

The writing, directing and editing aren't the only things wrong with Fallen Kingdom, it also boasts some truly atrocious acting. James Cromwell plays some old guy in a wheelchair, but his legs aren't the only thing that don't work as Cromwell's dreadful British accent falls in and out so much I thought he was playing a schizophrenic with multiple personalities. Cromwell has been around forever and is a consistently terrible actor, but he has been doing it for so long we've just become accustomed to his awfulness. 

Speaking of terrible acting, Rafe Spall plays some other guy that no one cares about or believes and is totally forgettable in every single way. His compatriot Toby Jones plays what I assume is supposed to be an evil auctioneer or something which is exactly as moronic as it sounds. You could've cast cardboard cutouts and had stage hands dressed in black bodysuits move them around and you would've gotten more genuine performances.

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To no one's joy but his own, Jeff Goldblum took time away from his work on apartment.com commercials to reprise his role of Dr. Ian Malcolm from earlier Jurassic Park films. Goldblum is a total mystery, why he has a career and people think he is interesting is beyond me. His performance in Fallen Kingdom is noteworthy though mainly because he is able to maintain continuity by meticulously repeating his earlier abysmal performances from the other Jurassic Park films. The only person who thinks Jeff Goldblum is giving an intriguing performance in this film is Jeff Goldblum…and he is damn sure of it.

Fallen Kingdom is so riddled with inconsistencies and illogic the film couldn't help but collapse upon itself. For instance, the prices for the dinosaurs, of which there are only a dozen or so left on the planet, run around $10 million each…which will buy you a decent, but not extravagant, house here in Los Angeles. When a four bedroom, three bath house costs as much as a Tricerotops, you know our economy has gone to hell in a hand basket. The economics of Fallen Kingdom are obviously as illogical as the characters actions and as shitty as the storytelling. 

Another equally inane thing about Fallen Kingdom are its politics. As long time readers know, my Historical Wave Theory posits that the arts, and in this day and age cinema in particular, can be leading indicators for the mood of the collective unconscious. With that said, there are films that are lagging indicators…and Fallen Kingdom falls into that category at least as far as its surface/conscious politics are concerned (the dominant color scheme of the film, green - both dark and light - and vibrant orange, and the archetypal narrative at the foundational core of the film, actually say a great deal more about what's happening in the collective unconscious than the movie's politics, but that is a very long discussion for another day) . 

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Fallen Kingdom's politics are decidedly neo-liberal, with government seen as a benign or benevolent force. Every villain in the film is a White man, and one of them even utters the Trumpian phrase "what a nasty woman" in regards to the film's feminist character Zia, who is quick to say she is a doctor and is not as delicate as men think. In one scene, Zia's actions (I won't describe them in order to avoid spoilers - but her particular act is important to note for its symbolic meaning) lead to numerous villains getting their comeuppance, all of whom are the vilest of creatures…the generic White male. 

Keeping with the lagging indicator theme, there is one bad guy singled out who is a Russian oligarch. He is the baddest of the bad guys, no doubt because he is Russian and we all know Russians are pure evil…and may not even be human they are so barbaric…at least that's what Hollywood has taught me. The Russian bad guy, the Trumpian dino-hunter and the generic woman-hating, patriarch enforcing White men are all such obvious and blatant bits of pandering it is cringe-worthy.

It is interesting to note that Steven Spielberg is Executive Producer of Fallen Kingdom, and he was also director of last year's The Post, another lagging indicator film that was well behind the times in regard to the collective unconscious. It is telling that Spielberg is no longer in touch with the collective unconscious, but that is the fate of all propagandists who try and control collective consciousness rather than connect with it. By trying to manage and manipulate audiences or to "give them what they want", Spielberg has detached from his artistic muse which is how he connected with the collective unconscious in the first place. Spielberg's quest to manipulate audiences has thus rendered his films, even those he only produces, as being culturally irrelevant at best, and at worst insidious propaganda. 

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In conclusion, even if you are looking for just a little bit of summer movie escapist fun, Fallen World would seem to fall short on that account too as at the screening I attended, more than half of the audience checked their phones periodically throughout the movie, so much so that it looked like random fireflies lighting up on a hot summer's night. Apparently these folks (many of whom were retirees and middle aged people, not the usual cell phone suspects - teenagers and millennials) wanted to escape from Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom as much the dinosaurs wanted to get off that volcanic island. Me…even though I dig me some dinosaurs, I would rather be stuck in hot lava with a T-Rex chomping on my groin than ever watch another Jurassic World movie. 

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is a repetitive, moronic mess of a movie that's only justification for existing is as a commercial for the accompanying Universal amusement park ride and the inevitable mindless sequels coming in its wake, therefore…there is absolutely no need to see it…ever.

©2018

 

Suffering Children as Propaganda

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THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON MAY 11, 2017. DUE TO THE CURRENT SCANDAL OF ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT CHILDREN BEING DETAINED AND SEPARATED FROM THEIR FAMILIES, AND THE ENSUING MEDIA COVERAGE WHICH HAS USED THE PHRASE "BABIES IN CAGES" SO INCESSANTLY AS TO BE A MANTRA, I THOUGHT I WOULD RE-PUBLISH THIS PIECE AS IT SEEMS SALIENT TO THE CURRENT SITUATION.

WARNING : THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS SOME VERY DISTURBING PICTURES AND VIDEO OF WOUNDED AND DEAD CHILDREN. READER DISCRETION IS ADVISED.

Estimated Reading Time : 8 minutes 22 seconds

Lately, the media has been loaded with images of suffering children in different settings around the world. In some unfortunate cases, especially in the case of war, the imagery seems to be used as a form of propaganda. 

Last August Omran Daqneesh, a 5 year-old boy Syrian boy living in Aleppo, was wounded in a bombing alleged to be carried out by Russian or Syrian aircraft. Omran was photographed sitting in the back of an ambulance, covered in dust and blood. This gut-wrenching photo was soon on the front page of nearly every western newspaper and news channel.

The New York Times description of the photo is illuminating, “Omran, as he is carried from a damaged building in the dark, could be Everychild.“

This is what we do with the children in peril we see in photographs, we project ourselves, or our children into the same scenario, and this heightens our emotional connection and reaction. This is a normal, even healthy human response, the trouble is that it can leave us open to being manipulated by those who would exploit the suffering of children for their own means.

Similarly, in September of 2015 when Alan Kurdi, a 3-year-old Syrian boy, was photographed dead on a Turkish beach after drowning trying to escape the Syrian civil war. Viewers were left horrified at the sight of Alan’s limp and lifeless body lying still in the sand, and they emotionally projected their own children onto the scenario.

The most recent example of the “children in peril” narrative was on April 4th, when video of an alleged chemical attack in Idlib province in Syria came to light. The horrifying video showed young children gasping for air and others lying motionless, presumably dead. The video was impossible to escape in western media, just as it was impossible not to have an emotional connection to those children and a reaction to their torment.

The Times was right, Omran could be Everychild, so could Alan Kurdi and the children in the Idlib video, because that is how they are presented to us in the media, they are our children, and we react accordingly, directing our righteous anger at those we are told are responsible for their suffering, in this case, Assad and Russia. Of course, since we are reacting emotionally and not responding thoughtfully, we are more easily manipulated into directing our aggression at persons who may not be fully to blame.

