"Everything is as it should be."

                                                                                  - Benjamin Purcell Morris

 

 

© all material on this website is written by Michael McCaffrey and is copyrighted and may not be republished without consent

What's Eating Gilbert Grape? Trump, That's What!

Estimated Reading Time : 5 minutes 14 seconds

“HEY, BILLY BOY, BEEN READING THE PAPERS?” – WHITEY BULGER, BLACK MASS

 Johnny Depp has had an extraordinary acting career, but in recent years he’s been in the news for all the wrong reasons, marriage problems, financial woes, bad on-set behavior and even sneaking pets into Australia. Depp kept this current streak of bad decisions alive last Thursday when, while introducing a screening of his 2004 film The Libertine to an audience at the Glastonbury Arts Festival, Depp embraced violent language when speaking of President Trump.

Depp’s screed began when he asked the crowd, “Can you bring Trump here?”

When Depp was met with jeers and boos, he replied, “You misunderstand completely. When was the last time an actor assassinated a president? I want to clarify: I’m not an actor. I lie for a living. However, it’s been awhile, and maybe it’s time.”

Depp concluded by saying, “By the way, this is going to be in the press and it is going to be horrible. It’s just a question; I’m not insinuating anything.”

 “I AM NOT COMPLETE.” – EDWARD SCISSORHANDS, FROM EDWARD SCISSORHANDS

Depp’s diatribe is another in a long line of inappropriate remarks and actions by celebrities in regards to President Trump. There was Madonna’s “blow up the White House” remarks at the Women’s March in January, then the Snoop Dogg’s Ronald Klump video where the rapper jokingly shoots a clown-faced Trump character, and most recently Kathy Griffin’s infamous Trump beheading photo shoot. 

The thing that makes Depp’s comments even more thoughtless than those of his fellow celebrities is that they occurred less than two weeks after a left-wing lunatic, James Hodgkinson, literally tried to assassinate Republican congressmen while they practiced on a Virginia baseball field. Representative Steve Scalise is still hospitalized recovering from serious injuries as a result of the shooting.

“ME? I’M DISHONEST, A DISHONEST MAN YOU CAN ALWAYS TRUST TO BE DISHONEST. HONESTLY. IT’S THE HONEST ONES YOU WANT TO WATCH OUT FOR.” – JACK SPARROW, PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN

The reaction to Depp’s screed was predictable, Trump’s family attacked the actor and White House spokesman Sean Spicer seethed.

Depp quickly apologized saying, “I apologize for the bad joke I attempted last night in poor taste about President Trump. It did not come out as intended, and I intended no malice. I was only trying to amuse, not to harm anyone.”

“WHY IS THE RUM ALWAYS GONE?” – JACK SPARROW, PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN

In court filings, it was claimed Depp spends $30,000 a month on wine, which gives us a clue as to what fueled his ill-fated Trump joke. For this reason alone I think Depp’s apology is sincere.

“THE PROBLEM IS NOT THE PROBLEM. THE PROBLEM IS YOUR ATITUDE ABOUT THE PROBLEM.” – JACK SPARROW, PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN

What interested me about this situation was not Depp’s empty-headed remarks, but from where they were born. Depp, Madonna, Snoop Dogg and Kathy Griffin are artists that have been very successful by intuiting what audiences want and giving it to them. I think Depp sensed the violent animus that pulsates through our political discourse and embraced its darker instincts in order to satiate his desperate desire for love and acceptance from his audience.

Anti-Trump sentiment has reached a crescendo in liberal circles resulting in the onset of a sort of madness. This anti-Trump fever brings with it an ever-escalating level of fury and is reinforced by a cosmological feedback loop that is vigilantly patrolled by the like-minded. Depp is symbolic of most liberals in that he has surrounded himself with those who think exactly as he does. He also limits his information intake only to things with which he already agrees. Any contradictory information is down the memory hole, and any who dare question the suffocating group think are exiled out of the bubble. I have experienced this strident thought policing first hand out here in Hollywood.

This means that Depp’s tirade is less a statement on the actor’s personal character and more an indictment of the rage and moral depravity that permeates our collective political culture.

“CLOSE YOUR EYES AND PRETEND IT’S ALL A BAD DREAM. THAT’S HOW I GET BY.” – JACK SPARROW, PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN

Anti-Trump fever has made Democrats desert any moral or ethical grounding and jettison their compassion. This fever forces liberals to be blind to the humanity of their opponents.  This dehumanization believes that, “not only are Trump supporters wrong, they are evil”.

When you dehumanize your opponent, violent language becomes acceptable, and violence unavoidable.  James Hodgkinson is a glaring example of this, but so were the mindless mobs that rioted at Berkeley against Milo Yiannopoulis, at Middlebury College against Charles Murray, and the masked fool who punched Richard Spencer on inauguration weekend.

The reaction to these violent acts reveals the rot at the soul of our politics. After alt-right leader Spencer was punched, the internet, along with some mainstream media outlets, erupted in joy over the punching of a nazi”. While Republican Steve Scalise was still lying in his hospital bed with serious injuries, MSNBC host Joy Reid attacked him over his political beliefs. Nebraska Democrat, Phil Montag, was recorded saying he was “glad” Scalise was shot because the congressman is trying to take healthcare away from people. Fellow Nebraska Democrat Chelsey Gentry-Tipton thought it was “funny” that Republican congressman were crying over the shooting of Scalise and she didn’t feel sorry for them because of their pro-gun political views.  I can assure you, these heartless and thoughtless opinions are not confined to MSNBC and Nebraska, I hear them consistently in Los Angeles from angry Democrats too.

Just last week, Tony Foreman, an alt-right Trump supporter was stabbed nine times in Santa Monica by two men hours after a pro-Trump rally. While it is unclear whether this attack was politically motivated, right wing media have not been shy in declaring this to be another violent attack by anti-Trump forces. When viewed in the context of recent liberal behavior, it is difficult to mount an effective counter argument to that claim.

Let’s not kid ourselves, Democrats are not dancing alone to the music ofblind hate, Republicans are just as bad. A recent Pew survey revealed that 45% of Republicans hate Democrats and 41% of Democrats hate Republicans. Hate, like hypocrisy, cuts across party lines.

In May, conservative pundit Charles Sykes wrote a very insightful piece in the New York Times where he lamented the fact that conservatism is no longer a place of ideas but instead nothing more than anti-anti-Trumpism. Sykes point was that the most important thing in the eyes of conservatives is to infuriate anti-Trump liberals. I think Sykes is correct about the vacuity of conservatives, and the same principle-abandoning dynamic is true of liberals as well. This sort of blind partisan hate is going to devour us all, and engulf us in a conflagration that will destroy America.

“I WANNA BE A GOOD PERSON.” – GILBERT GRAPE, WHAT'S EATING GILBERT GRAPE?

So how to stop this downward spiral? For the moment I will direct my answer to my fellow Hollywood leftists among whom I live. Regardless of how awful you think conservatives are, liberals need to bottle the acid, stop unfriending people and start engaging them. Stop being so mindlessly emotional and start being strategic and thoughtful. Sharpen the sword of your arguments in the fire of debate, do not permit them to grow flaccid and whither in the safe confines of the left wing bubble.

“ALL MY LIFE I’VE TRIED TO BE THE GOOD GUY, THE GUY IN THE WHITE HAT. AND FOR WHAT? FOR NOTHING. I’M NOT BECOMING LIKE THEM; I AM THEM.”  - DONNIE BRASCO FROM DONNIE BRASCO

I am not a Trump supporter at all, but I know this, if you think he is a boor, then stop resisting him with boorishness. If you think Trump lacks decency, then stop resisting him with indecency. If you think Trump is a bully, then stop resisting him with threats and violence.

If you cannot change someone’s mind with your ideas, you certainly won’t be able to do it with your fists. If anti-Trump liberals don’t want to listen to me, maybe they should listen to Gandhi, who once said, “Conquer the heart of the enemy with truth and love, not violence.”

“YOU FIND A GLIMMER OF HAPPINESS IN THIS WORLD, THERE’S ALWAYS SOMEONE WHO WANTS TO DESTROY IT.” – J.M. BARRIE, FINDING NEVERLAND

I hope the resistance to Trump heeds Gandhi’s sage advice even if it is only for strategic reasons and not out of benevolent goodwill, but I fear that the anti-Trump fever, along with its conservative counter part the anti-anti-Trump strain, is too far along, and that we are in for a long, hot and violent summer.

Meanwhile, don’t blame poor Johnny Depp for his desperate attempt to gain acceptance with his audience by attacking Trump. Instead, we should blame ourselves, who not only permit this kind of hateful discourse among allies with our silence, but encourage it.

©2017

Deconstructing Criticism of Oliver Stone's "The Putin Interviews"

Estimated Reading Time : 7 minutes 38 seconds

Showtime recently released a four part interview titled The Putin Interviews, which are a collection of four, one hour conversations between Russian President Vladimir Putin and iconic American filmmaker Oliver Stone. The documentary series has generated a great deal of backlash against Mr. Stone, which should come as no surprise since controversy has long been his artistic companion. 

Oliver Stone's feature films like Salvador, Platoon, JFK, Nixon, W. and Snowden have attracted much criticism from establishment sources who despise Stone's contrarian views and political beliefs. When he got into making documentaries and interviewing political figures, the knives that were already out for him got considerably sharper and longer. Stone's interviews with Fidel Castro (Commandante, Looking for Fidel) and South American leftist leaders (South of the Border) and his historical documentary Oliver Stone's Untold History of the United States, were pilloried in the mainstream media and by the powers that be, and that continues with his Putin interview. 

Google "Stone and Putin" and a plethora of attacks against the director and his interview with Putin will pop up. Stone went on Stephen Colbert's show recently and was laughed at by the audience and his host for having the temerity to question the establishment narrative when it comes to "the tyrannical dictator" Putin and Russia. 

These attacks are to be expected, the American public has been so heavily propagandized against the Russians and Putin in recent history that audiences are simply incapable of even contemplating questioning that powerful narrative. Add to that the fact that any opposing views to the official mainstream story are quickly exiled or labelled the work of Russian agents or dupes, and it is easy to see why any stance that is not even pro-Russia, but not anti-Russia is laughed at, suffocated or ignored.

Which brings us to this past Sunday, June 25, 2017. The New York Times ran an Op-ed from a contributing writer, Masha Gessen, titled "How Putin Seduced Oliver Stone - and Trump". Ms. Gessen is an outspoken anti-Putin Russian exile and LGBTQ advocate. She is well-respected by the establishment media, having written a book about Putin ("The Man Without a Face"), and is often a guest on cable news, or a contributing writer to some of our "finest" establishment magazines and newspapers, like the New York Times and the New Yorker, where she has a piece published this week as well. 

Ms. Gessen's op-ed is a remarkable thing to behold in that it is entirely at odds with itself, is devoid of any substance or insight and is a shameless hit piece. For a woman held in such high regard by people in power, she reveals herself to be a shallow and rather vacuous thinker with little value beyond being a propaganda asset. 

The opening line of her Times piece states, "Watching four hours of Oliver Stone interviewing Vladimir Putin is not a lesson in journalism." I assume Ms. Gessen thinks she is being clever here, but she shows her hand as being completely ignorant in regards to filmmaking. Oliver Stone is not a journalist, he is a filmmaker and documentarian. Those are two very different things. A journalist searches for THE story, while a documentarian tells A story that brings insight to THE story. Stone's approach to this interview is just like his approach to his feature films, he is seeking the counter-myth to the prevailing establishment myth. He is not here to regurgitate the official mainstream story that is repeated ad infinitum in the press and on cable news every night, he is looking for the alternative view. 

Stone has made his mark in cinema by seeking the contrarian narrative in the face of conventional thoughts and beliefs. So when America was in love with itself and its unquestioned moral purity in the 1980's, Stone directed Salvador, Platoon, Wall Street and Born on the Fourth of July, films that shatter the American myth of good intentioned superiority. 

With Stone's 1991 masterpiece JFK, he explicitly states that the film is a counter myth to the establishment myth of the Warren Commission. Even with his biography of Nixon, a man Stone should have reviled, he goes contrarian and paints a heartbreakingly human portrait of a man he could have easily caricatured as a villain. 

And so it is with Stone's documentaries as well. His interviews with Castro, South American leftists and now Putin, are meant to challenge the prevailing conventional wisdom and narrative of the establishment. That Ms. Gessen is too blind to see that reveals either her bias or her ignorance. If Ms. Gessen wanted to same old Russia bashing story, she could watch Megyn Kelly interview Putin. 

Gessen then follows that opening line with this beauty, "The four part series contains many dull exchanges and even more filler, like footage of the two men watching Dr. Strangelove together."  This sentence alone reveals Ms. Gessen is in so far over her head in regards to cinema that she will never make it back to shore. 

The scene where Stone and Putin watch Strangelove is a piece of cinematic brilliance that nearly made me fall over laughing. The juxtaposition of Putin, this alleged dictator and tyrant, sitting for two hours watching a cold war Kubrick dark comedy about U.S. - Russian relations and war, is priceless entertainment. This entire sequence wasn't filler, it was symbolically the heart of the documentary. America of today, with its anti-Russian hysteria, has turned into a nation of General Jack D. Ripper's who are fearful of those Rooskies tainting our precious bodily fluids. For Gessen to not get the joke, and to not understand the nuance and brilliance of that sequence exposes her as being either humorless or intentionally obtuse. 

Ms. Gessen then gets into the meat of her anti-Stone/Putin piece by laying out how "a powerful, wealthy American man can hold affection for the tyrannical, corrupt leader of a hostile nation." This sentence is riddled with assumptions that are never proven and say more about the writer than its subject. Just to remind Ms. Gessen, America and Russia are not at war. Russia is only a "hostile nation" to those that declare it to be but never prove it. Unlike the U.S., Russia is not currently moving troops and equipment to America's border, or illegally invading and bombing (Syria) one of America's allies. That Ms. Gessen just assumes her thinking to be true shows us that she expects her readership to be of the same mind set as she, which means she isn't here to convince anyone who doesn't already agree with her, the marker of a weak writer and flaccid argument if there ever was one. 

Ms. Gessen then lays out five conditions that need to exist for someone like Stone (and by never explained but magical extension Trump) to be duped by Putin. They are, in order...

1. Ignorance : Ms. Gessen attempts to lay out the case that Stone is so ill-informed that he is little more than a wounded mouse being toyed with by the big, bad cat Putin. Her two examples of this are, when Putin claims that Russia has hundreds of television outlets, and so the idea that he controls them is absurd, and that Ukrainian Special Forces kidnapped ethnic Russians in East Ukraine. Ms. Gessen says these two things a egregiously incorrect…although she never provides any information or links to prove this fact. Maybe they are totally wrong, that is certainly possible, if not likely, but after four hours of conversation, THAT is the most powerful evidence you can find to back up your claims of ignorance? That makes for a very shoddy case at best, and does not speak well of Ms. Gessen' anti-Stone/Putin case. 

2. Love of Power and Grandeur : Condition number two seems self-explanatory enough, Stone was seduced by the power of Putin's position and the grandeur and opulence of his life. Ms. Gessen references Putin's stable of horses and Stone's fawning over Putin's hockey prowess. 

Then, in a bizarre jump, Ms. Gessen references an exchange where Stone challenges Putin over his LGBTQ stances, something which has made him enemy number one in some precincts here in America. Gessen claims Putin responds by declaring his desirability and homophobia which makes both men laugh. I was surprised when I saw this exchange because Putin actually stated that there are no laws against homosexuals in Russia, a fact that most Americans will probably not know. He then said that he is very traditional and prefers a traditional marriage and children, but that adults can do as they please. 

Look, people can disagree on their interpretation of Putin in this exchange, and no doubt Ms. Gessen, an LGBTQ advocate, has a predisposition to dislike Putin on this issue, but that is besides the point to me. My point is this…what does Putin's stance on gay issues have to do with Power and Grandeur? Because it is so haphazard, it feels like Ms. Gessen just wants to brings the LGBTQ issue up so she does it here because it won't fit anywhere else. Again, this undermines her argument and makes it rather incoherent. 

Later in this section, Gessen pulls a trick out of her bag that is a doozy. She pulls the old "weasel word" routine to make her point. She states that, "At the conclusion of the episode, Mr. Stone recites to Mr. Putin the Russian president’s own speech about the annexation of Crimea. Mr. Stone seems to enjoy having Mr. Putin’s words in his mouth. Mr. Putin is clearly pleased to hear his own speech, albeit in English." 

Two things here…the first is, the phrase "Mr. Stone seems to enjoy having Mr. Putin's words in his mouth" struck me as…pardon the pun…queer. It was reminiscent of Stephen Colbert's "cockholster" joke regarding Trump and Putin. A not-so-subtle dig at Putin's alleged homophobia and Stone's supposed infatuation with the man. 

The other thing is that Ms. Gessen uses the word "seems". "Seems" is a weasel word that lets you speculate as to what is in someones mind. It is a cheap and easy stunt to pull to simply project what you want into someones motives or thought process without having to take responsibility for having done so. When Ms. Gessen says it "seems" Stone likes Putin's words in his mouth, she is imagining and making up things in order to make her argument more powerful where facts are not present to do so. Again, in a four hour conversation if you have to conjure up boogie men and pretend to read people's minds to make your case, you have a very weak case indeed. 

3. Shared Prejudice : This is by far my favorite condition, because it reveals Ms. Gessen to be an absolute and utter intellectual fraud. In this section, Ms. Gessen claims that Stone and Putin are both "terrified" of Muslims and that this "shared prejudice" is what binds them together. It might have been a good idea for Ms. Gessen to take two seconds and learn a little something about Oliver Stone before writing this piece, like the fun little fact that his son Sean is a Shia Muslim. Does Ms. Gessen know that? I'd bet not, which reveals not only the weakness of her argument, but her laziness as well. 

She finishes this section with another dip in the pool of weasel words. She says that "Mr. Putin practically appears to be the savior of the white race." Can you find the weasel words readers?  How about…"practically appears". So Putin isn't exactly the savior of the white race, he just "appears" to be, and even less he "practically appears" to be. This is a giant red flag signaling Ms. Gessen's un-seriousness and the vacuity of her argument. 

4. An Inability or Unwillingness to Separate Fact From Fiction : In this section Ms. Gessen takes Stone to task for believing a bunch of nonsense about assassination plots against Putin. She writes, "There had been more plots against Mr. Putin, says Mr. Stone, than against Fidel Castro. “There is a legitimate five I’ve heard about,” he says confidently. This is remarkable, because journalists who have covered Mr. Putin — including me — have not heard of five, four or even one attempt to assassinate the Russian president".

This should be Ms. Gessen's strong suit, as someone who has covered Putin she should know the facts about these things and her insight would be useful for those of us that are ignorant of the facts, among whom she includes Stone. But even before she ends that sentence she destroys her credibility by writing in parenthesis, " (though Russian law enforcement has claimed to have foiled a plot or two)". Ummm…wait…what?

Here is the full sentence again…" This is remarkable, because journalists who have covered Mr. Putin — including me — have not heard of five, four or even one attempt to assassinate the Russian president (though Russian law enforcement has claimed to have foiled a plot or two)."

So Ms. Gessen has "not heard of five, four or even one attempt to assassinate the Russian president", except she then says Russian law enforcement claimed to "have foiled a plot or two". So that means there is at least a "plot or two" she has heard of, which means her previous statement is self-debunked and utter nonsense. And again…the nebulous sort of language she uses…like "foiled a plot or two". Which is it…one or two?…or maybe more?…maybe five, like Stone said. Ms. Gessen's credibility has left the building and she ain't coming out for an encore.

5. Moral Neutrality : Ms. Gessen finishes her piece by destroying the argument she made to open her piece. In attempting to prove Mr. Stone's and Mr. Putin's "moral neutrality", she cites a sequence where Stone questions Putin about Stalin. Ms. Gessen writes,  

"A quote from Episode 4 illustrates how this approach works: “Stalin was a product of his time,” Mr. Putin says. “You can demonize him all you want, or, on the other hand, talk about his contributions to victory over Nazism. But the excessive demonization of Stalin is just one way to attack the Soviet Union and Russia, to suggest that today’s Russia carries the birthmarks of Stalinism. Everyone has one kind of birthmark or another. So what?”

So what, that is, if Russia increasingly idolizes the man who killed millions of Soviet citizens and confined tens of millions to concentration camps? So nothing, apparently. “Your father, your mother, admired him, right?” Mr. Stone says. “Of course,” Mr. Putin says." 

Ms. Gessen started her piece by excoriating Stone for not getting Putin to say anything worthwhile, but here Stone gets Putin to say quite clearly that his parents, and most likely by extension him, respected Stalin. That "seems" quite revealing of Putin to me, but what the hell do I know?

That Putin couches his answer about Stalin by speaking of his victory over the Nazi's should come as no surprise. The Soviets lost 30 million people fighting the Nazi's and winning the war.  Stalin was a monster, no doubt, but he in fact, DID defeat Nazism. 

Think of it this way, America massacred and slaughtered millions upon millions of Native Americans, and imprisoned the others into concentration camps where hunger, disease and poverty nearly wiped them off the face of the planet.That is America's "birthmark". Does that make anyone who thinks America is a wonderful country, like, one would assume Ms. Gessen who emigrated here, a proponent of the dreaded "moral neutrality" of which she writes? No, it means that things are not always black and white, and that two things can be true at the same time. Nuance, Ms. Gessen, is not the enemy.  

Ms. Gessen concludes her piece by writing, "Of course, Oliver Stone is not Donald Trump. But he shares with him a certain way of seeing the world and being in the world — and the luxury of persisting in this way of being, and even making a spectacle of it."

These last lines, upon closer examination, mean absolutely nothing. Just for fun, let's take a look at them and see what we can decipher. "Mr. Stone is not Mr. Trump." This is the most logical sentence in the entire piece. No, Oliver Stone is NOT Donald Trump. They are two different people with two different bodies living two different lives. "But he shares with him a certain way of seeing the world and being in the world". Weasel word alert!! Can you find it? You got it…"certain". A "certain way" of seeing and being in the world. What way is that? It would really be helpful if Ms. Gessen explained what that "way" is because it is pivotal to her argument, yet she, for some unknown reason, never clarifies what that way is…odd. 

This mysterious "way", like the rest of Ms. Gessen's mystical and mythical argument, never materializes in her writing and so we are left with little more than a muddied, muddled and fuzzy diatribe that is light on fact and insight and reeks with the stench of emotionalism. 

I do not doubt Ms. Gessen's sincerity, I only doubt her intellectual and writing ability. It "seems" to me that "maybe" due to Ms. Gessen's personal feelings about Russia, Putin and his LGBTQ beliefs, she let her emotions over ride her intellect, and thus her argument and her op-ed suffer grievously and are rendered moot as a result. 

As for Oliver Stone and his Putin Interviews, I commend Stone for having the courage, just as he did with Fidel Castro, to go straight to the eye of the storm to find the truth rather than relying on our compromised media and their endless propaganda. Regardless of what you may think of the Russian president, I believe Stone's Putin Interviews should be mandatory viewing for any and all Americans. As inundated as we are with anti-Russian and anti-Putin propaganda, it is important to see another side of the story if only to give us more information to make up our minds about this man who dominates our news, but about whom we know so little.

Putin may be the ultimate villain the media make him out to be, but permitting him to be portrayed as a cartoon Dr. Evil gives us no strategic or tactical advantage when sizing up our alleged greatest enemy. Or maybe, just maybe, we haven't been told the whole truth about Vladimir Putin and Russia, and Oliver Stone's interview is a window into a world that has existed all along, that we have not been inclined, or permitted, to see. Your best bet is to watch the whole thing and judge for yourself. 

***To see another example of the New York Times running an anti-Russian hit piece like Ms. Gessen's, please read this awful "news" piece by the repugnant Jason Zinoman about comedian Lee Camp, but first, read Camp's awesome response to it so you can slog through the bullshit more easily. It is well worth your time and will help you read between the lines of the propaganda that permeates our everyday, courtesy of the establishment media and The New York Times. ****

©2017

 

 

Caesar Americanus : Trump, Shakespeare and the American Illiterati

Estimated Reading Time : 6 minutes 48 seconds

FRIENDS, ROMANS, COUNTRYMEN, LEND ME YOUR EARS

This past Sunday, The Public Theatre in New York put on its final performance of its Shakespeare in the Park production of Julius Caesar at the Delacort Theatre. In case you haven't heard, the production caused a great deal of outrage from Trump supporters and right wing media because the actor playing Caesar was dressed as Donald Trump and…spoiler alert…there is a scene where this Trumpian Caesar gets assassinated by a group of senators stabbing him to death. 

The uproar over the assassination scene comes on the heels of the shooting of Republican congressman Steve Scalise by left-wing lunatic James Hodgkinson at a baseball field in Virginia and a plethora of other, less violent, but equally incendiary incidents like the Kathy Griffin/Trump decapitation photo, the Snoop Dogg/Trump clown shooting video and Stephen Colbert's "cockholster" joke

I have written at great length about the perils of violent language in political discourse, and the Scalise shooting proves the point that heightened emotionalist and violent language being tossed about in our culture can and will lead to violent acts. 

I was quick to denounce Griffin, Snoop Dogg and Madonna for their attacks on Trump using violent language or imagery because they were cheap, thoughtless, self-serving and frankly, counter productive to any sort of resistance to Trumpism. Throwing shit at someone who lives in a sewer is hardly a winning strategy in the age of Trump. 

I COME TO BURY CAESAR, NOT TO PRAISE HIM

With all of that said, I fully support the Public Theatre, its artistic director Oskar Eustis and its production of Julius Caesar. I have not seen this rendition of the show, but from all that I have read about it, it is a serious and legitimate production that is true to Shakespeare's words and intent. Eustis and company are being faithful to their art and craft by not changing Shakespeare's language or altering his play in any way in order to make a cheap political point, in fact, they are doing the exact opposite, using Shakespeare's brilliance in order to highlight the perils of our current political moment. 

The idea that Trump is Caesar is not a very original one, hell... I wrote about immediately after the election. I have long argued for taking on Trump on the most pure of constitutional and political grounds. It has always been obvious to me that to impeach or "assassinate" or remove Trump by any other means than democracy, will be much more catastrophic to the Republic than anything he himself could do in office. This is the lesson of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, and it is the lesson that The Public Theater's production is trying to teach their mostly liberal audience.

If the simpletons in the media, most specifically the High Priests of the illiterati over at Fox News, and their legion of dimwitted viewers, had half a brain between them, they would understand that The Public Theatre's Julius Caesar is not really about Donald Trump, but about those in opposition to him. The play, which anyone can find in their public library, condemns and punishes those who use extra-judicial means to remove a leader they are unable to control. The Public's version of Shakespeare's masterpiece is not an endorsement of Trump's assassination, but an indictment of those plotting against him.

The assassination of Julius Caesar in Shakespeare's play is a tragedy, not a success, and so it is in this Trumpian version. Yes, Caesar dies a blood-soaked death, but so do his attackers and so does the Republic. In a political sense, the assassination is a complete and utter failure as it ushers in exactly what the plotters wanted to avoid, a less democratic Rome. Obviously, only ill-informed fools and knuckle dragging neanderthals would lack the basic sophistication to grasp this fact. The biggest reason why Trump supporters are so furious about the Public's production is that they are only shown one scene, the "Trump" assassination, and not given any context about the rest of the play. Context is usually what is missing from any and all reporting coming from the establishment media, of which Fox is a flagship member whether they want to admit it or not, and this Trump/Caesar story is no exception. 

In fact, if you look at the broader context of Shakespeare's play you would easily understand that it admits to things with which Trump supporters themselves would actually agree. For instance, it admits that Trump is surrounded by enemies who are plotting against him and trying to use non-democratic means to remove him from power. Is this not what a typical Trump die-hard believes about Robert Mueller and the Russia investigation? Hell, I am not a Trump supporter and I believe that. And don't Trump supporters see their man as a Caesarian figure, an outsider to the establishment who crossed the Rubicon promising to drain the swamp of Rome/Washington and do away with business as usual? Wasn't Trump's entire appeal as a sort of Caesar-esque figure to his supporters?

Of course, to understand these points takes a few things, the first, a knowledge of the play, which apparently no one on the right has ever read, and two, the willingness and ability to look beyond the surface of things and get past our suffocating emotionalism…not exactly strong suits on either side of the aisle in our current political climate.

THE EVIL THAT MEN DO LIVES AFTER THEM

And to be fair, it isn't just those on the right that are showing their glaring idiocy with this Trump/Caesar story. Last week Bill Maher had Breitbart News Network editor-in-chief Alex Marlow on as his interview guest. Marlow and Maher agreed with each other that the Public Theater had gone too far with the Trump/Caesar assassination. Maher said , "If Obama was Caesar and he got stabbed, I think liberals would be angry about that". Maher then said, " I really think they should not have Trump playing Julius Caesar and getting stabbed."

The problem with Maher's statement is that it is entirely ill-informed. In 2012, the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, one of the great theaters in our country, in collaboration with The Acting Company, produced a version of Julius Caesar where Caesar was an Obama-esque figure who…surprise, surprise…gets stabbed to death. Why would such a supposed staunch defender of free speech, like Bill Maher, not know that information when debating this topic? It is pretty obvious from all of his public stances that Maher gets his news from establishment sources like the New York Times, Washington Post and cable news, which is where I learned of the Guthrie production of Julius Caesar. So why was Maher so ill-informed about the history of Obama as Caesar? My guess is he, like those on the right, saw what he wanted to see and was unconsciously blind to the rest, in Maher's case so that he could maintain his "contrarian" image.

Maher is a corporatist fiend, and not surprising, other corporations suffered from the same weak kneed response to the faux outrage over the Trump/Caesar production as he did. Delta Airlines pulled funding from the Public Theatre due to the outrage over the show. Just like Maher, they ignored the fact that they did not pull their funding from the previously mentioned Guthrie production with Obama as Caesar. Even indirectly, Shakespeare reveals the truth about people, like Bill Maher's political posturing being as manufactured for maximum profit as that of Delta Airlines. Bravo to the Bard and boo to Maher and Delta.

THE GOOD IS OFT INTERRED WITH THEIR BONES

The reason Shakespeare's plays have resonated over centuries is that they tell universal truths about humanity and human nature that are not limited by time and place. The best thing that could happen for our culture would be for people to go back and read Shakespeare, or the classic Greeks dramatists, to better understand the time we live in now. By building a connection to this history and dramatic tradition, we enrich our understanding of our current time which can be so bewildering. Shakespeare and the Greeks are so vital for us in this dizzying time, because they give us a mooring and grounding while the world spins out of control all around us. 

The cultural benefit of Shakespeare and the Greek dramatists are that they give their audience a chance for catharsis, a much needed cleansing and purging of powerful emotions under a controlled setting. A production of Shakespeare or the Greeks is a "cool" form of art, meaning it is not spontaneous or impulsive. Putting on a Shakespearean or Classic Greek play that is centuries old, takes months of pre-production and rehearsal, meaning that whatever "hot" emotions may have been present at the plays inception have long since been processed and integrated by the artists involved through the alchemical magic of the original text. This is why The Public Theater's version of Julius Caesar is a form of "cool" art that brings about a thoughtful, introspective and meditative catharsis, as opposed to the "hot art" of Kathy Griffin whose Trump inspired photo shoot was driven by an immediate, self-serving emotion and more akin to an adolescent tantrum than art. 

People who go see The Public's Julius Caesar won't leave the theater riled up and agitated, they will leave it solemn and spent. Having a cathartic theater experience drains the viewer by purging them of their powerful and pent up emotions. In contrast, displays like Kathy Griffin's Trump photo are not cathartic of powerfully negative feelings, but rather help them fester because they are born of, and flourish in, a surface emotionalism that bypasses any connection to rational thought or spiritual depth. People like the Virginia shooter James Hodgkinson would be sub-consciously energized by the shallow emotionalism of Kathy Griffin's photo-shoot, and would find themselves depleted by the artistically thoughtful and classically rigorous nature of The Public Theater's Julius Caesar.

In my opinion, our culture and collective psyche would be better served if theater companies did more Shakespearian mediations on Trump, not less. Trump as King Lear, Trump as Richard III, Trump as MacBeth are among the many viable candidates of plays that tell deeper truths about Trump and our reaction to him than we could ever read in the New York Times or Washington Post or see on MSNBC. The same is true of any president by the way, not just Trump. It always seemed to me that Dubya was Hamlet trying to avenge his slain (one-term) father, while Obama was Othello, brought to a jealous rage by the Iago of the establishment, which made him choke his progressive impulses like the Moor did his beloved Desdemona. 

SO LET IT BE WITH CAESAR

In response to the Kathy Griffin/decapitated Trump photo story, I wrote that what our country and culture needed was "a lot more Carravaggio and a lot less Kathy Griffin". The Public Theatre and director Oskar Eustis, with a tremendous assist from William Shakespeare, gave us a healthy dose of Carravaggio with their controversial production of Julius Caesar, but sadly, like children raised on reality television, which is the cultural equivalent of a McDonalds hamburger, we are unable to appreciate the Filet Mignon of true art, like The Public's Julius Caesar, when given the opportunity to take a bite.