In the Omran photo, our rage could have easily been directed at rebel fighters and ISIS who created that situation in Aleppo instead of the Russians and Assad. The same for Alan Kurdi, who was trying to escape civil war, which is the fault of many, including Assad, Turkey, Europe and the U.S. The photos of Omran and Alan were props used by the establishment press to sell a very specific narrative, one that we, in our vulnerable emotional state, would not even think to question.

The greatest example of this was the video of the attack in Idlib. Trump himself was manipulated into acting emotionally, rather than rationally. Trump told reporters, “I will tell you, that attack on children yesterday had a big impact on me – big impact. I’ve been watching it and seeing it, it doesn’t get any worse than that…even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered in this very barbaric attack.”

Since beautiful children had been killed, Trump impulsively reacted by launching “beautiful weapons”, as NBC’s Brian Williams described them, to attack an airbase killing 15 people, who one can safely assume, were once beautiful children themselves.

Blaming a villain helps us to transform the uncomfortable emotions evoked by these images into action. Action gives us catharsis and we are purged of the negative feelings that these images bring about. Trump did not like the way the video of the Idlib attack made him feel, so instead of deliberating and gathering all of the facts and evidence, he impetuously attacked Syria to quell his discomfort.

This is what happens when we react emotionally to things instead of thoughtfully respond, we are susceptible to being suckered by those who may try to manipulate us.  If Trump had thought rationally about the Idlib video, he would have realized that the rebels had already used a false flag chemical weapons attack in 2013, in order to try and draw the U.S. deeper into the conflict against Assad. The west blamed Assad back then too, but after emotions waned and reason waxed, the truth finally came out. Even though we are only a month past the Idlib attack, the same is happening regarding the facts of that case.

The dead giveaway that reveals the media’s deceitfulness regarding the use of children’s suffering as a political prop, is not just in the images they do show, but the ones they don’t.

The establishment press relentlessly pushed the picture of Omran on the public in order to demonize Assad and Russia, but deliberately ignored Hawraa, the 5 year old Iraqi girl who was the only member of her family to survive a U.S. led air strike on her home in Mosul. The video of Hawraa is just as emotionally wrenching as Omran’s picture, but it tells a story that contradicts the MSM’s narrative and undermines America’s sense of moral superiority over Russia and the Syrians.

And what about 8 year-old Nora Al-Alwaki, the American girl shot in the neck and killed by Navy SEALs when they raided her Yemeni village on January 29, 2017? Nora was a “beautiful” little girl, and an American one. Why wasn’t her picture continuously streamed to the American public by the MSM? Instead of Nora, we were fed the widow of Navy SEAL Ryan Owens who was killed in the same raid. Trump’s bold-faced exploitation of Mrs. Owens was hailed as Trump’s first act of “being presidential”. I suppose he was acting like a U.S. president when he callously ignored Nora and the other Yemeni children killed.

Whenever a child in peril is used to sell a political agenda, particularly a violent one, this must give us tremendous pause. In many cases, however, there exists an altruistic reason for showing the suffering of children, and that is a way of preventing such things from happening again. 

Iconic images, like that of the “Napalm Girl” from the Vietnam war, for example, can at times wake America up to reality by breaking through the endless propaganda from the usual suspects, at other times though, similar images or stories can be manipulated by governments and the media for less noble causes.

 

At the same time, Hollywood utilizes our weakness for children in peril well. A perfect example is Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List. In the black and white film, there is a harrowing sequence where Nazi’s forcibly remove Jews out of the Krakow ghetto. The scenario is horrifying enough, but Spielberg uses a little girl wandering through the mayhem to elicit more tension in the viewer. The girl stands out from the surrounding chaos because she wears a red coat, which is distinct since it’s the only splash of color in the entire film.

The girl in the red symbolizes the hopes, dreams and innocence snuffed out by the Nazi’s. The same is true when we see suffering children in the media, those images evoke in us deep feelings of empathy, sadness, and anger because those children symbolize our own hopes, dreams and innocence. Seeing graphic pictures of brutalized children leaves us thinking emotionally, not rationally, which is a good place to be when watching a film, but a bad place to be when operating in the real world.

Last week, Jimmy Kimmel, host of Jimmy Kimmel Live!, delivered a heartfelt monologue tearfully recounting his newborn son’s struggle with a serious heart defect. Kimmel’s story was made all the more powerful because the usually sarcastic comedian struggled to maintain his composure throughout.

Kimmel, normally an apolitical comedian, ended his monologue by pleading to Americans from both sides of the political aisle to make sure children receive medical care regardless of their ability to pay for it. Kimmel poignantly ended his speech by saying, “No parent should ever have to decide if they can afford to save their child’s life.”

Kimmel’s monologue soon went viral. When I saw it, it moved me very deeply. The accompanying pictures of his child with tubes and tape all over him affected me greatly. Had Kimmel played upon my emotions to manipulate me? I don’t think so. I believe Kimmel was sincere in his plea and wasn’t exploiting his son because Kimmel had nothing to gain by doing so. Not money, of which he has enough, or power, of which he has no need.

I’m sure I’m not alone in my reaction to Kimmel, being emotionally triggered by images of children suffering is human nature. The story changed the healthcare debate, and some republicans are now demanding any new health care bill must pass the “Kimmel Test”.

That said, there were some very harsh critics of Kimmel as well. Some right wingers assailed Kimmel for “exploiting” his young son to make a cheap political point. For example, former republican congressman Joe Walsh tweeted “Sorry Jimmy Kimmel: your sad story doesn’t obligate me or anybody else to pay for somebody else’s health care.”

The Washington Times ran an opinion piece by the aptly named Charles Hurt, which was titled “Shut up, Jimmy Kimmel, you elitist creep”. It was a vicious attack on Kimmel that ended with “if you were a decent person, you would shut your fat trap about partisan politics and go care for your kid, who just nearly died, you elitist creep.”

On the other side of the political spectrum, this past Friday I watched HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher,  and Maher nearly gave me whiplash with his jumping back and forth on the issue of using children in peril to make a political point. Maher started his show by praising his good friend Jimmy Kimmel for sharing his story and chastising republicans for telling Kimmel’s baby to basically “go fuck himself.”

Less than five minutes later, interview guest John Kasich, the governor of Ohio, told Maher he was uneasy about legalizing marijuana (one of Maher’s pet issues) because of the dangers to kids. Maher quickly jumped on Kasich’s statement and indignantly retorted “Why do we have to bring kids into it?”

Mere moments after that, during a discussion on healthcare, Maher told his panel of guests, “One side (democrats) wants to tax rich people so babies don’t have to die and one side is more or less against that, let’s not let republicans off the hook on that!” He then finished by saying “People will die and republicans know it and it is a price they are willing to pay!” Not surprisingly, no one on the panel asked Maher why he had to bring kids into it.

Maher’s use of suffering children to make a political point, contrasted with his aversion to others using the same tactic, is standard operating procedure not just for late night comedians but for the Establishment media as well, and illuminates the power of the suffering child narrative and why those on the opposite end of that argument lash out so viciously against those that use it…it's because they know how effective it is.

In this case though, Jimmy Kimmel doesn't benefit by persuading people with his son's story, however, the same is not true of the U.S. government. 

So the next time a horrific photo of a child becomes a big story, stop, think rationally, not emotionally, and ask the question: who benefits? Maybe then we can halt the endless cycle of carnage that these images capture.

A version of this article was previously published on Tuesday, May 9, 2017 at RT.