This Trump/Caesar story is just one more bit of proof that we as a nation and a culture are doomed because we suffer from the dangerous maladies of amnesia and myopia. We are blind to our future because we are incapable of remembering the past. Shakespeare and Julius Caesar know what our future holds, but we are simply unwilling or incapable of heeding their prescient warnings. We have the current president, politics and culture we deserve. We will get the future we deserve as well, and we'll have no one to blame but ourselves. Shakespeare said it best when his Cassius declared, "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves..." Preach it Cassius, preach.

©2017

Wonder Woman : A Review

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

My Rating : 4 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation : SEE IT IN THE THEATRE.

Wonder Woman, written by Allan Heinberg and directed by Patty Jenkins, is the story of the DC Comics superhero Wonder Woman, the Amazonian Warrior-Princess. The film stars Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, with Chris Pine, David Thewlis, Robin Wright and Connie Nielson in supporting roles. 

Just to set the record straight…I have always loved Wonder Woman. When I was a little kid, Lynda Carter starred on the TV show Wonder Woman and I watched religiously. Back then, every year for Halloween I would dress up as Wonder Woman. That tradition has continued well into my adulthood and has extend beyond Halloween. In fact, I am wearing my Wonder Woman garb at this exact moment as I type. Ok, truth be told, nothing in this paragraph is true. Well, not nothing, Lynda Carter did play Wonder Woman on TV in my childhood, but I never watched, and frankly, sorry ladies, but I have little to no interest in Wonder Woman as a character. I know, I know, I am a misogynist mansplainer for the patriarchy…guilty as charged.

Wonder Woman, in case you do not know, is the fourth film in the current DC Universe, with the first three being Man of Steel, Batman v Superman, and Suicide Squad. All three of the previous films have been very poorly received by critics, and even though they have made gobs of money, audiences haven't been too thrilled with them either. Like most, I greatly disliked Man of Steel and Suicide Squad and unlike most, I actually enjoyed Batman v Superman. So when I heard Wonder Woman was coming out, due to the previous films and my own feelings about the character, I was a bit ambivalent, to say the least. That said, I readily admit that when Wonder Woman appeared in the Batman v Superman film from last year, I thought she jumped off the screen and was one of the better elements of the film.

I was not alone in my skepticism about the film leading up to its release. While the recent buzz surrounding Wonder Woman has been overwhelmingly positive, that hasn't always been the case. Just this year there were rumblings that Wonder Woman was a disaster waiting to happen and that Warner Brothers were scared to death they had a gigantic flop on their hands. The box office receipts, nearly $500 billion so far, strongly suggests those fears were entirely unfounded.

Quite to the contrary, in fact, Wonder Woman has tapped into a nerve and is resonating across our cultural consciousness like none of the previous DC films were able. Women in particular have embraced the film as a feminist power totem and have reported crying during scenes where the female superhero is at her most forceful. I knew all of this heading into the film, and while that got me excited to see the movie, I assumed my high expectations would not be met. I was totally wrong.

Simply stated, Wonder Woman is as good a superhero origin story as you are going to get. Is it a perfect film? No, not even close, but it is a really good superhero movie that is exceedingly well made, acted and entertaining. 

The key to the film is that it is grounded in reality, and from that reality all of its power flows. Set in Europe during World War I, the film does not shy away from the brutality and suffering inherent in war. Part of Wonder Woman's appeal is that she has a pure heart and wants to help and save everyone, and cannot grasp the cold and callous approach of mankind that permeates the war to end all wars. 

A lot has been said about the tone of Wonder Woman, which is lighter and more humorous than the previous DC films. While this is true, that humor is never forced, rather it is born out of the main character's orientation, or disorientation as the case may be, to the film's reality. It is funny, for instance, that Wonder Woman has to learn the baffling female etiquette demanded by a male dominated world. To the film's great credit, it never pushes or distracts with its comedy or lightheartedness like the Marvel films do, it lets that humor grow spontaneously out of setting and situation. 

Director Patty Jenkins does a stellar job with the look of the film. All of the DC films have a grainy, gritty and dark visuals, and Wonder Woman is no exception, but that effect works exceedingly well in bringing this period piece to life and making it feel real. Jenkins does a remarkable job of setting the right tone and maintaining a solid balance between love story, action, comedy and drama. Jenkins walks a tightrope, and never falls into the trap of turning the film into a self-conscious farce, one of the weak spots of the Marvel films.

Wonder Woman does suffer from some script problems though, but that is not Jenkin's fault. The film gets a little lost trying to make itself bigger than it needs to be, but that is a problem with which nearly every superhero film struggles. I believe the wiser choice for these types of films is to do less, and be more simple, but what the hell do I know?

As for the acting, Gal Gadot does superb work as Wonder Woman. Gadot, a statuesque beauty, imbues Wonder Woman with a strength, sincerity, earnestness and ferocity that makes for a compelling character indeed. Her battle scenes are believable because of Gadot's natural grace, athleticism and magnetic intensity. 

I will be interested to see if Gadot can crossover from non-superhero action films and make a mark in pure drama. She has all of the tangible qualities, beauty, intelligence, charisma, that make for a movie star, but she also possesses the intangible qualities that make for a great actor, emotional intelligence, compassion and complexity. I hope she gets to spread her dramatic wings in the future, she has the makings of an intriguing artist.

Chris Pine continues his recent run of top notch work, following up last years stellar Hell or High Water with his turn as the love interest Steve Trevor opposite Gadot's Wonder Woman. Pine is outstanding as the rogue and daring spy trying to stop the Kaiser's war machine. His light comedic touch and dramatic sincerity elevate Wonder Woman to heights it would not see without him. 

The rest of the cast have minimal roles but do consistent work. David Thewlis, Danny Huston, Ewen Bremmer and Said Taghmaoui solidly buttress Gadot and Pine's more demanding work. And Lucy Davis does exceedingly well as Etta Candy, Steve Trevor's secretary. Davis brings a subtle, yet masterful bit of craftsmanship to her role which would have been a throwaway in lesser hands.

Wonder Woman is a top notch superhero movie that feels particularly relevant in a world filled with strongmen, from Trump to Erdogan, to Duterte and Putin. Wonder Woman gives voice and vision to the anima in our collective unconscious that yearns to be actualized in the real world. The reason Wonder Woman is resonating so deeply with audiences in general, and women in particular, is that the archetypal feminine energy, the anima, has lost its value and power in our modern world by trying to imitate and mimic the masculine, the animus. Wonder Woman is a force not because she is mimicking masculinity, but because she is uber-feminine. Contrary to what many women will claim, it is not men that need to learn that lesson, but women, and Wonder Woman is a great place for them to reconnect to the primal power inherit in the anima and to engage in therapeutic psychological catharsis.

In conclusion, Wonder Woman is a well made, entertaining and ultimately satisfying film that both men and women can throughly enjoy. It isn't Citizen Kane, but it is a top-notch superhero movie that gives insight into the character Wonder Woman, and propels the DC Universe forward in a positive direction. I wholly encourage you to spend your hard earned dollars and go see Wonder Woman in the theatre. You never know, the anima you save, could be your own.

©2017

Casting the Comey Affair

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Estimated Reading Time : 6 minutes 38 seconds

Due to a very, very serious, dare I say, life-threatening illness (a chest cold!), I have not been able to keep my not-so-adoring public up to date on my feelings regarding the goings on in Washington, Hollywood and the world these past few weeks. I was unable to cover the Comey hearing, the British election and now missed the Sessions hearing. Due to a truly heroic effort on my part, I was able to read a bit about all of those proceedings in my weakened state, and even saw some clips on the television. Of course, any insights I may have been able to provide are long past their used by date, once again proving I am a day late and many dollars short. 

That said, I am not completely without some relevant thoughts. For instance, the thing that instantly occurred to me as I watched the coverage of Comey's testimony was, "who is going to play him in the movie?". I promise you there are some Hollywood suits who are plotting a film or miniseries about all of these made-for-tv political events. So I put on my sleazy producer hat and started thinking right along with them. I came up with multiple casts for the film I have titled "The Comey Affair". 

Some are Oscar bait, some are box office beasts, some are desperate wannabes and some are quick money grabs, but all of them are being contemplated by some fat cat in an office here in Hollywood…I promise you that. So sit back, relax, and enjoy inhabiting the mind of a Hollywood power broker!!

Here are the films.

STAR EDITION : THE A-LIST

Directed by Steven Spielberg, and typical of his films, his "The Comey Affair" will have lots of flag waving and swelling music. The establishment media will lap it up and heap praise upon it no end, but in reality the movie will be as awful as Bridge of Spies or Lincoln…which is really, really, really awful. 

James Comey - Tom Hanks : Of course Tom Hanks plays Comey. Hanks is incapable of playing any other character but a condescendingly noble and morally and ethically impeccable man with a heart of gold, and so it is with his rendition of James Comey. Think Sully, Captain Philips and Bridge of Spies guy crossed with his Saving Private Ryan character. 

Donald Trump - Jack Nicholson : This is both Nicholson's comeback and swan song. A surefire nomination for Best Supporting Actor will follow Jack's peculiar and erratic performance. Nicholson's work as Trump will be sub-par, like much of his work over the last thirty years, but he'll be rewarded anyway because Hollywood likes their icons to go out on top. Jack's Trump will be a combination of his Whitey Bulger-esque character in The Departed and Nicholson himself.

Mike Pence - George Clooney : Clooney will co-produce along with Hanks and Spielberg, so he'll play Pence in order to boost box office. He will do his usual lackluster, smirky work but will be taken seriously for some mysterious reason. The media will fawn all over George as he recounts one of the myriad of impotent pranks he pulls on his adoring co-stars. Oh, George, you cad.

Jeff Sessions - Kevin Spacey : Spacey will do little more than reprise his House of Cards character Frank Underwood as Sessions with some Keyser Soze mixed in. Spacey will no doubt try and talk Spielberg into letting Sessions have a scene where he sings, hopefully he will be thwarted. Bottom line is that Spacey will chew scenery and try and upstage his esteemed colleagues…hell…maybe it'll work. 

Melania Trump - Julia Roberts : Roberts, like Nicholson, is using this role as a comeback of sorts. She wants to get back into the Oscar discussion, so she tarts herself up and turns Erin Brockovich into an aging Eastern European model. Her accent will be atrocious, but her push up bra will earn a Best Supporting nomination. Robert's work with Clooney on the media tour blitz will be vital in attracting the insufferably vacuous Clinton Cult Feminist audience. GIRL POWER!!

Ivanka Trump - Margot Robbie : Margot Robbie will struggle with the accent as well, namely losing her Austrailian one, but, as usual, she will no doubt do stellar, and under appreciated work as Ivanka. Robbie is a solid actress, and she will tell a story with her Ivanka that will be both appealing and unsettling. 

Jared Kushner - Leo DiCaprio : Leo will make Jared into a quiet, reserved, nearly mute young man in public, but a crazed and maniacal wild man in private. Think of Leo's Jared as a cross between his Jordan Belfort character in Wolf of Wall Street, his Howard Hughes from The Aviator and Frank Abignale from Catch Me If You Can.

 

OSCAR EDITION

Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. Anderson brings an artists eye to the proceedings, making his "The Comey Affair" a mix of There Will Be Blood, The Master and Magnolia. A taut and tense story brought to life by a stellar and sublime cast.

James Comey - Daniel Day Lewis : Lewis, a master, is tall, which is needed to play Comey, who is a towering 6-8. He also brings the skill and versatility to give the goody two shoes Comey some much needed inner life and turmoil. Lewis' Comey will be a cross between his Bill The Butcher in Gangs of New York, his Abraham Lincoln in the aptly titled Lincoln, and his Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood, and will be much more interesting than Comey himself.

Donald Trump - Brendan Gleeson : Gleeson is an often over-looked great actor. His subtle work and physical pseudo resemblance to Trump will make his performance as the President Oscar worthy. Gleeson's artistic furnace burns hot, and when put into the container of Donald Trump, will be down right combustible. 

Mike Pence - Gary Oldman : Oldman, like Gleeson, is an under-appreciated genius, and his Pence will have the exterior of his George Smiley from Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy, and the toxic inner life of Oldman's electric Sid Vicious. Oldman's Pence will be a ferocious wolf in delicate sheep's clothing.

Jeff Sessions - Chris Cooper : Cooper never fails to flesh out his character in the most insightful of ways, and his Sessions will no doubt be reminiscent of his closeted American Beauty character. Defiance and vindictiveness wrapped in the sing-song charm of the Old South.

Melania Trump - Cate Blanchett :  Blanchett's Melania is the beauty and the brains behind The Donald. Always at least three steps ahead of everyone else, Blanchett's Melania is playing chess, while Donald plays checkers. She let's everyone think she is a prop, but the reality is that she is the only one who knows how to manage the man-child that is her husband. 

Ivanka Trump - Jennifer Lawrence : Lawrence dazzles as Trump's darling daughter, bringing her to life with a mixture of her Rosalyn Rosenfeld from American Hustle and Joy Mangano from the accurately titled Joy. The dynamics between Ivanka and Melania in this film are both toxic and combustible. 

Jared Kushner - Ryan Gosling : Gosling's Kushner is an amalgam of his Dan Dunne from Half Nelson, Dean from Blue Valentine and Jared Vennet from The Big Short, and gives Jared a depth that he undoubtedly lacks. Struggling to keep up with Ivanka, Gosling's Jared bites off more than he can chew, and gets in way over his head with the Russians.

 

STANDARD STUDIO VERSION

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Directed by Some Studio Hack, this film will get lots and lots of hype, but will be terribly uneven because it is little more than a reenactment of events rather than an artistic pursuit. It will make a ton of money though, and God knows that is all that matters. It will run almost continuously on HBO once it is out of the theaters.

James Comey - Ben Affleck : Affleck has dark hair…so he's perfect as Comey! Or so the thinking goes with the Einsteins running Hollywood. Affleck's Comey is, not surprisingly, a bit wooden, a bit dull and a bit one dimensional….not unlike the actor himself! I'm kidding, I like Ben Affleck, but his work as Comey is less like his Batman, which I enjoy, and more like his Nick Dunne from Gone Girl, which I do not enjoy. 

 

 

Donald Trump - Matthew McConnaghey : McConnaghey sinks his teeth into The Donald and conjures up an over-the-top, make-up ridden performance that he thinks is wonderful, yet rings as hollow as his work in those atrocious Buick commercials. McConnaghey's real value will be in drumming up business for the film on the media tour, something at which he is very good. Alright, alright, alright!

Mike Pence - Liev Schrieber : Schrieber's Pence is just as quiet as the real man, but considerably more menacing. I would enjoy an entire film devoted to Schrieber's portrayal of Pence, but sadly, he is a bit player in this Hollywood monstrosity. 

Jeff Sessions - Scott Glenn : Glenn gives Sessions a complicated humanity, which is a sign of his great skill as an actor, but completely at odds with reality. Underused in the film, Glenn's talents are squandered in favor of more generic characterizations.

Melania Trump - Nicole Kidman : Kidman goes all in and gives an Oscar worthy performance as Trump's conflicted trophy wife. Sadly, Kidman's great work is overshadowed by a shallow script and her co-star McConnaghey's Trumpian histrionics. Much like her marriage to Tom Cruise, Kidman deserves a much better fate.

Ivanka Trump - Brie Larson : Larson is out of place as Ivanka, and struggles to find any sense and rhythm with her performance, sort of like her work in Kong : Skull Island. But thankfully Larson is still able to let Casey Affleck know she disapproved of his winning an Oscar…a show of true courage…so there's that.

Jared Kushner - Emile Hirsch : Hirsch is an inconsistent actor, but he conjures up his best work as Kushner, combining his Christopher McCandless from Into The Wild and Johnny Truelove from Alpha Dog to create a luminous portrait of the enigmatic son-in-law.

 

BAD IDEA/STAR VERSION THAT MOST DEFINITELY MIGHT GET MADE

Directed by some low level guy desperate for a shot at the big time, but he…and it is always a HE…is hired for the sole purpose of being Tom Cruise's lackey. The film spends more than 100 times its budget on marketing…and the film reflects that. 

James Comey - Tom Cruise : Cruise is more than a foot shorter than Comey, but even when the sign says you must be this tall to ride, Cruise never lets that stop him (Jack Reacher). Cruise turns Comey into someone who runs a lot, he is either being chased, or chases after things a great deal, for no apparent reason, but Cruise likes to run in his movies so he demands it happen. More Border Collie than FBI director, Cruise's Comey is a cross between Brian Flanagan from Cocktail and Daniel Kaffee from A Few Good Men. As short as Cruise is, he seems even smaller playing Comey.

Donald Trump - Nic Cage : Cage envisions his Trump as his chance for a big comeback and goes all in. Covered in make-up, he gives a distractingly horrible performance, sort of a cross between…well…actually just like everything else he's ever done. Over-the-top and bombastic, with all the subtlety of an Elvis impersonator, Cage does the nearly impossible when he sinks even lower in the eyes of critics.

Mike Pence - Emilio Estevez : Estevez gives a nuanced, thoughtful and remarkably poignant performance as Mike Pence, and absolutely no one notices because he's Emilio Estevez and Tom Cruise and Nic Cage are on set. 

Jeff Sessions - Nathan Lane : Lane plays Sessions as almost identical to his character in The Birdcage, which delights liberals everywhere, and infuriates Trump and Sessions.  

Melania Trump - Emily Ratajkowski : Radakoski is much too young to play Melania, but no one cares because she does numerous nude scenes and everyone forgets about how awful this film is for a few, brief, glorious moments. 

Ivanka Trump - Emma Watson : Watson's Ivanka is Hermione without the wand...which is a pretty accurate portrayal of Trump's most favored off-spring.

Jared Kushner - Taylor Lautner : Lautner's Kushner takes his shirt off in nearly every scene, even the ones in the Oval Office. There is usually no rhyme or reason why he does it, he just does it, and it seems completely appropriate. Lautner, just like Kushner himself, is not allowed to speak in the film, only take his shirt off and do pull-ups. 

 

 

WILD CARDS

And now…some out of the box choices that could be very interesting if they were given the chance. Along with some interesting directors like Steve McQueen, Gus Van Sant, David Fincher or Darren Aronofsky, these make for some intriguing combinations. 
 

 

James Comey - Colin Firth : Firth doesn't look like Comey, but he is a master craftsmen as an actor, and he could flesh out the lanky G-man's  more conflicted and complex inner life as well as any actor out there.

Donald Trump - Sean Penn : Penn would have to wear a lot of make-up, but he could be phenomenal in the role. Penn's commitment and volatile energy would be mesmerizing to see as Trump. Especially opposite Daniel Day Lewis' Comey.

Donald Trump - Al Pacino : Pacino could capture the essence of Trump perfectly, the braggadocio, the bluster, the hollowness. Pacino at his best could even make Trump a sympathetic character, which would be a Herculean task, but a fascinating one to watch.

Melania Trump - Angelina Jolie : Angelina would be a brilliant choice, a powerful, beautiful and wise woman stuck being a trophy wife to a buffoon who is the most powerful man in the world. This role could spark Jolie's artistic renaissance.

Melania Trump - Amy Adams : Adams is able to portray an existential sadness and melancholy that is so captivating it mesmerizes, and Melania may be one of the saddest and most melancholy women walking the planet. A daring casting choice, but one that I think would pay off "Big League".

Mike Pence - Kenneth Branagh : Branagh could play Pence's false humility and stifled arrogance to perfection. Pence isn't so much King Henry V, but someone who thinks of themselves as Henry V.

Jeff Sessions - Mark Rylance : Rylance has a soft energy to him, but it conceals the fire breathing lion in his belly, which is just like Sessions, the southern gentlemen, who would eat his own young in order to gain power.

Ivanka Trump - Saoirse Ronan : Ronan is as good as it gets as an actress, and her Ivanka would no doubt be an intriguing and layered performance that would reveal more about Trump's iconic daughter than even Ivanka is aware.

Jared Kushner - Joaquin Phoenix : Phoenix would instantly make Jared a very complicated, troubled and captivating character to behold. Phoenix would make the Prince of Trumpdom one part Freddie Quell from The Master, and two parts Commodus from Gladiator. A daring, and original piece of casting that would elevate any film bold enough to undertake it.

DISASTERS IN WAITING

Here are some really bad ideas for casting this film, that are most certainly being considered by the morons running Hollywood. 

James Comey - Colin Farrell : The studio wants a star and no one else will sign on, so they go with Farrell because, just like Comey he has dark hair!! I like Colin Farrell, but this is a catastrophe waiting to happen. 

James Comey - Brad Garrett : Garrett is very tall, maybe even taller than Comey himself, so you know some studio dope thinks he is the "right fit" to play the part. Of course, Garrett is also the opposite of Comey in every single way and completely ill-prepared for the acting challenge portraying him would bring. That said, it would be wonderfully unintentionally funny.

Donald Trump - John Travolta : Travolta would think this is his ticket back to the big time so he would ham it up to the extreme, just like he did on the People v. OJ Simpson as Robert Shapiro. This would be just another opportunity for Travolta to embarrass himself…and I am sure he would take it.

Donald Trump - John Goodman : Goodman is adored by Hollywood for some weird reason, so he'll get a shot to audition for the role. And even if he's terrible, which he will be, they still might give him the gig because, hey…he's John Goodman!

Jeff Sessions - James Spader : Spader would bring his usual smugness to the role and little else, but damn, he is really good at smugness!!

Melania Trump - Sofia Vergara : Vergara has an accent and wears skimpy clothes, so she'd be perfect as Melania, or so the thinking goes. But the fact that she has a Latina accent and looks as Eastern European as Oprah Winfrey will not stop Hollywood from casting her.

Ivanka Trump - Juliana Hough : Finally, a role that will propel Hough to the stardom that Hollywood has been trying to create for her for years. The only problem is that Hough can't act and certainly couldn't bring Ivanka to life with any believability. 

Jared Kushner - Toby Maguire : Maguire's doe-eyed Kushner would be so underwhelming it might actually make the real Jared Kushner look vibrant and virile. 

BAD MADE-FOR-TV

And in conclusion…the cast of the made-for-TV version of The Comey Affair. This would most likely end up collecting dust on the Hallmark Channel.

James Comey - Josh Duhamel : Duhamel is tall…JUST LIKE COMEY!!! So he gets the part regardless of the fact that he is one of the most insipid actors walking the planet. 

Donald Trump - John Heard : Heard's work as Trump would make his dreadful performances in the Home Alone series look like Sir Laurence Olivier at his peak. To his credit, he has the physique for it. 

Mike Pence - William Peterson : Peterson has gray hair, so does Mike Pence! I actually am not sure if Peterson acts anymore as he is probably relaxing in his solid gold house and driving his rocket car…but if he wants the Pence part, it's his!

 

Jeff Sessions - Jim J. Bullock : Bullock has a southern accent…YOU'RE HIRED!!!

Melania Trump - Marg Helgenberger : Along with Peterson, this would be a nice reunion of the CSI gang, which might attract the older audience this tv version desires. 

Ivanka Trump - Kaley Cuoco : She stars on the number one sitcom in America!! Sign her up!!

Jared Kushner - Jim Parsons : Parson's Jared would actually be interesting to watch…of course it would be terribly written and shot so any worthwhile work he could muster would be drowned in a tidal wave of poop. 

Thus concludes my casting session for The Comey Affairbest case scenario...coming to a theatre near you Christmas Day 2017!!!! Or, worst case scenario, airing on the Hallmark channel Thanksgiving night!! 

Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars America!! We'll see you at the movies!!

©2017

Trump - Griffin Scandal Underscores American Celebrity-Obsessed Culture

Estimated Reading Time : 5 minutes 38 seconds

Last week, comic and attention-whore Kathy Griffin posted a photo on social media of her holding the bloody, decapitated head of President Trump. The ensuing outrage was not the least bit surprising and was exactly what everyone involved craved.

When I first heard of the uproar over Kathy Griffin’s infamous Trump photo, I hesitated even reading the story because I didn’t want to feed Ms. Griffin’s ravenous hunger for fame. But Hollywood is my beat, so I reluctantly dove into the story.

My first impression upon seeing the controversial photo was to be startled by the grotesque face with vacant eyes staring back at me, I then realized that vile and surgically contorted mug was Ms. Griffin’s and that she was holding a cheap replica of Donald Trump’s head, severed and bloody.

Kathy Griffin, for those that are lucky enough to not have heard of her, is a talentless hack of a comedienne. A sad desperation seeps through her every pore, proof of which is her myriad of plastic surgeries and her aspiration to be a D-list celebrity. While Griffin is devoid of any and all talent, she is not entirely without skill, her lone proficiency being the ability to tirelessly and shamelessly promote herself.

Griffin’s “career” is littered with one self-serving stunt after another. She’s been banned from the television shows The View, Today and Late Night with David Letterman for her crude and obnoxious behavior. After this Trump photo controversy, she can now add CNN’s New Years Eve special, which she co-hosted with Anderson Cooper, as among the growing number of shows where she is no longer welcome.

Reading up on the Griffin story left me irritated, frustrated and fatigued. Once again some dopey celebrity was giving aid and comfort to Trump, a man I abhor, by diverting attention away from his catastrophic administration, and instead focusing it on their mind-numbing idiocy.

As Napoleon once said, “Never interfere with your enemy when he is making a mistake”, Hollywood liberals would be wise to stop ignoring Mr. Bonerpart’s sage advice.

Whether it be Madonna at the Women’s March, or Snoop Dogg and his Klump video, or Stephen Colbert and his “holster” joke, or Ms. Griffin and her ISIS-inspired photo shoot, the left-wing out here on the left coast keeps giving Trump a welcome distraction from his floundering presidency. With the President embroiled in a series of crippling investigations, leaks and a stalled agenda, now would be a great time for the liberal opposition to keep their mouths shut and let Trump get on with his self-immolation. But no, the temptation of attention is too great for those who endlessly thirst for it.

Which brings me to my central point, Kathy Griffin despises Donald Trump, but she is exactly like Donald Trump. Both Griffin and Trump have made a name for themselves by doing anything and everything to make a name for themselves.

They are both reality television stars, Griffin on My Life on the D-List and Trump on The Apprentice. Both of them require fame and attention like the rest of us do oxygen, and they both will do just about anything for it. Griffin once had a pap smear by a pool on her television show, and performed simulated oral sex on Anderson Cooper in Times Square. Trump has a long history with WWE professional wrestling, appeared fully clothed in a pornographic film, and has attached his name to everything from a scam university to steaks. Both of them have shown an astonishing ability to debase themselves and a remarkable shamelessness in their pursuit of fame.

This Griffin-Trump photo story is a perfect microcosm of all that is currently wrong with our celebrity obsessed culture and politics. You could have easily foretold the way this entire episode would play out from start to finish.

Kathy Griffin quickly apologized when the uproar over her photo became deafening, and then Trump jumped at the chance to play the victim. Both he and Melania made statements bemoaning how their 11 year-old son, Baron, was horrified by the photo.

Not to be outdone in the race for the crown of victimhood, on Friday Griffin held a tearful and defiant press conference with her press-hound lawyer Lisa Bloom, claiming that Trump and his family were bullying her and that she had received death threats. This script is as predictable as an episode of Real Housewives, but not nearly as dignified.

The reality is that both Griffin and Trump want this story to go on for as long as it possibly can because they both benefit from it. Trump gets a distraction from his disastrous presidency and bad press, and Griffin gets people talking about her, which is her lifeblood.

Caravaggio's "David with the Head of Goliath" (c.1610) - on display at the Galleria Borghese

Caravaggio's "David with the Head of Goliath" (c.1610) - on display at the Galleria Borghese

As I kept reading about this story and seeing the photo attached to each article, one of my favorite paintings, David with the Head of Goliath (c. 1610) by Italian Baroque master Caravaggio, came to mind. The reason I thought of Caravaggio’s painting is that in his work David holds aloft the decapitated head of the slain Goliath, much like Griffin holds the bloody head of Trump in her now infamous photo. Caravaggio painted multiple versions of this same event over his lifetime, but the one that has always moved me was the one currently hanging in the Galleria Borghese in Rome. I love this panting so much I actually made a pilgrimage to Rome a few years ago with the express purpose of seeing it. Witnessing the painting in person did not disappoint, as Caravaggio’s supreme talent and transcendent work resonated deep in my soul. What makes this painting so fascinating, besides the masterful skill required for its creation, is the subtext of the story it reveals.

In the painting, Goliath’s lifeless face is also that of the artist, Caravaggio at the time of creating this masterpiece. It is also said that the face of David in the painting is that of a young Caravaggio. And unlike Caravaggio’s other renderings of this scene (the one on display in Vienna for instance), in the Borghese version, David is not triumphant, or proud of his conquest of Goliath, rather he looks down at the giant’s lifeless head with “an expression of sadness and compassion”. Caravaggio’s David with the Head of Goliath is not only a depiction of the story of David’s victory over Goliath, but of Caravaggio’s own struggle against his inner demons.

In relation to the current scandal du jour, it would have been much more interesting if Kathy Griffin and photographer Tyler Shields had the artistic vision and courage to eschew the usual attempt at trying to muster shock and garner attention, and instead recognized that Griffin and Trump are both symptoms of the same disease, celebrity, that ravages America, and let that fact be reflected in their work.

For instance, if Kathy Griffin had been photographed dressed as young David, with a sword in her right hand and her left her breast exposed (in order to mimic the painting and supply the titillation both she and Shields crave) while wearing a Trump wig, as she looks down with “an expression of sadness and compassion” at Trump’s decapitated head in her outstretched hand, then Griffin and Shields would be saying something both artistically and politically worthwhile. The symbolism of the eternally vapid Griffin mournfully understanding that Trump, the Goliath of vacuity, is just a larger version of herself, might awake America from its collective cultural and political madness.

That is what great art does and why it is so vital, it reveals a larger truth that resonates both personally and collectively for its audience. Instead, Griffin and Shields went the cheap and vacuous route in their photo shoot searching for the instant gratification of agitation and satiating their adolescent emotional needs rather than the more difficult, but ultimately rewarding, work of telling an artistic truth.

What makes Caravaggio’s painting so exquisite is that it is a work of artistic introspection that tells an uncomfortable truth about both its creator and all of humanity, while the Griffin and Shields photo is one of shallow projection meant to allow the artist to continue to lie to themselves.

Griffin and Shields lack of self-awareness does tell a wider story about narcissism run amok in America, but unintentionally, and that worthy revelation is only born out of the artists own unconsciousness and not out of any artistic vision or insight.

What our emaciated culture and politics truly need right now is a lot more Caravaggio, and a lot less Kathy Griffin. Sadly, as we spiral deeper into a new Dark Age fueled by our insipid celebrity obsession, there are no signs of a cultural and political Renaissance on the horizon. We are stuck with the culture, and the politicians that we have dutifully earned and so rightly deserve. Kathy Griffin and Donald Trump are living proof of that.

This article was previously published on Saturday June 3, 2017 at RT.

©2017

Greg Gianforte, Punching Nazis, and the Absence of Moral Authority

Estimated Reading Time : 5 minutes 14 Seconds

On Wednesday night of this past week, the night before the Montana special election for a vacant congressional seat, republican candidate Greg Gianforte body slammed and repeatedly punched Ben Jacobs, a reporter for The Guardian newspaper. The story of Gianforte's attack spread quickly and was accompanied by Jacob's audio recording and eyewitness accounts of other media members who witnessed the event.

Upon reading accounts of the incident and hearing the audiotape, my first reaction was at odds with those that were relaying the story to me on the television…I thought this would insure Gianforte's victory, not impede it. Our current political culture is so toxic and distorted that it makes Gianforte's assault into an act of decisive courage, not one of unsettling violent impetuosity.

You get the government you deserve, and the people of Montana deserve Greg Gianforte. But Montana is not alone in their preference for the unhinged bully. The biggest example of this is, of course, Donald Trump, who huffed, puffed and bullied his way into the White House.

The media quickly came to the defense of their compatriot Jacobs and rightly condemned Gianforte. Shouts of fascism and the perils of the war on the press were hot talking points surrounding the Gianforte assault. Much blame was placed at the door of republicans in general and Trump in particular. What struck me though was a complete lack of self-reflection regarding the acceptance of violent speech and outright violence on the part of liberals and the resistance movement that have heightened our already strained and sweltering political climate. 

The most famous case of violence from the left occurred on inauguration weekend when a masked man infamously sucker punched alt-right firebrand Richard Spencer as he stood on a D.C. street corner conducting an impromptu interview. Much hilarity ensued on the internet when people created gif's and memes of the video of Spencer being punched. The mainstream media did not condemn the violence, they laughed right along with liberals and other resistance fighters. The New York Times wrote a piece asking if it was ok to punch a Nazi. The answer was basically…always. 