©2017

Hereditary: Political Sub-Text

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****WARNING - THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE FILM HEREDITARY!!! THIS IS YOUR LAST SPOILER WARNING!!****

Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes 19 seconds

Hereditary isn't a great movie, but it does speak volumes about the state of America's collective unconscious and most definitely about our political future. Here are some random thoughts on the film, its subtext and its deeper meaning…to be clear, I am not saying these are my politics, but rather the film's politics.

There are multiple ways to interpret Hereditary. One of which is that Toni Colette's character Annie is Donald Trump. Annie's character even utters the Trumpian line of "I am the only one who can do it…only me". 

The film opens with a funeral for Annie's mother…think of it as a funeral for the old guard GOP. Annie gives a speech at the funeral where she says, "It’s heartening to see so many strange new faces here today. I know my mom would be very touched and probably a little suspicious. My mother was a very secretive and private woman. She was a very difficult woman, which maybe explains me."

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Seen in the 'Annie as Trump' context, that speech makes sense for the current Republican party. It is not the old blue blood Republicans, but a new group of "strange new faces" (populism) which would make the old guard "a little suspicious". The old guard was "very difficult…which maybe explains me", "me" being Trump. Annie/Trump is explaining that without the old guard of Republicans being the way they were, he never would've found the fertile ground upon which he could blossom into power.

Annie's mother is Reagan and/or Reagan Republicans, this is clear when she says of her mother, "She wasn't all there at the end", echoing the fate of not only Reagan and his Alzheimer's but the tone deafness of Reaganomics in the last decade. 

The grandmother as Reagan is made even more clear when seeing the rather strange daughter Charlie as symbolic of not just the white working class, but the white underclass and poor. Charlie looks like a descendant of one of the banjo playing kid from Deliverance, and it seems like she is either autistic or mildly retarded, 

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Charlie as the "stunted" white working class in relation to grandmother Reagan, is made clear when Annie says to Charlie, "That’s grandma, you know you were her favorite, right? Even when you were a little baby she wouldn’t let me feed you because she needed to feed you." Meaning that Reagan wouldn't let the populists actually empower the white lower classes, he only wanted to "feed" them his meal of Reaganomics…keeping them under his control…which they lapped up with a flag waving fervor. 

Annie's teenage son, Peter, is a fascinating character when seen through the context of Annie as Trump. Annie loathes Peter, and even tried to kill him when he was a child by lighting him on fire. Annie blurts out during an argument that she "never wanted to be his mother!" What is interesting about Peter (actor Alex Wolff) is that he actually looks very different from the other family members. Peter is darker skinned and has darker features than his mother Annie and sister Charlie who are blond and light skinned. Peter looks either Latino or Middle Eastern. The actor who plays Peter, Alex Wolff, looks "other-ish" enough to have convincingly played Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokar Tsarnaev in the film Patriots Day

Annie/Trump hates Peter/Latinos/Middle Easterners regardless of the fact that he/they are members of Annie's/Trump's family/residents of his country. The fact that Peter "accidentally" kills his sister Charlie/white working class in a bizarre car accident, only fuels Annie/Trump's rage even more. Annie/Trump cannot forgive or forget what Peter has done, not just to Charlie/white working class but specially to her/Trump. She takes Peter's accidentally killing Charlie as a personal affront because Annie is the one who found the grotesquely mutilated body. 

Speaking of that body, Charlie, again symbolic of the white working class, is decapitated when Peter swerves to save a deer and drives too close to a telephone pole while Charlie is gasping for air with her head out of the car window. Charlie/white working class being decapitated is symbolic of the white working class "losing their heads" meaning abandoning intellect and reason. To put it even more clearly…intellect/reason, in the form of Charlie's head, literally flies out the window in regard to the white working class and Peter/Latinos/Middle Easterners. 

To dive even deeper into the Charlie character, she is "allergic to nuts", literally and figuratively. When Charlie is forced to go with Peter to a party, he abandons her to use drugs and chase girls, and Charlie eats some chocolate nut cake, causing her throat to swell shut. The "chocolate nut cake" poison is Obama, and the white working class were unable to speak (their throats closing shut) or breath as a result of ingesting what he served them because they are allergic to it. Peter then carries Charlie to the car and drives quickly towards a hospital, but before he can get there he has his accident and Charlie is left without her head. 

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Charlie/white working class being "allergic to nuts" is obviously a matter of perspective in regards to their political favor over the years, but because Charlie ingests some Obama "poisoned" chocolate cake after she follows Peter/Latino/Middle Easterner to a party, it is symbolic of the white working class being poisoned, choked and eventually dying by ingesting the "multiculturalism/diversity" brought to her by "others" in the form of chocolate cake (Obama). 

Annie/Trump spirals into madness after Charlie/white working class death and fumes against Peter/Latino/Middle Easterners. She is then seduced into an odd relationship with an older woman Joan, who convinces her to do a ceremony to bring Charlie's spirit back and communicate with it. 

Joan is the conduit for Annie/Trump to let in the real power behind the throne…think of Joan as a Steve Bannon/John Bolton type of character. Annie/Trump is so desperate to connect with her deceased daughter/white working class that she falls into a trap set by a conniving, Machiavellian sorceress. 

As Annie/Trump follows Joan's advice, she falls deeper and deeper into a tangled web of madness and manipulation, resulting in her lighting her husband on fire and trying to kill her son. Ultimately, after finding an altar to evil in her attic (houses are symbolic of the psyche, with the attic being high minded intellect and the basement being sub-conscious thought) she herself is sacrificed on the altar of an even greater power that has been using her to manifest in the world and take the throne of global domination. 

The entity that uses Annie, and Charlie and eventually Peter is King Paimon, a powerful spirit that is one of the eight kings of hell. Paimon leaves Annie/Trump headless after she cuts her own head off (literally severing her intellect so she can only function by feel/emotion) and bowing at his feet as he implants himself into the body of Peter and is crowned as king of this world. 

Joan and a cavalcade of old white naked people (a perfect description of modern day Republicans - they are overwhelmingly old, white and their ambitions and sensibilities are naked for all with eyes to see) bow to Paimon in his elevated tree house palace. These people are Republicans bowing to power like they have bowed to Trump. Annie and Charlie, both headless (without reason), bow to Paimon in fealty. The treehouse is elevated because it is not grounded except through trees, to the earth. trees are symbolic of antenna, they wave in the air receiving the silent, unconscious messages floating through the ether. 

King Paimon is what comes after Trump, and he is what we should all truly fear. Trump/Annie has opened the gates of hell and let out a powerful force, King Paimon, that will usurp the crown and rise to power with minimal effort and maximum impact. 

Another interpretation of the King Paimon character is that he IS Trump. King Paimon, who is a real spirit mentioned in various religious type of texts, is a trickster demon who is in service of Lucifer. Trump is the ultimate trickster, and whether he is in service of Lucifer or not I will let you decide. 

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According to Wikipedia, King Paimon's powers include, "knowledge of past and future events, clearing up doubts, making spirits appear, creating visions, acquiring and dismissing servant spirits, reanimating the dead for several years, flight, remaining underwater indefinitely, and general abilities to "make all kinds of things" (and) "all sorts of people and armor appear" at the behest of the magician". 