Nazis are so evil that not only CAN you punch them, you SHOULD, or so the theory goes at the moment. Nothing is out of bounds when taking on fascists, as the antifa (anti-fascists) will tell you. And we have seen this play out across the country this past year.

There were the riots at the University of California at Berkeley when protesters tried, and succeeded, in stopping right wing glamour boy provocateur Milo Yiannoppolis from giving a speech. The same occurred at Middlebury College in Vermont when Charles Murray, of the Bell Curve fame, was invited to speak at the school. Murray and a professor were physically assaulted and driven off of campus by protestors in a violent and chaotic scene. 

The election was filled with much violence as well, from Trump supporters assaulting protestors to anti-Trump protestors assaulting Trump supporters. The clashes that erupted in Chicago at a Trump rally between pro-and anti-Trump forces, echoed of the insanity of the '68 democratic convention. 

I have written numerous articles since the election about the perils of violent speech emanating from the left. Madonna's remarks at the Women's March and Snoop Dogg's anti-Trump video were just two such instances of the left embracing the dangerous language of the aggressor. Add to that the knowing nods of approval from the mainstream media over the Richard Spencer assault and liberals are left stripped of any moral authority whatsoever in regards to this issue. Their shock and horror at Gianforte's repulsive behavior rings hollow and hypocritical. 

When liberals excuse and exalt themselves for literally "fighting" Nazis, they set themselves up for defeat. Liberals will end up losing the argument and the fight, if it ever comes to that. Liberals will be blamed by voters for any appearance of lawlessness and chaos when riots break out, but the right will not be blamed for organized counter attacks, as we witnessed in the clashes at Bekreley last month. Martin Luther King understood this strategy well, and through the use of patient non-violence he turned public opinion in his favor when images of calm, peaceful protestors being beaten by a vicious and chaotic police force revealed who the lawless really were in the civil rights struggle.

And just as a practical, strategic matter, God forbid it ever comes to this, but liberals have positioned themselves as devoutly anti-gun, and their opponents in any potential civil war battle that could be shaping up are not unarmed, in fact, they are armed to the teeth So liberals will end up being the fools who show up to a gun fight with nothing but their fists and righteous indignation, a surefire recipe for slaughter. That won't end well for liberals in the long term, and neither will trying to match the right bully for bully and assault for assault in the short term. 

This is a time in history when "strength", or at least the appearance of strength, draws instinctual support from many voters. The right went for their own type of strongman in Trump in the last election, a way for his voters to attempt to quell their fears and anxieties.  Trump's appearance of strength is a mirage, he is a hollow, cowardly man. This is why the left must counter this type of vacuous "strength" with a genuine spiritual strength. This is not the "strength" of a man like Trump (or Duterte or Erdogan), but rather the strength of men like Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Ceasar Chavez, Thomas Merton and Thich Nhat Hanh. The moral and ethical strength of these men should be the guideposts for the resistance movement. These men did not fall for the trappings of myopia and the easy path of the punch, they played the long game, and maintained their righteousness throughout without ever letting it turn into righteous violence. 

Look, I know all too well the temptation and appeal of a little bit of the old ultra-violence. Punching people, especially those who you think deserve it, feels really, really good….in the moment. But it rarely, if ever, feels good in the long run, and it is even more rare for it to be effective.  

The problem with believing it is ok to punch Nazis, is that your opponent can and will appropriate that mindset and make it their own. And as we have seen many times, who we label a Nazi is in the eye of the beholder. Bush was Hitler, Obama was Hitler, Hillary was Hitler, Trump is Hitler. If punching Nazis is now within the norm, your enemies will simply label you a Nazi either before of after they punch you. Gianforte thought he was righteous in hitting Jacobs, the masked man who hit Richard Spencer thought he was righteous, the old coot who punched a protestor at a Trump rally thought he was righteous…we all think we are righteous and our opponent is evil, so we give ourselves permission to do all sorts of unthinkable things.

The moral of this story is that punching Nazis is fun, unless you are the Nazi. And the truth is, as our political culture spirals ever faster and further down into delusion and madness, we have all become Nazis, and I fear we have the government and politics we so richly deserve.

©2017

JOE McCARTHY WAS RIGHT!! Shocking Revelations From a Manchurian Op-Ed Writer

Estimated Reading Time : 5 minutes 03 seconds

Last night a reader emailed me a tweet that commented on former CIA director John Brennan's testimony to the House Intelligence Committee earlier in the day. The tweet read...

"Brennan: Russians use RT as well as individual op-ed writers who are on the Russian payroll in order to advance Russia's interests"

Upon seeing the tweet my blood ran cold, my heart nearly stopped and my mind raced. As my tweet sending reader knows full well, since January of this year I have occasionally contributed to RT, the Russian-based website and news channel, by *GASP* writing op-eds for them. 

I quickly tried to gather myself and went to investigate Brennan's testimony further. I had to unravel this story and follow it wherever it led, let the truth prevail or the heavens fall. 

After reviewing Brennan's answers to the committee, the sentence that jumped out at me most was when the stern faced former director said, "Frequently, people who go along a treasonous path, do not know they are on a treasonous path until it is too late."

Once again my blood ran cold, my heart nearly stopped and my mind raced. Was I, as an occasional op-ed contributor to RT, on the "treasonous path" and simply unaware of it? Was I an unwitting traitor hell-bent on destroying America from the inside as a Manchurian Op-Ed writer? I decided to take a long, hard look at myself to see if I was as John Brennan described, an inadvertent traitor and Russian collaborator.

I must admit that I was shocked and appalled at what I found as I dug into this story. As is always the case, John Brennan, and the rest of our remarkably infallible Intelligence Community, were right on the money. Much to my chagrin, I discovered that I had, in fact, been writing articles on RT for the last five months that were skeptical of the official Washington narrative regarding Russia. How dare I question the group think coming from the establishment in Washington and the mainstream media? What was wrong with me? I think we all know the answer to that question…don't we comrades?

Presumably, this was my training to be a Manchurian Op-Ed Writer.

Presumably, this was my training to be a Manchurian Op-Ed Writer.

The thing that disturbed me the most was that, for years prior to getting published at RT, I had been writing articles that questioned the establishment's Russia narrative on my own website, which means that I was doing it...FOR FREE!! So, before I ever received my first paycheck signed by my best friend and confidante, Vladimir Putin, I had been shilling for his takeover of the free world gratis. The only conclusion one can draw is that I must have been Kompromised…oops…I mean, compromised, much earlier on than I believed. 

As my investigation went even deeper I discovered, with the help of some kind-hearted commenters and emailers that had been so gracious as to reach out to me, that I was, in fact "a useful idiot" for Putin and the Russians. This lifted my spirits enormously, as being a "useful idiot" was a big promotion for me since I have been a "use-less idiot" for the overwhelming majority of my life. I hope this promotion comes with an increase in pay grade as well, as I've really had my eye on a super sweet jet ski for a while now!!

As difficult as it was to unearth the fact that I am a Russian created Manchurian Op-Ed Writer, the harder part was peeling the layers back upon the conspiracy of which, unbeknownst to me, I had been such a crucial part. I began to wonder…who was my handler? Is it the old Russian lady I say hello to on my morning walk as I pass by the local nursing home? I bet it is…she wears a lot of perfume, probably to cover the stench of treachery that emanates from her evil Russian flesh.

St, Basils looming menacingly over the White House.

St, Basils looming menacingly over the White House.

The deeper I investigated, the more concerned I became. The TV has told over and over again how the Russians are masters of "trade craft" in the art of spying, which means I must be a master spy, since I am not even aware that I am one. Obviously, the fact is, by not being aware I am a Russian spy, that proves that I am a Russian spy. Secondly, how did I know that this cover of Time magazine shown on the left, which purports to show the Kremlin taking over the White House, is actually not the Kremlin but St. Basil's Cathedral. How the hell did I know that? Once again, we all know the answer to that, don't we my commie-pinko comrades. 

So it is a fact, I am a Russian spy, and, just like Russian meddling in the election, of that there can zero doubt or questioning regardless of any lack of evidence. Tangible proof is not needed for this "assertion" because it is so self-explanatory. But the question becomes, who else besides me is in on this conspiracy? 

I went back and read the unclassified Intel Community report on Russian meddling in the 2016 election in order to find out who my other co-conspirators might be. The report, brought to congress by then Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, says that RT is a Russian propaganda arm meant to disrupt American democracy.

The proof Clapper's report presented for Russian election interference was that in 2012 and 2016 RT had done stories on "alleged US election fraud and voting machine vulnerabilities". CBS and PBS had also done extensive stories on those same exact topics, as did most every other American news outlet. The Russian contagion is worse than I thought. The clues were always there, hiding in plain sight, I mean Dan Rather and those commies at Public Broadcasting being Russian spies is not exactly shocking. 

Clapper's report also used as proof of Russian election meddling the fact that the channel had "highlighted a lack of democracy in the United States" and had "broadcast, hosted and advertised third party candidate debates". The Russians are so nefarious that they were able to scuttle our democracy by highlighting our democracy. The evil genius of that is staggering.

In addition, the report states that RT undermined our 2016 election by airing a documentary on Occupy Wall Street that the report described like this…"RT framed the movement (Occupy Wall Street) as a fight against the ruling class and described the current US political system as corrupt and dominated by corporations". Obviously, this proves that Putin is Satan. No more need be said about it. 

The report also declares that RT alleged "widespread infringements of civil liberties, police brutality and drone use" along with alleging "Wall Street greed." Those snakes over at MSNBC did the same thing, thus revealing their true intentions. Chris Hayes is a four-eyes, wonky piece of RED SCUM! 

And finally, the Clapper report's coup-de-grace was that RT had attacked our democracy by "running anti-fracking programming, highlighting environmental issues and the impacts of public health." Josh Fox, I have bad news comrade, you have been compromised! Abort mission, ABORT!! Light all of America's water on fire and head back to Moscow!

After re-reading Brennan's testimony and Clapper's report I realized the overwhelming enormity of the Russian conspiracy to destroy American democracy. The list of unwitting traitors committing treason against America at Russia's behest is gargantuan. The list includes but is not limited to, CBS, PBS, MSNBC, CNN, McNeil AND Lehrer, nearly every major news outlet in the country, third party candidates, third party voters, Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter, Environmentalists, Bernie Sanders, Josh Fox, all liberals, all progressives, most democrats, people of conscience, and the ring leader, Dan Rather, who instigated the entire operation simply by uttering the code word implanted in all of our brains by our Russian overlords…"Courage". 

After discovering the true nature of this vast conspiracy I sat down to catch my breath, only to be overcome once again with dread. If I and the rest of my comrades were the unwitting treasonous traitors that Clapper and Brennan said we were, who else is in on it? How far had the Russian contagion spread? As I pondered this question, an ominous feeling came over me, for the answer was right in front of my nose. 

James Clapper, former Director of National Intelligence, lied to congress in 2013 about mass surveillance of Americans by the NSA. When Clapper was asked if the NSA was collecting data on millions of Americans he replied, "No…not WITTINGLY". OH…MY…GOD. Clapper is in on it. As is the entire National Security Agency. Those sneaky Rooskies have really done it this time!

Thank goodness that we still have good, honorable Americans who will fight this scourge of Russian inspired treason, men like former CIA director John Brennan, the man who instigated my entire investigation. But wait…Brennan and his CIA spied on the Senate when the Senate was investigating and writing the Torture Report that implicated the CIA. Was Brennan a witting or unwitting traitor when he did that? And was it at the behest of Dr. Evil, Vladimir Putin? The answer is obvious…Brennan artfully plied his trade craft during his testimony to congress yesterday, only a conniving Russian can be such a master spy. Brennan, I am sorry comrade, but you have been compromised. 

Sadly for me, my in-depth investigation reveals that in my role as a Manchurian Op-Ed Writer, I am not as pivotal as I thought I was in the Russian takedown of American democracy. Do I play a part? Yes, but I am no James Clapper or John Brennan. I am just some fool looking for the truth. My dreams of being a "useful idiot" are eclipsed by the work of Brennan, Clapper and the media. I return, crestfallen, to my previously held position of "use-less idiot". Damn...I really had my heart set on that jet ski. 

©2017

Suffering Children as Propaganda and the Jimmy Kimmel Story

170130-nora-anwar-al-awlaki-rhk-1815p_2fad892cf7e12631663586f25fe8602d.nbcnews-fp-1200-800.jpg

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

Curious George and the Banana Republic

Estimated Reading Time : 3 minutes and 48 seconds

Yesterday was one of those strange days where the surreality of events makes me chuckle while everyone else is pulling their hair out screaming. I got a text from a friend telling me that FBI director James Comey had been fired and that "shit was about to get real". I replied that if he "thought shit was getting real now, wait until Trump replaces Comey with Rudy Guiliani". No doubt it will be the height of dictatorial comedy when Trump tries to replace Comey with Guiliani or a Guiliani-type, a "tough talking - no nonsense" buffoon who will be his unabashed toady, to do all of his bidding and relentlessly watch his back. Former NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly came to my mind as well, since Trump really only knows people from New York. The most entertaining pick would be Chris Christie, because that bastard is not only corrupt and combative, but so desperate to stay in Trump's good graces he will do absolutely anything that is asked of him…anything. Whoever Trump appoints, they are going to be expected to scuttle any and all investigations into Trump and Co., and they will probably succeed. Ladies and gentlemen…Welcome to the Banana Republic!! Try on our Fulton Stretch Skinny Chino in Burgundy or Grass Green, on sale now for only $69.50!!

Adding to the bizarre events of yesterday, after my friend's text, I turned on my tv and got to watch a slow speed non-chase of Jim Comey's motorcade driving through L.A. traffic on the way to the airport. Being the civic minded individual that I am, I quickly wrote a sign on a poster board and ran to the nearest freeway overpass to let Comey know I supported him. Sadly, by the time I got there Comey was long gone and had already boarded the FBI's private jet to return to D.C. It is just as well, as on the walk home I realized I had written "Run O.J. Run" on my sign. Old habits die hard I suppose, at least a lot harder than ex-wives and unlucky waiters anyway. As usual I was a quarter of a century late, and more than a few dollars short…onward home I marched.

When I got home, dejected from my catastrophic sign failure, I turned on my tv, but in a sure fire sign that God is real and Irish (or that Spectrum is really just Time Warner's shitty service with a brand new name), my television was no longer working. I admit I was angry I would not be able to waste hours on end listening to members of the Clinton Cult who had ranted against Comey for months on end, including earlier this week, hypocritically do the same over his firing. Adding insult to injury, I also wasn't able to watch the N.Y. Rangers playoff game. As my frustration grew at my hockey watching impotence, I did the previously unthinkable…I washed my hands of the entire evening and went and read a book.

The reason this turn of events proves God exists and is Irish, is that the Rangers lost and were eliminated from the playoffs and I didn't have to suffer watching it. In addition, God spared me from hearing the outrage from every talking head on the cable channels, who, no doubt, all said the same thing over and over again about Nixon and Tuesday Night Massacres®. God is not only Irish, but kind and merciful.

As for the book, well, reading is for nerds, and I am not very good at it, but the book was interesting and I guess, pretty good as far as books go. I admit I didn't understand a lot of it, but I was certainly entertained when the lead character, a monkey named Curious George, threw baseballs to kids to distract them during a fire at their schoolhouse. Of course, he only did that after nearly killing an entire fire crew and destroying their station (which is paid for by my tax dollars) with his idiocy...or was it something more insidious than idiocy? Somehow, after ruining everything he touched, Curious George was labelled a hero at the end of the story. As I said, I didn't understand the story at all, but being the simpleton that I am, the pictures delighted me no end.

In my mind, and this is just an opinion, Curious George is not "curious" at all, but an asshole. It takes an incredible amount of cognitive dissonance to think George does not intentionally try to harm people. And how does he get away with it all? Who does he know in the halls of power that he consistently avoids being held accountable for his destructive actions? Does he have something on the district attorney? That may be the only way to explain how he never faces charges of reckless endangerment, wanton destruction of property or even manslaughter? If I had my way George would be at a research facility having baseball bats tested on his testicles, but that is just me, I can be cruel like that.

As a side note, I am absolutely convinced that the Man in the Yellow Hat is a pedophile. There is just something not right about that guy. And how is he able to have a monkey and not have him on a leash? Dogs do not have opposable thumbs but if you don't leash them you pay heavy fines…why can you have a monkey who can cause much more damage than a dog, and not face any serious criminal or civil liability for the destruction he causes, and not have to put them on a leash?

And who cleans up George's shit? I never see the Man in the Yellow Hat with a plastic bag or anything. He strikes me as the kind of guy who just pretends he didn't see George take a dump on the steps of the public library and then walks away whistling. How many people have slipped on George's poop and twisted an ankle or fell and hit their head, or just had their shoes ruined? Somebody has to do something about this George character and his relentless "curiosity", because if they don't, someone is going to get seriously hurt or, God-forbid, killed. 

Anyway…in case you're interested, the synapsis of the book, titled "Curious George and the Firefighters", is basically, Curious George starts a fire, nearly kills an entire fire station and then throws a baseball. Usually the first thing that would come to mind reading that exact scenario would be George W. Bush, 9-11 and his first pitch at the World Series, but yesterday it made me think of The Donald. 

Donald Trump is Incurious George II, a vindictive, malevolent and tyrannical primate who destroys everything he touches with his tiny monkey paws, from the office of the presidency to Preet Bharara, Sally Yates and Jim Comey. Luckily for Incurious George II, he has a coterie of ass-kissers, the House and Senate Republicans, who will clean up his every mess, or just turn the other way pretending not to notice his disasters as they walk off whistling.

The media and political establishment uproar over Trump's firing of Comey will probably, like all the other scandals, amount to little more than sound and fury signifying nothing because Trump inherited his imperial presidency from Incurious George I - Dubya, and from Mr. Hope and Bullshit himself, Obama. 

Trump is stomping on "traditions", not breaking laws, and that is why he will never truly be held to account. This is what an imperial presidency looks like, when laws do not restrain the power of the executive, but his goodwill and good nature are supposed to. Well, now we have a syphilitic monkey as Commander-in-Chief who is only able to be restrained by his better nature, of which he has none, and we have no one to blame but ourselves. The right trusted Dubya, the left trusted Obama, and now we are stuck with The Donald.

And one last thing…if we get lucky and Trump is actually impeached or resigns or is locked in a a closet with Ivanka at Mar-a-Lago which he can't quite figure out how to open, then we are stuck with President Pence, or as I call him, The Man in the Yellow Hat. With Trump gone and seemingly vanquished, the resistance will dissipate and disappear, and a focused, driven, disciplined and viciously efficient President Pence with all three branches of government (Executive, Legislative and Judicial), will have free reign to do as he pleases, and we will all be pining for the glory days of our (in)curious, orange-haired, pussy-grabbing simian friend and his predictable unpredictability. God help us all.

©2017

Colbert Attacks Trump, Was it Homophobic? Hysterical? Or Both?

Estimated Reading Time : 4 minutes and 27 seconds

Late night talk show host Stephen Colbert sparked a controversy last week with an anti-Trump joke some deemed homophobic. Reactions from across the political spectrum reveal much of what ails modern America.

Colbert, host of CBS’s The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, took aim at President Trump during his monologue on Monday night. Angered by Trump’s walking out of an interview with CBS reporter John Dickerson, host of Face the Nation, which Trump flaccidly re-titled “Deface the Nation”, Colbert laid into the president with a scorching barrage of jokes.

Colbert’s anti-Trump screed went as follows, “Sir, you attract more skinheads than free Rogaine. You have more people marching against you than cancer. You talk like a sign language gorilla that got hit in the head. In fact, the only thing your mouth is good for is being Vladimir Putin’s c**k holster.”

It is that Putin-oral sex joke at the end that has stirred calls of homophobia. As a result, the hashtag #firecolbert started trending on twitter Tuesday night into Wednesday. Alt-right firebrand Mike Cernovich added fuel to the fire by tweeting his followers video of Colbert making other off-color sexual jokes about Trump and Putin, and the story grew from there.

Colbert gave a non-apology apology on his show Wednesday night, where he said, “if you saw my monologue Monday, you know that I was a little upset at Donald Trump for insulting a friend of mine. So at the end of that monologue I had a few choice insults for the president in return. I don’t regret that. He, I believe, can take care of himself. I have jokes; he has the launch codes. So, it’s a fair fight. So, while I would do it again, I would change a few words that were cruder than they needed to be.”

The #firecolbert camp is, according to some, made up of Trump supporters with a few liberals and members of the LGBTQ community sprinkled in. The argument of the #firecolbert movement is two fold, first is that Colbert should be fired because the joke in question is homophobic since it implies that gay sex is shameful and demeaning, and second because the offending joke was much too vulgar for network television and disrespectful of the presidency.

In regards to the charges of Colbert’s indecency and disrespect, Trump supporters being offended by that is like someone making it rain outside and then complaining about the weather. Trump may be the most crude and crass politician to have ever soiled the public square. It is pretty disingenuous to get upset at a comic for telling a ribald joke when you tolerate your candidate saying he will “bomb the s**t” out of people, or that he can grab women by their genitals whenever he wants. Trump also never failed to be disrespectful of the presidency when President Obama held the office. If Trump’s boorishness and impudence towards Obama didn’t offend his supporters during the campaign, than it is a bit rich of them to feign indignation at Colbert’s discourtesy now.

It is also pretty tough to swallow, no pun intended, Trump supporters being upset over homophobic remarks when Trump’s political incorrectness was his main appeal to many who backed him. Add to that the right’s historical discomfort with gay rights and you are left with the impression that Trump supporter’s dislike of Colbert’s homophobia is little more than political opportunism.

What this is really about for those on the right is not homophobia or vulgarity, but wanting the scalp of a popular liberal icon to boost their cause, just like the left yearned for the firing of Bill O’Reilly in order to get in a dig at Trump. The fact that Colbert, who made a name for himself masterfully satirizing and mocking O’Reilly from 2005 to 2014 on his old show The Colbert Report, is now facing calls for his own ouster weeks after his comedy inspiration O’Reilly failed to survive a similar campaign, is one of the delicious ironies of this entire episode. A case of art imitating life imitating art, an example of the madhouse that is our popular and political culture at the moment.

But let’s not kid ourselves, the stench of hypocrisy wafting through the air in regards to Colbert’s situation does not only originate from Trump supporters.

The Advocate, a leading LGBTQ magazine, quickly put out an article in defense of Colbert that stated, in essence, the homophobia of his joke was fine solely because it was aimed at Donald Trump. The liberal and gay establishment shamelessly signing off on Colbert’s homophobia because it targets Trump, leaves them guilty of the same insincerity as their right wing counter parts.

 

Imagine for a moment, if someone had said something similar regarding President Obama, the liberal outrage machine, always on the lookout for any slight or slur, would have gone into overdrive screaming homophobia, The Advocate loudest of all.

If you make the argument for political correctness, as the left consistently does, that words matter, then that means they matter all the time, regardless of at whom they are aimed. Liberals have been up in arms over nearly everything Trump says and tweets, most times rightfully so, but you cannot hold your opponent to one standard and yourself to another and maintain any semblance of moral authority.

Not all members of the LGBTQ community have taken Colbert’s alleged homophobia so lightly. Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Glenn Greenwald, a gay man, has been deeply disturbed by the left’s use of homophobic taunts to attack Trump from the get go. Greenwald responded to Colbert’s joke and the lack of anger from the left by tweeting, “homophobia for the right cause, with the right targets, is good homophobia, apparently.”

Greenwald is the most rare of creatures in public life, a person with intellectual integrity. That said, while I agree with Greenwald about the hypocrisy of those on the left, I vehemently disagree with his discomfort over Colbert’s joke. Most importantly because it was a joke, albeit a harsh one that was funny and well-executed.  

Secondly, the question is, was the joke too vulgar? Of course it was, but crying foul over vulgarity in our current culture is like handing out speeding tickets at the Indy 500, it is a fool’s errand at best. If you’re looking to scorn the indecent in America, throw a rock in the air, you’ll hit someone guilty.

The crux of the matter is this, was the joke homophobic? To some, like Greenwald, the answer is a resounding yes, and I respect his opinion on such things. But even if it is deemed homophobic by Greenwald and others, should Colbert be punished for saying it? My answer is an emphatic no.

We have many rights in America, but the right to NOT be offended isn’t one of them. We have become much too delicate when it comes to the spoken and written word. People need to screw their courage to the sticking place and stop being so sensitive. We are all too quick to take external offense at the words of others and much too slow to introspection and rumination. In the battle between freedom of speech and protecting feelings, I’ll take freedom of speech every single time.

Political correctness has ruled the day for the last decade, and it has done nothing to stop the scourge of coarseness and incivility that has infected our society. Our culture sinks to new lows and becomes more base daily, and policing speech and protecting from offense has done nothing to make us more civil, in fact, it has only exacerbated the problem. President Trump and his opposition are damning evidence of that.

This Colbert brouhaha is one of those cases where many things are true all at once. It is true that both the Trump supporting #firecolbert folks and Colbert’s liberal defenders reek of self-serving hypocrisy. It is also true that people with pure and good intentions, like Glenn Greenwald, can be offended by Colbert’s joke but still be misguided in their hyper-sensitivity.

As difficult as it at times may be, we must let people, comedians most of all, say what they want to say, and short of violent speech, we should learn to be comfortable with our discomfort when others offend us.

Why should comedians most of all be allowed free expression? Comedians play a vital role in keeping a society mentally and emotionally healthy. Comedians are meant to hold the psychological shadow, all of our darker thoughts and impulses, for the culture’s collective unconscious. If we don’t give comedians wide berth and freedom to say all the things that are taboo and offensive, then our shadow will most certainly find another voice through which to express itself. The next thing you know, it won’t be comedians saying all the things we aren’t supposed to say, but politicians, some of whom will have the launch codes. 

This article was originally published on Saturday May 6, 2017 at RT.

©2017

Al Pacino : Top 5 Performances

 

On Tuesday of this past week (the 25th of April), the great Al Pacino celebrated his 77th birthday. Happy belated birthday, Al.

Pacino enjoying the "Scent of a Woman" on his birthday.

Pacino enjoying the "Scent of a Woman" on his birthday.

A reader, the Minnesota Kid, sent me a story about Pacino that showed him galavanting on a beach somewhere on his birthday with a bikini clad vixen forty years his junior. Apparently Pacino has fully embraced the lecherous old man stage of his life…good for him. 

Since I missed Pacino's actual birthday, I thought I'd share with you, my gentle readers, my opinion on his five best performances of his career. Pacino is one of the all-time greats. His run of success in the 1970's was staggering from an actor's point of view. I greatly admire Pacino, he is an old-school, Actors Studio kind of actor. His commitment to craft and his dedication to his life's calling knows no bounds. I recommend any aspiring actors to watch Pacino at his best and notice what he does with his hands in particular. Pacino is great at telling a story and creating a character with his hands. 

Sadly, Pacino has become a bit of a punch line in the latter part of his career with some derivative work that borders on self parody, but that shouldn't over shadow the stellar work he churned out in his wondrous earlier years. 

So sit back, relax, and enjoy my list of Pacino's best performances!!

5. GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS

Pacino had a hell of a year in 1992, winning his first and only Best Actor Oscar for his work in Scent of a Woman, and being nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar in Glengarry Glen Ross. Pacino's work in Scent of a Woman is much too showy for my liking. The whiff of performance hangs in the air during even scene he chews his way through. In contrast, Pacino's work as salesman extraordinaire Ricky Roma in Glengarry Glen Ross is a subtle masterpiece. Pacino wraps Roma in the blustery confidence of the hustling salesman, you can smell the cologne that encases him. Pacino alters his center of gravity with Roma, making him a somewhat top-heavy, chest-out type of character, who, like a predator, is always scanning the horizon for the weakest animal to separate from the herd. Pacino did not win an Oscar for his work as Ricky Roma, but he really should have. 

 

4. SERPICO

In 1972, '73, '74 and '75, Al Pacino was at the height of his creative powers. His work as truth-telling cop Frank Serpico in the 1973, Sidney Lumet directed film Serpico, is a testament to the creative roll Pacino was on back then. Serpico is a complicated character with a sense of honor, duty and loyalty, but he must grapple with whom or what he is loyal…is it to his fellow cops, or to the truth? Serpico chooses the truth, and it nearly costs him everything. Pacino once again uses his body to convey the heavy weight that bears down on Frank Serpico. As the film rolls on Serpico becomes more and more compressed in a permanent slouch, the cross of Truth he is bearing weighing down on him. Pacino was nominated, but did not win, the Best Actor Oscar for Serpico, but he was certainly worthy of that award. 

 

3. DOG DAY AFTERNOON

1975's Dog Day Afternoon paired Paicno with director Sidney Lumet once again to spectacular results. Pacino plays Sonny, a "gay" man who attempts to rob a bank in Brooklyn in the early 70's. Pacino's Sonny is as complex and complicated a character imaginable. Watching the pressure of the situation bear down on Sonny is a remarkable character study. Once again, Pacino uses his physicality to bring Sonny to life, he puts his center of gravity lower on his body, in his pelvic region, and lets that lead the way. Pacino's Sonny is desperate for validation, love and escape. He feeds off of the acceptance of others, whether they be his hostages in the bank or the crowd that gathers outside to egg him on. Watching Sonny chant "Attica, Attica, Attica!!" to the assembled crowd is one of the great iconic moments in cinema history.  

 

2. DONNIE BRASCO

1997's Donnie Brasco is one of Pacino's most underrated performances. Pacino is nothing short of brilliant as the down on his luck gangster Lefty Ruggiero. Pacino imbues Lefty with palpable desperation that seeps out of his every pore. This is, in many ways, Pacino's most profound and intimate performance of his remarkable career. Scandalously, Pacino was not nominated for an Oscar for his staggering display of genius in Donnie Brasco

 

1. THE GODFATHER I & II

It is impossible to overstate the masterpiece that is Al Pacino's work in the first two Godfather movies. Michael Corleone is one of the all-time, iconic film characters in cinematic history. That doesn't happen without the masterful work of Al Pacino. Pacino's transformation from the "good" son to the stone cold killer to the Don himself, is staggering. Pacino gives Michael a vivid and pulsating inner life that he occasionally let's pop out into the world, in explosive moments of rage at his wife Kay or his brother Tom. But even more chilling is when Michael focuses all of that power and force into a calm, collected glare. Pacino's brilliance is in making Michael Corleone a container for all of our darker ambitions while never making him into an obvious monster. Pacino's work as Michael Corleone isn't just his greatest performance, it is one of the greatest performances of all time. 

 

Happy belated birthday, Al!! I tip my cap to you for your lifetime of transcendent work!! Keep on frolicking until you can frolic no more!!

©2017

Colossal : A Review

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

Estimated Reading Time : 4 minutes 37 seconds

My Rating : 3.5 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation : SEE IT. See it in the theatre in order to encourage studios to make more films like this! 

Colossal, written and directed by Nacho Vigalondo, is a black comedy about Gloria, an unemployed, alcoholic writer who leaves New York city and returns to her suburban childhood home as a means of last resort, when all of a sudden a giant monster starts attacking Seoul, South Korea. Anne Hathaway stars as Gloria, with Jason Sudeikis playing her hometown friend Oscar.

Colossal is a strange, original, smart, unique and ultimately insightful film that is a worthwhile storytelling venture. Writer/Director Vigalondo masterfully weaves together a story about alcoholism, misogyny, monsters, personal demons and psychological/spiritual healing to create an intriguing and ultimately satisfying movie. 

Colossal is not a monster movie, not really, the monster is a secondary device to mine the inner turmoil of Gloria, and is a metaphor for her alcoholism/psychological scars. It is impossibly clever that writer/director Vigalondo has the monster attack Seoul, or less succinctly, SOUL. It is Gloria's soul/Seoul that is under assault. Her self loathing and self-destructive behavior are born out of being a pawn, or barbie doll, in a male dominated world that is cruel, hurtful and monstrous

Hathaway is a polarizing actress, a lot of people spew a great deal of vitriol at her for her public persona. I have no opinion on her as a person, but I will say she does very good work in Colossal. Hathaway's Gloria, like Hathaway herself, smiles maybe a bit too much and seems pretty self-absorbed and disingenuous a lot of the time, which is actually a masterful way to bring the character to life. In a bit of notable artistic courage, Hathaway embraces Gloria's physical and emotional messiness, and allows herself to look her absolutely worst, which is something not every actress would do. Hathaway's Gloria (like Hathaway herself) is very likable in her unlikability, and that is entirely a credit to the actresses charm and skill.

Jason Sudeikis does a surprisingly solid job as Gloria's childhood classmate Oscar. Sudeikis is a funny guy, and he is funny here, but never too funny, which makes his Oscar a totally believable human being and keeps the film grounded. Sudeikis is the polar opposite of Hathaway in that most people generally like him, and as Oscar he uses his inherent likability to lure the audience onto his side to terrific effect. 