Trump has certainly acquired and dismissed many servant spirits in his administration, but as for the rest of it, you can make the case that symbolically he has done a good number of them. From making spirits appear/creating visions (manipulating the media) to reanimating the dead for several years (non-stop talk about Hillary and lock her up), Trump has a King Paimon-esque quality about him.  

Another interpretation of the film has the Charlie character as a sort of Sarah Palin, a near nitwit bumpkin who is chosen by power elites to temporarily carry the torch, who then passes it to Annie, the Trumpian figure, who is then replaced by Peter, a Latino/Middle Easterner other, who is possessed by the most duplicitous and vicious of demons King Paimon, who uses Peter to take the crown and power, and one would assume, use it in the most diabolical of ways. 

Annie being a miniature artist is a pretty terrific part about Hereditary. Annie as Trump, being adept at manipulating the little world she controls, while in turn King Paimon manipulates Annie's/Trump's little world from a higher vantage point. To Trump, we are all pawns in his personal power game, and to King Paimon, Trump is his pawn in a much grander power game. This reminds me of the line from Jim Morrison in Oliver Stone's The Doors, when during an acid trip on Sunset Boulevard Morrison climbs atop a car and pontificates to the astonished crowd that "we are all plastic soldiers in a miniature dirt war!" 

Charlei is a budding miniaturist as well. She creates crude dolls from various scraps she finds…including a dead birds head. Charlie, like Annie and like King Paimon, manipulates and controls the world at her finger tips. 

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I'm sure most rational people will scoff at the idea of Trump as King Paimon, but CG Jung wrote extensively on how Hitler was a manifestation of the Norse God Wotan (otherwise known as Odin). Wotan is no joke of a god, he is the father of Thor after all. Jung had been in Hitler's presence on occasion and noticed that he was an empty man, devoid of any charisma or personal power, there was no there there. But like an empty vessel, Hitler would be filled by the powerful spirit of Wotan when he spoke to crowds. Jung claimed that Hitler was speaking for the unconscious of millions of Germans and for Wotan, which is why he resonated with them in such a frighteningly electrifying way. 

Trump is no Hitler because King Paimon is no Wotan. Trump does speak for the unconscious of many Americans though, and by brining their voice from the shadow into the world, he has earned their undying love. Trump as a conduit for King Paimon to manifest int he world as Hitler was a conduit for Wotan to manifest in the world, may sound like nonsense to some, but rings of truth to me. 

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The idea of Trump being the conduit by which King Paimon manifests in the world through another person seems even more likely to me. As I ahem been saying during the course of Trump's rule, he has caused not just his followers, but his opponents to go mad. The madness that is sweeping America knows no ideology, it crosses all sorts of boundaries. Trump has opened the doors to the unspeakable, and even those opposing him have fallen under his spell, which does not bode well for our future. 

When Trump leaves…King Paimon enters…and then the real darkness descends. As Hereditary reveals, Trump could be a conduit for a much higher (or lower as the case may be) and even more nefarious entity to come to power in the guise of saving us from Trump.

Hereditary does not paint a pretty picture for our future, but if I am being honest, I think it certainly paints a dramatic, symbolic, but not unrealistic, vision for what lies ahead for America and the world. 

Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with my analysis of Hereditary and its political sub-text, if you get a chance to watch Hereditary multiple times, looking at the film through this unique perspective may add to your enjoyment of it, or at the very least it will prepare you for King Paimon's 2020 presidential campaign.

©2018

 

 

 

American Animals, Anthony Bourdain and Late Stage American Empire

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Estimated Reading Time: 7 minutes 59 seconds

THE FOUR HORSEMAN COMETH

A couple weeks ago on a Thursday night, I realized that I was free the following Friday morning, so I decided to schedule a movie. After scanning what was available, I settled on American Animals. I didn't know much about the film but thought I would roll the dice. It ended up being a synchronistically wise choice.  

After a fitful sleep, on Friday morning I awoke to the news that Anthony Bourdain had killed himself. As it is with news of any suicide, I was deeply unsettled upon hearing it. I was not a fan of Bourdain's, I had never seen his show and do not consider myself a "foodie" in the slightest, but still his death by his own hand was jarring. 

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What added to my shock at Bourdain's death was that the night before, I had watched a 2012 documentary directed by Ross Ashcroft, titled The Four Horseman. That documentary referenced Sir John Glubb, a British historian who in 1976 wrote an essay titled "The Fate of Empires". In that work, Grubb lists the seven stages of Empire which are...1. Pioneers, 2. Conquest, 3. Commerce, 4. Affluence, 5. Intellect, 6. Decadence and 7. Decline and Collapse. 

The Four Horseman film argued that the U.S. was in stage 6 - Decadence, in 2012, the year of its release. Accoring to Sir Glubb's thesis, signs of an empire In the age of decadence include an undisciplined - overextended military, conspicuous displays of wealth, massive disparity between rich and poor, obsession with sex, exorbitantly wealthy sports stars, and synchronistically enough...celebrity chefs…like Anthony Bourdain. In fact, one of the chefs the film shows to make its point is Bourdain. If Bourdain was a symbol of American Empire's decadence in 2012, in 2018 he is now the canary in the coal mine, and his suicide is a foreboding omen. 

AMERICAN ANIMALS

Which brings us to American Animals. American Animals is a remarkable film, not because it is exquisitely made, it isn't, or masterfully acted, it isn't, but because it so accurately and unflinchingly diagnoses the disease that is killing America. While I watched American Animals I couldn't help but think of Bourdain, and to a lesser extent designer Kate Spade (only because I had never heard of her until her death - to the shock of no one, I am not much of  an accessories aficionado) because what ailed Bourdain and Spade, and what ails all of America, men in particular, is what propels the story of American Animals….namely a total lack of meaning and purpose in our lives and the suffocating depression that accompanies that void.

Of course, most people would look at Bourdain and Spade's glamorous lives and think they lived with tremendous meaning and purpose, they had it all…but something was missing. Their lives were as empty, vacant and devoid of meaning as the rest of ours despite their wealth and fame. Bourdain and Spade are symbols of the recurring theme of a fading empire where "you can never get enough of what you don't need". Their lives were representative of America's (and the West's) decadence, as they became famous for feeding our insatiable appetite for the frivolous, and in death they are symbolic of the existential angst and ennui that grows like a terminal cancer upon our collective soul. 

WARNING SIGNS FROM PROPHETS OF DOOM

According to Sir John Glubb's theory on the stages of empire, America is certainly either in the very tail end of the decadence phase or across the Rubicon into the decline/collapse phase. Glubb's theory coincides with other philosopher/historians view on the subject and they all point towards America being in the late stage of empire.

For instance, Camille Paglia has spoken of the rise of transgender mania as a sign of the decline/collapse of civilizations, citing Greece, Rome, the Mauve decade and Weimar Germany as examples. 

Paglia states that transgenderism has become a fashion used to treat the alienation from which some people suffer. Paglia warns of the two headed beast that is the current attachment to the transgender issue…namely that as the cosmopolitan acceptance of such things grow, its shadow grows as well in the form of a brutal, uber-masculine authoritarianism. Paglia cites ISIS as a current example, but one doesn't have to go far in history to see other horrifying examples, like Hitler's Germany filling the void created by the collapse of Weimar Germany. A quick glance around the world today also shows the shadow of hyper masculine authoritarianism rising from Trump's America to Russia (Putin), the Philippines (Duterte), China Xi) and Turkey (Erdogan) to name but a few.

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Glubb and Paglia's theories of America being in a state of decadence or on the cusp of decline/collapse, are reinforced by other historian philosophers. WIlliam Strauss and Neil Howe wrote of their generational theory in their book "The Fourth Turning of America". Howe and Strauss believe that history is cyclical and is defined by generations falling into different 20 year archetypes that repeat over an 80 to 100 year cycle. According to Howe and Strauss in The Fourth Turning, a generational cycle is made up of four "turnings" which they define as 1. High (growth), 2. Awakening (maturation), 3. Unraveling (entropy) and 4. Crisis (destruction). In The Fourth Turning, which was published in 1997, Howe and Strauss predict America would be entering into its next "fourth turning" around the time of 2008 (which oddly enough coincided with the financial collapse of that period) which would last about twenty years. For an indication of what a Fourth Turning holds, the previous Fourth Turnings in American history brought us the American Revolution, the Civil War and the Great Depression and World War II.

Howe and Strauss's theory of generational cycles is played out on a macro scale by German historian/philosopher Oswald Spengler (1880-1936) in his magnum opus "The Decline of the West" where he wrote of the four seasons of civilizations. Spengler wrote of civilizations going through the same cycle as the seasons of a year, Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter, except over a thousand year period. According to Spengler, Western civilization is on the downside of its run, and is into its extended "winter". 

"NO ONE WANTS TO BE ORDINARY"

As Neizstche tells us, God is dead…and he's right. The God that was the foundation, for good or ill, of 2,000 years of Spengler's western civilization, is no more, and unlike our current stock market, the God bubble is one you cannot re-inflate. No Gods have stepped forward to adequately fill the void left by the Judeo-Christian God, and so we are left in a state of disorientation…as we stumble around seeking something with which to orient ourselves. 

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As the tagline of American Animals says, "No one wants to be ordinary", which could be the tagline for the American Church of Self. In trying to replace the God of the last two centuries, Americans have hit the apex of individualism by trying to turn ourselves into gods. 

One form of our Self worship is the Religion of Celebrity. In America in the reality tv age, everyone can be a star, or dream of themselves as a potential star. We have fisherman (Deadliest Catch), truck drivers (Ice Road Truckers), chefs (a whole channel of them!), rednecks (Honey Boo Boo), hoarders (Hoarders), criminals (Lock Up) and even junkies (Intervention) having shows made about them. Anyone doing anything anywhere can have delusions of grandeur about a television show being made about their lives. The mundane is now insane as we try to evolve into gods at the center of our own universe. 

Our culture routinely trivializes the sacred and it has forced us into pernicious indivualism and away from collectivism, in order to look for meaning within ourselves. Our cultural and personal narcissism keeps us glued to the black mirror tabernacle of our various screens in a never-ending search for validation and love. This self absorption leads to a toxic myopia that has spread like a contagion throughout our entire culture, from politics, where no one sees beyond the next election, to finance where no one sees beyond the next earnings period, to our personal lives, where no one sees beyond the next hit of endorphins brought on by consuming something…anything…in order to fill the void in our souls. 

NARCISSUS AND MORPHEUS

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The opioid epidemic is another sign of America's decline/collapse. Narcissus was unable to look away from his Self and so he died, just as Americans cannot turn away from their virulent individualism and its accompanying arrogant self-absorption, and so they fall into the arms of Morpheus and into an extended narcosis, which comes from the same root word "Narco"- meaning numbness, as Narcissus, and means a state of stupor or unconsciousness. We are numbed and put into a stupor by our iPhone obsessed self-absorption and opioids are just an extension of that yearning to detach and numb. Notice it is an "I" phone that we are gazing into all day long…mesmerized by our own reflection staring back.

The ritual of buying and fixing with narcotics has replaced the sacred rituals of the Judeo-Christian God. The new God is Self and with opioids, one dissolves into themselves entirely, and the pain of the outer world disappears, at least momentarily, and is replaced with the bliss of Godhood. 

"THE CAPITALIST WILL SELL YOU THE ROPE WITH WHICH YOU INTEND TO HANG YOURSELF" - ME TERRIBLY MISQUOTING VLADIMIR LENNIN

Besides the epidemic of opioid abuse, further proof of America being in decline/collapse is that it is also in the throes of a suicide epidemic, as suicide has increased 30% since 1999. Sadly, Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade were caught in this growing wave of suicide, and yet they were rich and famous but money and fame are a poor spiritual salve…as they only lead their adherents to feeling even more empty and despondent. 

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American Consumerism/Capitalism is equally vacuous and noxious, as we try to purchase meaning and purpose and only end up with an even greater vacancy within ourselves. As the Adam Curtis documentary Century of the Self so insightfully reveals, Americans have been taught to want, and to instinctively try to satiate that want through consumerism. In a never ending cycle, we are conditioned to feel alienated and then to want to assuage our alienation by buying something that will take our anxiety and alienation away. In many ways, Paglia makes this same argument regarding transgenderism, which is now sold to young people as a way to cure their sense of alienation. 

What is even more remarkable, is that according to Rene Girard's Mimetic theory, it takes little effort to condition people to want something, as Girard explains that one person sees what another person wants and then decides they want the same thing BECAUSE the other wants it. This is a contagion that spreads quickly, and can be another explanation for transgenderisms rise in the West and also America's cascading decline (opioids, suicide, gun violence etc.). It also explains American Capitalisms numerous financial bubbles, where people so easily get seduced into the irrational exuberance accompanying the inflation of a bubble, and are so remarkably blind to the fundamentally unsound economics underlying a bubble, which cause it to inevitably collapse. Look no further than the housing/financial collapse of 2008 for an example of that, or take a gander at our current stock market which is overvalued by at least 50% beyond any reason to understand how to see what is uncomfortable realities in front of one's nose is a constant struggle. 

"OUR GREAT WAR IS A SPIRITUAL WAROUR GREAT DEPRESSION IS OUR LIVES" - FIGHT CLUB

As I watched the young men of American Animals, victims of their own unconsciously conditioned desires, frantically flail around trying to extinguish the malaise in their souls by attempting to find meaning and purpose in their empty lives through an idiotic heist, I thought of this quote from Fight Club, 

"We're the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no great war. No Great Depression. Our Great War is a spiritual war…our Great Depression is our lives. We've all been raised on television to believe that one day we'd all be millionaires and movie gods and rock stars. But we won't. And we're slowly learning that fact. And we're very, very pissed off."

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Chuck Palahntuk wrote that in 1997 and it is as accurate a diagnosis of a time (then and now) and a place (America) as any document in the history of mankind. The sickness of which Palahntuk wrote, and which American Animals shows, is spreading and gaining in strength. The  opioid crisis, suicide epidemic, pornification of our culture, egregious financial and political  corruption and worship of celebrity and sport are all signs of our decadence morphing into our decline and collapse. 

9-11 was the beginning of the end of America's run atop the world order and the financial crisis of 2008 was the end of the beginning of the end….and Trump is the first snowfall in what will be a long, cold and dark winter. Winter isn't coming. Winter is here. And Puxtapawny Phil won't come out to see his shadow any time soon because he has hanged himself in his den. 

A palpable despair has fallen like a pall over America. The fear of the end of the decadence we have known and its replacement by an ominous unknown is deeply unnerving to many. Foundational collapse shakes things and people to their core and America is quaking with an unconscious consternation of what is around the corner.