Both Hathaway and Sudeikis commit fully to the rather absurd scenario the film lays out for them, which makes the audience never question the legitimacy or veracity of the story as it unfolds. In some way, Colossal reminded me of the brilliant absurdist film from last year The Lobster, in regards to its rather quirky premise. Colossal isn't nearly as good as The Lobster, but it is still an interesting, entertaining and worthwhile film. 

The film may have resonated with me personally because, like Gloria, I too am an alcoholic (unlike Gloria I have a quarter century of sobriety under my belt) and have lots of demons and monsters dwelling inside me that occasionally rear their head to destroy large cities. Colossal expertly captures the relentless cycle of bad decisions and self-immolations that the alcoholic goes through while under the spell of that tantalizing Dionysian nectar. It also wonderfully captures the discomfort those around the alcoholic feel when he/she attempts to stop drinking. Even those who want the drunk to stop boozing are thrown for a loop when they finally do, and seeing that in Colossal rang particularly true for me. It is a common occurrence that people want YOU to change, but they don't want THINGS to change….which, of course, is impossible.

As a psychological exercise, Colossal is pretty marvelous, using a monster attacking Seoul and all the events that follow that bizarre occurrence as a way to tell the story of a woman's struggle to come to grips with her psychological and emotional wounds is a brilliant idea. And it is important to note that this is a WOMAN'S story, as it shows the carnage and soul crushing and suffocating damage men inflict upon the women they claim to love. Much like last years A Monster Calls, Colossal makes a monster movie the way it should be made, as a personal, intimate tale that reveals larger truths, in this instance, the personal experience of a woman trying to survive in a man's world.

Colossal is not a perfect movie, it has its flaws and its occasional sloppiness, but it is an ingenious film that tells a peculiar yet important story. As an alcoholic I can tell you that Anne Hathaway's performance in the final shot of the film is as good as it gets in portraying what life is like living with that affliction. Hope, fear and cold, hard reality all smack you in the face at once when you have reached the mountaintop only to realize you must climb all the way back down again in order to live life on terra firma. Just when you think the battle is won, you realize it hasn't even started yet. 

Whether you're a drunken booze hound or a teetotaling church goer, Colossal is worth seeing in order to watch what it is like to have your own personal monster projected out there for all the world to see. It is a superbly smart and psychologically relevant film that tells the truth, even when it lies. I recommend you spend your hard earned dollars to see it in the theatre, you never know, the Seoul you save, could be your own. 

©2017

The Lost City of Z : A Review

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

Estimated Reading Time : 4 minutes 58 seconds

My Rating : 2 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation : SKIP IT. If the film intrigues you, see it on Netflix or Cable.

The Lost City of Z, written and directed by James Gray based upon the book of the same name by David Grann, is the true story of British explorer Percy Fawcett and his quest to find an ancient lost city in the Amazon in the first part of the twentieth century. The film stars Charlie Hunnam as Fawcett with supporting turns from Sienna Miller and Robert Pattinson.

The Lost City of Z is a great story, but a sub-par film. I have not read the book it is based upon, so maybe it is more successful as a companion piece to the book, but it fails as a stand alone cinematic enterprise. 

The problems with The Lost City of Z are numerous, but the most imperative issue is that it is thematically and structurally unsound. The movie never quite figures out what it wants to be and therefore tries to be about too much and ends up being about nothing. Is it a film about colonialism? Imperialism?  Patriarchy? The suffocating rigidity of British society? The perils of chasing glory? Losing ones family by trying to save it? There are lots of choices to make, too many, and thus the film wanders from one topic to the next never fleshing any one out to any satisfactory depth. 

In terms of structure, the film's narrative is sprawling and poorly constructed which makes the movie feel interminably long and unconscionably meandering. A common pitfall for bio-pics is that the director feels compelled to show as much of the hero's life as possible, which almost always ends up a cinematic disaster. By showing everything we end up understanding nothing. No drama can take root and flourish when a film is so busy recreating events to manufacture the broadest and most vast of stories. This bewildering filmmaking decision is furthered by poor editing in which many tiny storytelling threads are revealed but none of them are pulled, resulting in a rather scattered movie going experience. 

Director James Gray is very good at making movies that SHOULD be good, but never are. His filmography is littered with noble failures and misfires. The Immigrant, for example, looked great but wasn't a great film because its story was all over the map. The same is true for all of Gray's other films. He must be phenomenal at making film pitches in studio offices, because he is not very good at making the actual films.

What struck me the most about The Lost City of Z was how poorly shot it was. The film's topic brings to mind many other much better films, like The Mission, New World and even Apocalypse Now. The biggest difference from those films though is that they were simply gorgeous to look at. The Lost City of Z's visuals are as murky and muddled as its storytelling. Gray and cinematographer Darius Khondji are never able to exploit the staggering beauty of the jungle to their cinematic advantage. When the film opens in Ireland and England, the dreary visuals are to be expected, but the transition to the Amazon never brings with it an expansive stylistic shift to a broader color palette. The films photography starts off suffocating and claustrophobic and stays that cinematically myopic throughout, which is a terrible artistic error. 

Gray and Khondji are also unable to create any sort of visual texture throughout the entire film. I kept yearning for the dazzlingly simple work of Emmanuel Lubezki in Terence Malick's New World. Lubezki and Malick were able to use natural lighting to propel their story and draw the viewer in to a visceral experience shared with the lead characters. Every slight bump in the bark of a tree or in the White men's armor was accentuated to a dazzling degree. In contrast, Gray and Khondji deliver a flat and stale picture of the Amazon, one of the most beautiful places on earth. One need only watch Roland Joffe's The Mission to see how a filmmaker can make the most of such a stunning setting. 
 

Charlie Hunnam plays lead character Percy Fawcett. Hunnam is best known for his starring turn in the FX motorcycle gang show Sons of Anarchy. Hunnam is remarkably handsome, of that there is no doubt. He certainly looks the part of a movie star, and I was definitely rooting for him heading into the film. But about mid-way through The Lost City of Z it occurred to me, Charlie Hunnam simply lacks "it". Some people have "it" and some people don't, and I am afraid Mr. Hunnam is of the latter group. This is a big year for Hunnam, as he is making his big push for movie stardom with The Lost City of Z and King Arthur to follow quickly on its heels. I think Hunnam will be unable to carry a film because he simply is not charismatic, magnetic or compelling enough to do so. He isn't a bad actor, but he certainly is not a great one. His technique in The Lost City of Z seemed to be little more than whispering most of the time. He never demands the audience watch him, and is unable to lure the viewer in to his intimate and private world. There is an artistic wall around Hunnam as an actor, and it keeps him safe and secure but cold and distant from his audience. 

Sienna Miller and Robert Pattinson play Fawcett's wife and comrade respectively. Miller is an actress I never really think about, but she is always very good when I see her in something, and The Lost City of Z is no exception. Miller is impossibly beautiful, and her bone structure is a thing of perfection, but what makes her really note worthy is the power she is able to generate in her stillness. There is no wasted or extraneous movement from Miller, just a focused stillness that brings with it a palpable magnetic force. 

Pattinson is a pleasant surprise as Costin, Fawcett's aide in his journey into the Amazon. Pattinson is unrecognizable with a giant beard covering his well known face. He creates a genuine and intriguing character that gets swallowed up by the film's epic ambitions, which is a shame, it would have been wiser to mine the Facett-Costin relationship for all it was worth. 

In conclusion, The Lost City of Z is a major disappointment. No need to waste your hard earned dollars seeing this film in the theatre, but if the idea of it intrigues you as it did me, then wait to see it for free on cable or Netflix. I have heard it said of the film that "they don't make movies like this anymore", there is a reason for that, because movie's like this aren't very good. There is a truly great film lurking in the bowels of The Lost City of Z, but director James Gray was unable to discover it. Much like the film's protagonist, we as viewers are left agitated by the dreams of glory and beauty that lie unearthed deep in the heart of the Amazon and of the film. The Lost City of Z is a lost opportunity, and seeing it would be a fruitless journey of self-deception and anguish for any who dare to begin the quest. 

©2017

 

 

 

Killing O'Reilly : Karma is a Bitch

Warning: This post contains STRONG language some a**holes may find objectionable.

Estimated Reading Time : 5 minutes 09 seconds

Bill O'Reilly has dominated cable news for the last two decades. His show "The O'Reilly Factor", has been a ratings behemoth devouring its helpless opponents. Today he was let go from Fox News for his history of sexual harassment in the workplace. O'Reilly's amazing fall from grace is only matched by his surreal rise to power. From a two-bit nobody residing in the slums of the broadcasting world at Inside Edition, to the king of cable news atop the mountain of Fox News is a stunning story, which now ends ignominiously. 

O'Reilly's epitaph will no doubt recount his bravery in defense of the Baby Jesus during the hellacious War on Christmas, and his courage on the front lines in El Salvador and Argentina, not to mention his near miss in solving the Kennedy assassination but forcing a suicide instead. This was a great man in his own mind, and a flaming asshole in the minds of every rational human being who had the dreadful misfortune of having stumbled upon his show. 

O'Reilly's staggering cable news success has always been less an endorsement of his talent, intelligence and insight than it has been an indictment of the debilitating idiocy, moral depravity and emotional debauchery of the cable news watching public. And don't be mistaken, O'Reilly himself was no genius, his painfully obtuse arguments were that of a simpleton...for simpletons, that was his magic formula. As I am fond of saying…you can't argue with an idiot, and O'Reilly is crying in his solid gold mansion right now because he was able to exploit that fact. Sadly, the self-righteous bloviator O'Reilly made a fortune feeding the dumber and darker impulses of the American beast, and he has left the culture and the country a much worse place than when he found it.

O'Reilly didn't just poison the well of America by playing the pugnacious host of the "The O'Reilly Factor", he also did so by writing some of the most atrocious "history" books with the worst titles imaginable. First there was "Killing Lincoln", then "Killing Kennedy", "Killing Jesus", "Killing Patton" and finally "Killing Reagan", which I assume is a book about old age. O'Reilly's "history" books can be broadly titled "Killing History, Logic and the English Language".  

Those are just the "history" books, he also had a plethora of cultural commentary books that he ejaculated upon an unsuspecting nation. With titles like "Culture Warrior", "Whose Looking Out For You?", "A Bold, Fresh Piece of Humanity" and "Old School : Life in the Sane Lane", O'Reilly raked in the cash while slaying straw men, beating dead horses and stroking his own…"ego".

Sadly, O'Reilly's departure from Fox won't stop him from vomiting more awful books onto the public square, and he might yet get another tv gig somewhere else down the line, so we aren't rid of this self-important, blowhard twat just yet. That said, there is the delicious smell of schadenfreude in the air as Fox drops the axe on its iconic front man, and there can be no harm in a little taste of that scrumptious dish if just for a moment. 

Bill O'Reilly may surface again somewhere, but it won't be the same Bill O'Reilly, who like his presidential buddy The Donald, conned a nation (or a portion of it), into thinking he was something he is not. O'Reilly, like Trump, is a hollow man, a fake tough guy who has never been in a fight in his life. He is, like most of his viewers, impotent with rage at the shadows dancing on his wall or bogey men who live under his bed. O'Reilly is also, like his orange haired chum, a fraud, a clown and a boorish, sad little tyrant.

The No-Spin Zone is now tossed into the dustbin of history, it will not be missed…speaking of history, I have a great idea for Bill-O's next "history" book… how about "Killing O'Reilly". 

To mark O'Reilly's Fox firing, I have compiled a collection of scenes from gangster films. Why? Well, there is no moment in life that cannot be made better with film clips from Goodfellas and The Godfather movies. Here is a quick collection that show the O'Reilly firing in all its mythical and archetypal grandeur. ENJOY!!

GODFATHER II - DON FANUCCI

In this scene, Bill O'Reilly is Don Fanucci, the vain, arrogant, ultimately weak, corrupt and stupid mafia boss. Bill O'Reilly has always been Don Fanucci, even though he thinks he is Don Corleone. Robert DeNiro's Vito Corleone is karma…and the light just flickered back on.

GOODFELLAS - MORRIE

In this scene Bill-O is Morrie, the annoying, loudmouthed asshole who bugs the shit out of everyone and "never shuts the fuck up." Well, when karma appears in the form of Joe Pesci's Tommy DeVito, O'Reilly finally "shuts the fuck up". 

GODFATHER III - JOEY ZASA

Not surprisingly, O'Reilly is the camera hungry bully and faux tough guy Joey Zasa, a coward who runs at the first sign of trouble. Karma rides a horse and comes to our rescue. "ZA-SA!!"

GOODFELLAS - TOMMY DEVITO

DeVito, like O'Reilly, is a braggart and impulsive bully, but also like O'Reilly he gets his comeuppance for his assholery. Karma is two to the back of the head. Oh…and Robert DeNiro plays O'Reilly's douchebag lap dog Jesse Waters upon hearing the news his mentor is no more.

GODFATHER - HELLO CARLO

Carlo is a two-faced prick of a bullshit artist who treats Connie like shit and gets Sonny killed on the Causeway. Bill O'Reilly is Carlo. Bill O'Reilly has always been Carlo. The delightful music of the phrase "Hello Carlo" is spoken by Clemenza, but it is really karma working its magic through him. 

 

CASINO : NICKY AND DOMINIC SANTORO

And finally, Bill O'Reilly and his buddy Roger Ailes are Nicky and Dominic Santoro who get their comeuppance for a lifetime of unconscionably thuggish behavior in a corn field in the middle of nowhere. Karma is a baseball bat….and O'Reilly, after watching his buddy Ailes get brutalized, is being buried while he's still breathing. O'Reilly, and Ailes, both got what was coming to them, and learned the hard way that karma is indeed, a real bitch.

And thus ends the dance of the schadenfreude that is Bill O'Reilly's firing from Fox News. It couldn't have happened to a nicer guy. From me to you Bill, from the bottom of my heart, I say to you...

©2017

Theatre of the Absurd : Road to Damascus Edition

Estimated Reading Time : 6 minutes 12 seconds

 

CIRQUE du TRUMP AND THE MEDIA CLOWNSHOW IN FULL EFFECT

It was just a little over a week ago when reports, followed by horrific images, of a chemical weapons attack in Idlib, Syria danced across our television sets here in America. Since then, of course, we have seen our brave and noble media search long and hard in a righteous quest for the Truth of this sad story...Oh…wait…no we haven't…quite the contrary in fact, we have seen our mendacious media shovel lie after lie onto the furnace of our war loving culture.

Trump's reactionary and retaliatory lobbing of cruise missiles onto an airfield in the middle of nowhere Syria a few days after the chemical attack was like a double shot of Viagra for the chronically flaccid "liberal" media, who quickly stood at attention and saluted their brave Commander in Chief and the "beautiful weapons of war" he unleashed. Does this sound absurd to you, well it should, because it most assuredly is.

This same media has been ranting since the election that Trump is unfit to serve as President, and is unhinged and dangerous, if not compromised by the Russians, but the second he uses force and kills people he magically becomes presidential? What the hell is going on here? The short answer…the media is in the tank for the deep state in all its forms (the military industrial complex, the surveillance state, Wall Street, the corporatacracy, etc.), and Trump got played by the Deep State's national security wing and now they have him securely in the boat - hook, line and sinker.

The result of this will be that we will see more muscular military interventions in Syria and we may see a large military action, if not full out war in North Korea in the very near future. The Deep State beat Trump like a drum, he was the proverbial guy who brings a ham sandwich to a chainsaw fight, and now they will use him to get everything they want…more war, more empire, more surveillance, more tyranny, more globalism. 

LACK OF EVIDENCE

The Syrian chemical weapons attack was certainly gruesome, and the blame for it was quickly assigned to Syrian leader Bashar Assad, and then, conveniently, Russian President and Assad ally, Vladimir Putin. The problem with that is that there has been zero evidence or proof shown that Assad or Putin were behind the attacks. The US says it has undeniable proof, but won't share it, which is a pretty strong indicator the evidence is either weak or non-existent. Take a quick read of the Intel report on the subject and try not to hurt yourself looking for anything substantial. Talk about Theatre of the Absurd!!