What comes next could be as banal as America falling from atop the world order and simply being replaced by a group of super power nations or another hyper-power (China?). Or it could be the U.S. dollar losing its status as the reserve currency of the world…or a Soviet style collapse…or a major and catastrophic war…or a devastating financial meltdown…or American democracy being usurped into a dictatorship or splintered by a civil war…or any other calamity or series of calamities. I do not know exactly what will happen, all I know is that the way things have been for the last 20 years, never mind the last 70 years, won't last much longer and that even more tumult and turmoil is on the way.  

CYCLES OF HISTORY

A big part of the reason why Americans are feeling such despair is that we in the west are conditioned to see history as linear, not cyclical. This linear thinking is detrimental to our mental health because it brings with it a built in myopia that can fan the flames of despair. When people feel that history moves in a straight line, they come to believe that things will always be moving in the direction they are now, forever, which leads to irrational optimism during good times and a devastating feeling of futility and lack of resilience in bad times. 

But a cyclical view of history is an antidote to this unease, as Strauss and Howe write, the crisis brought upon by the apex of individualism in the Fourth Turning does eventually pass…and will always be replaced with something much more upbeat, optimistic and collective. The only question to ponder now is how long will our era of collapse last? Will we live long enough to see the brighter days of the First Turning of the next era? 

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As America and the West spiral downward, pain, anguish, angst and despair will steadily rise. We are seeing it already en masse in our culture with opioid addiction, suicides and mass shootings. The perils of living in such a time are numerous. The advice I would give is do not fall prey to the sirens call of the flag-waving optimist who is a dictator in disguise or the fool's gold of an over-inflated stock market. It would also be wise to not fall victim to your emotions, which are constantly being nefariously manipulated and exploited, but instead rely upon your reason. As those around you lose their heads…struggle mightily to keep yours…and above all else…keep breathing.

GOING THROUGH HELL

As I have been tracking my own historical wave theory (Isaiah/McCaffrey Wave Theory®), I have mentioned many times on this website that this year (and in the previous few years) there have been numerous signs in cinema of the impending collapse of American empire, including Deadpool, Infinity War, A Quiet Place, American Animals and Hereditary.

Last year cinema was overflowing with the Churchillian archetype (and its shadow - The Authoritarian) in movies such as Dunkirk and Darkest Hour and the tv show The Crown. I wish I could've relayed a bit of Winston Churchill's advice to Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade as they suffered the torment of their dark night of the soul, from which they would not survive…but since they are not hear to read my words, I will share Churchill's sage advice with you in case in the coming turmoil you find yourself lost in the same Sea of Despair as Bourdain and Spade. 

"If you find yourself going through hell…KEEP GOING!"

In closing, sit back and enjoy some easy listening mid-90's alt-rock/pop that astutely describes the lack of meaning and purpose that is decaying America from the inside out. Mr. Jones and me...we are desperately trying to distract ourselves by any means necessary from our the devastation that is hurtling towards us at an ever quickening pace…sha la, la, la yeah.

Mr. Jones

Counting Crows

Sha la, la, la, la, la, la
Oh
Uh, huh

I was down at the New Amsterdam
Starin' at this yellow-haired girl
Mr. Jones strikes up a conversation
With a black-haired flamenco dancer
You know, she dances while his father plays guitar
She's suddenly beautiful, we all want something beautiful
Man, I wish I was beautiful
So come dance this silence down through the mornin'

Sha la, la, la, la, la, la, la
Yeah
Uh, huh
Yeah

Cut up, Maria
Show me some of them Spanish dances
Pass me a bottle, Mr. Jones
Believe in me
Help me believe in anything
'Cause I, I wanna be someone who believes
Yeah

Mr. Jones and me tell each other fairy tales
And we stare at the beautiful women
She's looking at you
Ah, no, no, she is looking at me
Smilin' in the bright lights
Comin' through in stereo
When everybody loves you
You can never be lonely

Well I'm a paint my picture
Paint myself in blue, red, black and gray
All of the beautiful colors are very, very meaningful
Yeah, well you know, gray is my favorite color
I felt so symbolic yesterday
If I knew Picasso
I would buy myself a gray guitar and play

Mr. Jones and me look into the future
Yeah, we stare at the beautiful women
She's looking at you I don't think so, she's looking at me
Standin' in the spotlight
I bought myself a gray guitar
When everybody loves me
I will never be lonely
I will never be lonely
Said I'm never gonna be lonely

I wanna be a lion
Ah, everybody wanna pass as cats
We all wanna be big, big stars
Yeah, but we got different reasons for that
Believe in me 'cause I don't believe in anything
And I, I wanna be someone to believe
To believe, to believe
Yeah

Mr. Jones and me stumbling through the Barrio
Yeah, we stare at the beautiful women
She's perfect for you
Man, there's got to be somebody for me
I wanna be Bob Dylan
Mr. Jones wishes he was someone just a little more funky
When everybody love you
Ah son, that's just about as funky as you can be

Mr. Jones and me starin' at the video
When I look at the television
I wanna see me starin' right back at me
We all wanna be big stars
But we don't know why and we don't know how
But when everybody loves me
I wanna be just about as happy as I can be
Mr. Jones and me, we're gonna be big stars

 

©2018

 

Hereditary: A Review

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****THIS IS A SPOILER FREE REVIEW!! THIS REVIEW CONTAINS ZERO SPOILERS!!****

My Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars                     Popcorn Curve Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation: SKIP IT/SEE IT. A decent but not great horror movie that boasts two strong performances. Worth seeing for free with MoviePass or on Netflix/cable if you have a chance but not worth paying full price at the theatre.  

Hereditary, written and directed by Ari Aster, is the story of the Graham family who experience strange happenings in the wake of their reclusive grandmother's death. The film stars Toni Colette with supporting turns from Gabriel Byrne, Alex Wolff and Millie Shapiro. 

Horror films are not usually my thing but the ones I find to be the best and the scariest, The Shining, The Exorcist and Rosemary's Baby all deal with existential threats from the spiritual/supernatural realm. Hereditary falls into the same type of horror film as those three classics, but while it is entertaining and has many quality elements, it fails to coalesce into a cinematic whole that lives up to the high standards of the unholy trinity of films mentioned above. 

In execution, Hereditary falls short of being what I consider truly noteworthy cinema, but with that said, the subtext of the film is absolutely mesmerizing and for that reason alone I was glad I used my MoviePass to go see it. Hereditary, intentionally or unintentionally, is a metaphor for Trump's America (the lead character even says "I am the only one who can fix this") and an ominous warning for what lies ahead for us all…but more on that at another time.

Beyond the fascinating themes bubbling just under the surface of Hereditary, the film also boasts two exceptional horror film performances from Toni Colette and Alex Wolff.

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Colette is stunning as Annie, the mother of the cursed Graham family. Watching her simultaneously be wrapped too tight yet also wildly unraveling is a disturbing pleasure. Colette's Annie is perpetually containing a deep and pulsating wound that at times manifests so powerfully it jumps out of her mouth and cruelly strikes the ones she loves. Colette's ability to vividly portray Annie's spiral downward and descent into shadow is a testament to her deft skill and enormous talent.

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Alex Wolff also gives a powerful performance as the families teenage son Peter. There is a sequence, which is pivotal to the film, where the camera stays in close up on Wolff's face without cutting away for a very extended period of time. Wolff absolutely crushes this very difficult sequence, never once hitting the slightest of false notes. Director Avi Aster obviously knew the gem he had in Wolff, for he effectively uses him in numerous extended dramatic close ups and Wolff is seamless every time. Wolff is an impressive actor and his future is bright indeed. 

Gabriel Byrne is one of my favorite actors and he plays Steve, the Graham family father. years ago I had a transcendent experience sitting in the front row for Byrne's performance on Broadway in Eugene O'Neill's Moon for the Misbegotten. The staging of the play left Byrne about four feet from me for almost the entire second half of the production, and as he sat there weeping and wailing and emotionally contorting himself in all sorts of ungodly O'Neill-ian ways, I felt as if he was bringing to life my own tortured Irish sub-conscious. Byrne is an under appreciated actor and sadly, in Hereditary, Byrne is criminally underused, and for the life of me I cannot figure out why, as the film suffers because of it. 

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Milly Shapiro plays the Graham's odd daughter Charlie. There is something wrong with Charlie, she may be autistic, or mildly retarded or something along those lines. Shapiro does well to embody Charlie's discomfort with being in the world in the state she is in. Shapiro is also pretty fearless as she let's the filmmakers make her look as distorted and odd as possible, which benefits the film a great deal but couldn't have been easy. 

Director Ari Aster and cinematographer Pawel Pogorzelski do solid work in using the camera to heighten tension and fear. Pogorzelski's use of shadow is particularly effective in raising the creepy factor throughout the film, and he also pulls off some unconventional camera maneuvers that work surprisingly well.  

Pogorzelski's cinematography combined with Colin Stetson's music and the film's sound effectively set a very creepy mood and tone to the film. Stetson's music is particularly unsettling as like the film's foreboding sub-text, it dramatically haunts from just below the viewers conscious attention. 

Ari Aster is a much more polished director than he is a writer. I felt Aster, much like his lead character Annie, was unable to keep control of the film for the duration. As the story expands and becomes more unwieldy, Aster loses his grip on it and the film loses much of its power. But to Aster's credit, even though the ending feels a bit out of place in the context of the rest of the film, I did find it well conceived and executed. 

As for the sub-textual themes that I found so engrossing and insightful for our time and for what lies ahead...I will write a separate piece about that this coming week because it would be much too difficult to get into it here without giving some spoilers away. 

In conclusion, Hereditary is a decent horror movie but it falls well short of being a great film. While I was glad to see it, I was even happier that thanks to the joys of MoviePass, I didn't technically pay full price to see it. If you like horror films in general, definitely see Hereditary in the theatre, as you will most likely love it. If you are lukewarm on horror films (and don't have MoviePass), then you can wait to see it on cable of Netflix and not be any worse for wear. 

©2018

 

American Animals: A Review

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****THIS IS A SPOILER FREE REVIEW!!! THIS REVIEW CONTAINS ZERO SPOILERS!!****

My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation: SEE IT. A good but not great film, that insightfully diagnoses the American condition. 

American Animals, written and directed by Barry Layton, is based on the true story of a heist of rare books from the Transylvania University library in 2004. The film stars Evan Peters and Barry Keoghan. 

American Animals is a good, but not great film, that is fascinating because it accurately diagnoses and portrays what ails men in late stage American empire, namely the lack of meaning and purpose in their lives. 

Director Barry Layton takes this bizarre, real life story, and twists and turns it into a pseudo-Rashomon-eqsue documentary fiction piece of cultural criticism that resonates more thematically than in execution. 

Layton's sprinkles interviews with the actual people at the center of the real-life heist at Transylvania University in 2004 though out the film, which is a daring and interesting approach that works well. Cutting from the real Warren Lipka to Evan Peters playing Warren Lipka, makes for captivating cinema, and the truth is the real people often times seem more compelling than their fictional counterparts. 

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Layton deftly weaves in all sorts of cultural commentary throughout the film, including a beautifully executed swipe at the Ocean's Eleven movies, which was so spot on in every single way I could barely contain myself. The fact that the female version of Ocean's Eleven, Ocean's Eight, was playing in the theatre right next door, only made Layton's jab all the more effective. 

The cast all do solid work, with Evan Peters and the always intriguing Barry Keoghan carrying most of the weight. Peters and Keoghan are, just like the real Warren Lipjka and Spencer Reinhard, an interesting pair as they are so mismatched one wonders why they would ever come together in the first place. 

Keoghan's penchant for playing odd ducks (he was marvelous in last year's The Killing of a Sacred Deer) is on full display in American Animals. Keoghan's Reinhard is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma, surrounded by desperate American angst. 

Peters' Lipka is a combustible concoction of resentment, arrogance and misplaced rage, who, unlike Reinhard, seems to have "Born to Lose" tattooed on his chest. Lipka might be the brains of the operation, and he also might be the balls of the operation, but the problem is he is severely deficient in both brains and balls. 

Blake Jenner and Jared Abrahamson play Chas Allen and Erick Borsuk respectively, and they do terrific work as well. While their characters are under written compared to Peters and Keoghan, both actors make the most of what is given them and add to the oddball mix of would-be heisters that seems so ill-conceived.

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American Animals is less a heist movie, and more a commentary on the culture that loves and needs heist movies. For instance, both Reinhard and Lipka scour Hollywood heist movies in order to learn how to pull one off. While the heist is the main attraction, the more salient point on display in American Animals is the total lack of meaning in the lives of American men that lead them to be attracted to "heists" in the first place. 

Layton masterfully cuts to the bone of America and reveals the rot at its core. America is desperately and irreversibly in decline, and the American male is dying on the vine. One of the books the American Animals gang is trying to steal is written by Charles Darwin, which is ironic since these young men are symbolic of the fact that the American Male has evolved beyond his usefulness and is in fact, in a state of rapid devolution. As Layton exquisitely shows through the use of another of the books targeted by the heist, this one a collection of the works of John James Audubon, our current decadent age of the Flamingo has deluded American men away from their archetypal Hawk, resulting in a loss of connection with their true masculine nature.

In the end, as American men are taught to be Flamingos, they find that the Flamingo archetype does not resonate in their primal psyche, and so they try and reorient to their genetic, animalistic nature by overcompensating, which takes the form of violent or sexually aggressive behavior, in order to prove they indeed are not Flamingos, but really birds of prey…like the American Eagle. But the bad news is, that bird don't hunt anymore. The American Eagle has landed, had his wings and balls clipped and now clucks like a chicken and preens like a peacock. 

The American Animals on display in the movie American Animals are representative of the current state of the American Male and the desperate yearning for the a return of the endangered and nearly extinct Real American Man®™. The current American Male has been deconstructed, domesticated and emasculated. This is why gun violence (with gun as totem phallic symbol) is so prevalent, as are the use of viagra and pornography.

Masculine Nature has been overcome by too much Feminine Nurture, and when that balance goes out of whack the end the result is what is on display in American Animals, a bitter malaise  leading to a misguided angry ambition, which will only further frustrate the American Male because he is now ill-equipped to express his rage in a healthy and cathartic ways. 

For example, the real life events of American Animals take place in 2004, as the Iraq War raged half a world away. America lost that war because we are no longer the type of country that wins wars (we haven't won a war in over 70 years)…only the kind that talks loud enough to get ourselves into them. 

Lipka and Reinhard's motivation for the heist was the same thing that motivated men from Achilles to Chris Kyle over the centuries, they were ultimately searching for glory. Unlike Achilles and his ilk, Lipka and Reinhard also wanted a short cut to gaining wealth, which has become the new God of our age…and people think it will give meaning and purpose to their lives just like the old Judeo-Christian God gave meaning and purpose to people for two centuries. 

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Enlisting and fighting in Iraq would maybe get Lipka and Rienhard some barstool glory, or a "thank you for your service" from some narcissistic poseur, but it could also get them killed or maimed for absolutely nothing, and it sure as hell wouldn't get them rich. So Lipka and Reinhard took another route…which is a much more typically modern American route than seeking glory on the battlefield, they took the route of Wall Street and Washington, they became thieves. The fraud/conman/thief is the archetype that resonates in our collective psyche right now, which is why we have the president, the politics, the economy, the media and the country we do. 

American Animals is fascinating for the themes it conjures and investigates, and although, like its characters, its artistic eyes are a bit bigger than its stomach, I found it to be a worthwhile cinematic endeavor. I thoroughly enjoyed American Animals and thought it was a very smart and insightful film, although never rising to the level of being a great one. 

If you want to see an accurate diagnosis of what drives late stage empire America, with its rampant opioid addiction, suicides, militarism, fraudulent economy, crumbling institutions, and spiritual decrepitude and dis-ease…then check out American Animals. If you prefer to be like a frog in boiling water and be oblivious to the growing heat around you…you might enjoy Hearts Beat Loud a whole lot more.

©2018  

Hearts Beat Loud: A Review

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****THIS IS A SPOILER FREE REVIEW!!! THERE ARE ZERO SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW!!****

My Rating: 1.75 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation: SKIP IT. Absolutely no need to see this frivolous and flimsy film. 

Hearts Beat Loud, written and directed by Brett Haley, is the story of widower Frank Fisher and his teenage daughter Sam as they they make music in Brooklyn while she prepares to leave for college in Los Angeles. The film stars Nick Offerman (Frank) and Kiersey Clemons (Sam), with supporting turns from Ted Danson, Blythe Danner and Toni Colette.

Hearts Beat Loud is the type of film that I would usually never see, but due to the joys of MoviePass, I decided to roll the dice and check it out. Now having seen it, I realize that there is a reason I do not see movies like this…and that is because they are completely and totally frivolous in every single way. 

Hearts Beat Loud is not a drama, it is not a comedy, it is not anything. It is not good, it is not bad, it is ninety minutes of absolutely nothing. Totally forgettable…literally…I remember next to nothing about the movie. It is the equivalent of a cinematic lobotomy. You may think I hated the movie, I didn't, but out of my love for cinema I do feel an aggressive indifference to Hearts Beat Loud

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The film feels like an extended, single camera, HBO sitcom set in a progressive utopia with all of the requisite indy music and emphasis on diversity. For instance, Frank Fisher is White but his daughter Sam is Black, and just to check off one more inclusivity box, Sam is also a lesbian. None of this is cause for the least bit of drama, God forbid, and it all passes with a consciously evolved non-comment to signal that the film is totally and completely "woke". To add to the diversity festival, Frank's best friend Dave, played by Ted Danson, is a gay stoner…but to the film's great shame he is, sadly, White. 

Hearts Beat Loud is so soaked in progressive wokeness that it is little more than a liberal version one of those saccharine, Kirk Cameron, 'The Baby Jesus saved the farm on Christmas' type of movies that only the most philistine right-wing true believers go see.

The multiple narratives at play in Hearts Beat Loud all feel excruciatingly manufactured and are testament to Brett Haley's ineffectual writing and deficient direction. For instance, there is a B story about Frank's mother, Marianne, played by Blythe Danner, that is so idiotically useless it seems like a form of workfare for Ms. Danner, either that or she was collecting on a bet.

The secondary story of Sam's relationship with her new girlfriend Rose (Sasha Lane) is ridiculously rushed and therefore devoid of all drama. As is Frank's weird relationship with Leslie (Toni Colette), which is the most absurd narrative in the whole film. Leslie "likes" Frank, but not really, but sort of, but he is an asshole, but she is his landlord, and maybe his partner…and on and on in a hurricane of dubious nonsense. 

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Beyond being a diverse utopia, Hearts Beat Loud is also set in a sitcom-ian economic dreamworld as well. We are repeatedly told that Frank is stone cold broke and yet Frank and Sam live in a very sweet loft in Brooklyn's hip Red Hook area. I would be willing to wager that apartment costs at least $3,000 a month, and when you add in the fact that Frank's retro record store is perpetually empty…BECAUSE IT'S A FUCKING RECORD STORE…the only conclusion you can make is that this story is taking place on Fantasy Island and not in the actual Borough of Brooklyn. 

To add to the economic absurdity of the movie, Frank is constantly buying things, like musical equipment, food, and a lot of alcohol at a bar, that he cannot afford…sort of like his daughter's tuition at UCLA. Frank's consequence less spending makes the movie feel more like an episode of Friends than a reality based independent movie. 

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As for the performances, well…Nick Offerman is sort of a cult figure due to his role as Ron Swanson in NBC's Parks and Recreation but I never watched the show so I am apparently immune to his droll and quirky charms. Offerman is a pleasant enough screen presence, but he is an extremely limited actor with the range of a drugstore wooden Indian, and so he is unable to adequately carry the film. 

Kiersey Clemons is an extremely charming and likable actress but again, also very limited in her acting range, which makes for an uncomfortable pairing with Offerman. The two of them seem less like father and daughter and more like two strangers chatting at a sweltering bus stop. I noticed that the two of them barely, if ever, actually touched one another.

I do not know if Clemons sings the songs in Hearts Beat Loud, but if she does she has a great voice. The problem with the musical sections though are that they feel as fake as the rest of the movie. It frustrates me no end when a film is attempting to take place in reality and then someone sings and it sounds like they are in a recording studio as opposed to live. Hearts Beat Loud has Clemons lip-synch to the flawless vocals and I felt like I was watching an episode of Saved by the Bell when the gang gets a band together. 

Ted Danson as bartender Dave, a sort of gay Sam Malone, is, like the rest of the film, forgettable, as is Toni Colette in an incoherently written character that does nothing but add to the detritus floating in the vacuous puddle that is this movie. 

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The preview for Hearts Beat Loud claimed that "this is the feel good movie we need right now". Hearts Beat Loud as a sort of salve for the brutality of our times speaks volumes about the vapidity of our current culture. This is indeed the movie we need right now if we want to stay anesthetized  and comfortable in our pleasantly delusional bubbles and echo chambers. This film is unintentionally saying a great deal about the unique allure of the soft pillow of opioids here in America, which hold the promise of never having to feel the rough edges of life…or actually feel anything, good or bad…ever again. 

As incoherent as the script and as flaccid as the direction, the worst thing about Hearts Beat Loud is the title. It should have been titled "Ain't Just A River in Egypt", because this movie, and anyone who likes it, is living in a suffocating and stultifying state of denial. 

Hearts Beat Loud is symbolic of the emaciated state of our culture and the superficiality of we the people. If you are that desperate to shut off your already comatose mind, then wait for Hearts Beat Loud to air on cable or Netflix. Under no circumstances should you actually pay money to go see an amateur-hour shlock-fest like Hearts Beat Loud in the theatre, because it has no heart, it is not beating and it sure as hell isn't loud. 

©2018