As is the custom regarding these types of things, the MSM conveniently avoided or ridiculed anyone who questioned the "official" narrative of Assad and Putin being to blame for the Sarin gas attack in Idlib. Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell's assistant during his infamous 2003 Iraq WMD presentation at the U.N., went on All In with Chris Hayes this week and questioned the official story, saying it was nonsense and spoke openly about a false flag attack by anti-Assad rebels trying to lure the U.S. into the Syrian civil war. Wilkerson knows of what he speaks, as he has openly admitted being an unwitting aid in the hoax that led to the ill-fated U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. Hayes was silent during Wilkerson's Syrian false flag claims and never follow up on the topic and quickly changed the subject. Once Wilkerson was off air though, Hayes told his next guests that Wilkerson was way off target and totally wrong, it was unquestionably Assad who is to blame for the sarin atrocity. This was a cowardly and cheap trick by Hayes to avoid having to answer tough questions about the chemical attack claims being made by the U.S. government. Hayes should have jumped all over Wilkerson and had a thorough going over of the case, but he didn't, probably because he knows the case is paper-thin if not non-existent. Hayes' failure to cross examine Wilkerson was cowardly, and his back stabbing him when he wasn't there to defend or debate was the height of cheap shots. 

Another bit of absurdist disinformation put out there by the deep state and its national security wing, was when former presidential candidate and CIA agent, Evan McMullen, claimed on Bill Maher's HBO show that Assad isn't fighting ISIS, but rather is allied with ISIS. This is a typical maneuver out of the deep state playbook, muddy the waters and obfuscate the truth to such a degree that up is down, and reality is impossible to discern. McMullen is, like his sleepy-eyed Intel agency cohort and MSNBC darling, Malcolm Nance, a complete and total bullshitter.. McMullen and Nance play the roles of serious men, but they consistently spout nothing but absurdities, be wary of everything either one of them claims.

HISTORY OF FALSE FLAGS BY SYRIAN REBELS - EXHIBIT A

There is a lot of mention in the corporate media of a 2013 chem attack in Syria as further proof of Assad's guilt in the most recent attack, but there is never any mention of the facts about that 2013 attack, which are very different than the MSM would have you believe.

The 2013 attack was the one that "crossed the red line" that Obama had set about Assad using chemical weapons. Then, as now, the media were quick to jump on the flimsiest of Intel assessments that stated that the Assad regime was to blame. The problem with using this 2013 attack as proof of Assad being guilty now is that the opinion about who is to blame for the 2013 attack has shifted away from Assad and to the rebels due to investigative reporting (Links HERE , HERE , HERE , HERE). The U.N. representative investigating the 2013 claim believes that anti-Assad rebels used Sarin gas in order to draw the west into the Syran civil war. Not a bad plan…and it almost worked…and it might even work this time since we are much more primed for war with Syria and Russia by our repugnant press.

Seymour Hersch was the one who really broke the 2013 story wide open. I highly recommend you read his piece about that attack and where the chemical weapons came from, it would be highly insightful in understanding the current Syrian situation. 

The key take away from Hersh's reporting is that the 2013 chemical weapons attack was a false flag attack by Turkish intelligence and the anti-Assad rebels. This is pretty important information to have if you want to understand what is happening now. Of course, the MSM and the Establishment will ridicule and belittle anyone who says such things, even rising star congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, and label them as "unserious" or worse still, "conspiracy theorists", but that doesn't mean they are wrong. 

A big clue as to what the Establishment is up to is that no one ever mentions the 2013 attack as a false flag. It is either held up as proof of Assad's depravity or it is ignored. This is a glaring red flag that we are being sold a "Gulf of Tonkin" level bill of goods regarding this recent chemical weapons incident. 

HISTORY OF FALSE FLAGS BY SYRIAN REBELS - EXHIBIT B

Another intriguing topic that gets no mention in regards to this current attack and the Syrian rebel forces, is the Richard Engel false flag kidnapping. If you are not aware of the story, which wouldn't be surprising since the MSM wants you to not be aware of the story, it is a remarkable one. The short version is this, NBC foreign correspondent Richard Engel, was kidnapped in Syria and his captors said they were Pro-Assad Shiites. The brutalized him and his compatriots and then a group of anti-Assad Sunni rebels saved him. Engel went on NBC continuously and told the story of his brutal Iranian trained, Shiite captors and his heroic Sunni rebel saviors. The only problem was…it was all a ruse. Engel, PROBABLY wasn't in on it and was the dupe, but it turns out the anti-Assad rebels kidnapped him and made it look like Assad forces did it. it was a propaganda piece, from start to finish…and Engel, NBC, and America bought it. Doesn't this Engel kidnapping, combined with the Sarin false flag attack in 2013 give ample evidence to at least question the "official story" of this most recent chemical weapons attack? Wouldn't the most prudent thing to do is BE SKEPTICAL? 

In one of the more remarkable exchanges that highlight the absurdity of msm coverage of this situation, NBC's Brian Williams, who is a well known liar who has no business being on television or reporting on anything, interviewed Richard Engel. Of course, Williams, his trousers still tented from the "beautiful" missile strike by US forces against Syria, never mentioned Engel's false flag experience in Syria, they both just traded smiles and serious looks about how guilty Assad and Putin obviously were.  If Brian Williams were a real journalist, he may have asked something along these lines..."Richard Engel, you were the victim of a scary kidnapping that was a ruse in order to drum up support in America for the Anti-Assad rebels, is there any chance this chemical weapons attack and the subsequent news coverage out of that area, are a similar disinformation campaign meant to stir the west in general, and the US in particular, to act on behalf of the down trodden rebels?"  Instead we got little more than hot and heavy breathing about our presidential leader and the brave men and women lobbing missiles from hundreds of miles away at an enemy they will never see. Typical soft-serve bullshit from Brian Williams and the impotent gang at NBC.

LACK OF CONTEXT

Two final points you won't hear discussed by the MSM regarding Syria that are a dead giveaway that they are shoveling nothing more than disinformation and propaganda. The first is the complete lack of any historical context. Like the fact that Assad, who every talking head says is a monster, was our ally in the war on terror. Did you know that? Did you know that we sent prisoners to him to be tortured? Assad is certainly a monster, but he has been our monster, and to try and pretend like our hands are so clean regarding this guy is outrageous. And it is even more despicable when we take the moral high ground in regards to Putin and Russia and their support of Assad. You hear a lot of "how could they?" from the dipshits populating cable news. Maybe we should look in the mirror to answer that question. 

And finally, along the same lines, there has been an evolution in the Syria chemical weapons attack story that is entirely predictable…that it is all Putin's fault. Putin has become the scapegoat for everything wrong in the world. It is beyond absurd, and our getting high and mighty about it is the height of hypocrisy. Does anyone remember Iraq and Saddam Hussein using chemical weapons on his own people, the Kurds, and in his war with Iran? Do we all suffer from such a severe form of historical amnesia? Saddam, our ally, used our chemical weapons, with the aid of our Intelligence agencies and military, to gas his own citizens and Iranians. We had no problem with it back then, but apparently now we are horrified by such outlandish behavior.

Of course, years later the MSM and establishment conveniently forgot the details of the Saddam situation and only highlighted his use of chemical weapons. That worked out well for them in deceiving the ill-informed public and successfully making the case to invade Iraq in 2003.

Our newfound horror at middle eastern tyrants using chemical weapons, and our anger at nations who support those tyrants, is the most historically illiterate and obnoxiously hypocritical stance imaginable. This doesn't strengthen our standing as a moral and ethical beacon for the world, it only highlights how full of shit we are. 

By the standards that we blame Putin for Syria, we ourselves are to blame for the innumerable atrocities taking place in Yemen right now at the hands of the Saudis, where millions are on the verge of starvation and have been subject to the most heinous of war crimes. Will we hold ourselves to the same standard we hold Putin and the rest of the world? of course not, because we are absolutely, 100% full of shit. 

WHAT IS REALLY HAPPENING HERE?

What I think is really going on in Syria is something you will never hear anywhere in the establishment media. What I think is actually happening will be ridiculed as being "unserious" and "conspiratorial", which is fine. But here is my assessment of the situation. 

The Syrian civil war is a proxy-pipeline war. Russia and Iran want an Iranian gas pipeline to go through Syria into Europe, while the U.S., Israel and Saudi Arabia want a Saudi pipeline to go through the Syria in to the European market. Russia and Iran want to weaken Saudi Arabia and the U.S., and the U.S. and Saudi Arabia want to weaken Russia and Iran. It is a geopolitical and business chess game. 

Secondly, and this definitely gets me labelled "unserious", but I think that the U.S. created ISIS in order to attack and bring down Assad and wreak havoc in the middle east. Our war on ISIS is little more than Kabuki theatre. We trained, armed and supported them from day one. If we had really been trying to destroy them, they'd be destroyed. Russia entered the Syrian civil war to defeat ISIS and shock of shocks…they are actually doing it. The whole "arming moderate rebels" routine was a total charade, and that seems very obvious to me. We are fighting a war on terror and yet we are allied, arming and supporting both ISIS and Al Qaeda in their holy war (Sunni vs. Shia) against Assad. 

I think the Deep State is not going to let Syria go. We are going to get more and more involved in that war, and will try and lure Russia into even deeper involvement. The Deep State wants to destroy Putin and Russia at any cost. They started a coup in Ukraine and a civil war in Syria in order to distract and drain the Russians. It might very well work. 

This is what I think is going on in that part of the world. I realize some, if not most, people will think that is batshit crazy. That's ok. Who cares what I think, right? The reason I come to this conclusion is that when you understand the script the deep state plays by, you can see how they try to manage and manipulate the masses to get what they want. Syria and the chemical weapons attack is a great example…and frankly, so is the Russian hysteria sweeping the globe. 

Whatever the Truth is, we will probably never know for certain, especially since we are little more than slack-jawed fools sitting by, watching in awe as a Theatre of the Absurd production unfolds before our eyes. The best thing we can do, regardless of whether the topic is Syria, Russia, North Korea, China or anything else that comes up, is keep our eyes and minds open, and to always and every time demand proof of the claims that those in authority make. Do not trust, but verify. Every. Single. Time. 

UPDATE 4/14/17 : A great piece from top-notch reporter Robert Parry published just this morning is worth reading as it further fortifies my argument against the conventional wisdom regarding Syria. 

UPDATE 4/18/17 : An MIT weapons expert is claiming that the Syrian chemical weapons attack was staged on the ground and did not come from an air assault. He also says that the White House report contains "no evidence", both points further buttressing my argument against the "official narrative".

©2017

Personal Shopper : A Review

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

Estimated Reading Time : 4 minutes 52 seconds

My Rating : 4 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation : SEE IT. See it in the theatre, but be forewarned, it is a "French" film in style, rhythm and pace, but not language. If you want more Hollywood fare, skip Personal Shopper.

Personal Shopper, written and directed by Olivier Assayas, stars Kristen Stewart as a young American woman working in Paris as a personal shopper for a French female celebrity. 

Personal Shopper is a difficult film to categorize by genre, as it is part ghost story, part psychological thriller, part intimate character study all rolled into one. At its heart though, the film is really a meditation on grief. As I watched the film I kept thinking of Joan Dideon's insightful book on grieving, "The Year of Magical Thinking". Another story that kept popping into my head was Hamlet, and how his run ins with ghosts and mysticism were a way to propel the plot and the narrative forward in Shakespeare's masterpiece. 

Grief in this film, and in real life, can be an equally disorienting and enlightening experience. The grief stricken are able, and often forced, to dig deep into themselves and to see the world from a much different perspective than they are used to, which puts them distinctly at odds with the world around them. I remember, years ago, sitting on a subway train in New York City a few weeks after my best friend had been killed in a car crash. I was thinking of him and silently weeping, tears streaming down my face, and then I remembered a particularly funny moment we had shared and I laughed uncontrollably at the memory, and then cried again because I realized that those memories were all I had left. At some point I had a brief realization of where I was aware of my surroundings and noticed that people on the train were looking at me in horror, and probably thought I was a crazy person. Grief will do that to you. Hamlet is great example of this, people think he has gone mad…but he hasn't, he is simply grieving. Grief knocks you out of the everyday rhythm of the world around you, and in so doing makes you seem entirely out of sorts to those still in sync with the "normal". 

When you are grieving, the veil between the worlds thins and all sorts of magical things occur (Ms. Didion might say "all sorts of magical things seem to occur"). Signs, symbols, and messages are everywhere you turn, and you are attuned to notice them. The most mundane of things can take on the most profound of meanings. The grief stricken ache for connection with the departed in order to not only confirm the depth of their feelings, but to validate both the dead and the living's existence.

And so it is with Kristen Stewart's character Maureen in Personal Shopper. She is waiting for a sign from the netherworld, and even when she gets it, it is not enough to convince her. Proof of afterlife connection only heightens her confusion, and her knowledge of what was lost in the here and now. This is the conundrum at the heart of Personal Shopper, everything is possible, but nothing may be real. And that is also a perfect summary of what it is like living with intense grief. 

This is Kristen Stewart's second film with Assayas, the first being Clouds of Sils Maria, which was a film I thoroughly enjoyed. Assayas use of metaphor and symbolism allows for him to tell stories on multiple levels, which makes for an extremely rich viewing experience. He is a confident and skilled director who never fails to surprise and intrigue.

Kristen Stewart is phenomenal as Maureen, the melancholy and morose woman trying to make sense of it all. Assayas brings out the best in the enigmatic actress, as she was also particularly good in Clouds if Sils Maria.

I remember the first time I ever saw Kristen Stewart in a film, it was in Sean Penn's Into the Wild. Her performance was absolutely electric and she jumped off the screen. She had such a smoldering presence and a visceral ache to her in Into the Wild that it was impossible to take your eyes off of her. I had a conversation with a very famous actress friend of mine after seeing the film and we both said, "who IS that girl?". My actress friend and I both marveled at Stewart's innate ability and undeniable presence and were excited to see what came next in her career. And then came the Twilight garbage and the suffocating and stultifying fame that accompanied it. 

Stewart is a luminous talent who possesses a gravitas and magnetism that permeates her every scene in Personal Shopper. Escaping from the artistic black hole that was the Twilight septic tank is no easy feat, but Stewart is going about it in exactly the right way. Doing art house and European films will not only restore her credibility but her creative spirit. She is simply too brilliant a natural talent to get swallowed up by the Hollywood shit machine. If she stays on her current trajectory, she can return to Hollywood for specific parts that invigorate her artistic soul, not just her bank account. 

I think it is not a coincidence that Stewart has teamed twice with Assayas to play someone in service to a woman who is a creature of fame. Fame nearly strangled Stewart's sublime creative gifts in the cradle, so she has a very intimate knowledge of its toxic effects. The fame game is a soul-crushing endeavor, and if undertaken by a sensitive artist like Stewart, can be a deadly one as well.  In Personal Shopper, as in The Clouds of Sils Maria, Stewart is playing with her public persona by playing off of it. Her performances in those films are like watching the actress do an active imagination gestalt with her famous alter ego in a Jungian therapy session, and it makes for remarkably compelling cinema. 

Coincidentally, today is Kristen Stewart's 27th birthday, and my birthday wish for her is that she continue to make the films she wants to make, and that speak to, and feed, her artistic soul, and not the crap that Hollywood wants her to make. She is young enough, and talented enough, to recover from the trauma of the Twilight saga, and become the great actress that she is meant to be. I for one, am rooting for her.

As for Personal Shopper, it is best described as a walk through the minefield that is our own graveyard. It is a strange and at times incredulous film, but it never veers from the path Kristen Stewart's powerful work steers it down. Director Assayas is remarkably effective in heightening the tension and drawing the viewer into the world of Maureen. It feels effortless how Assayas tightens our stomachs as we walk through a creaky old house. Every knock, every bump in the night, forces another twist of your innards. This is, at times, a horrifying film, but it is also an enlightening one, especially for those who carry the scars of grief. 

I recommend people see Personal Shopper, but to do so knowing that it is a film out of sorts with Hollywood movie making. Like someone grieving, Personal Shopper has its own rhythm, pace and view of reality, that may seem odd to those not accustomed to it. If you give the film a chance, and go along for the ride, it can be a highly entertaining and fascinating journey, and is well worth your time and effort.

©2017

 

T2:Trainspotting - A Review

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

My Rating : 3 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation : SEE IT. If you absolutely loved Trainspotting, like I did, then see T2 for nostalgia purposes. If you were lukewarm on the original, then you can see T2 on cable or Netflix.

T2: Trainspotting, is the sequel to 1996's Trainspotting and just like the first film, T2 is directed by Danny Boyle, and is written by John Hodge based on the books Trainspotting and Porno by Irvine Welsh. The film returns the same actors who starred in Trainspotting as well, with Ewen McGregor (Renton), Ewen Bremner (Spud), Johnny Lee Miller (Sick Boy) and Robert Carlyle (Begbie) reprising their iconic roles. 

Trainspotting is one of my favorite films of all-time. Part of the reason for that is that I am the son of a Scottish immigrant and consider myself to be a Scots-phile of the highest order. The film also resonated with me because the chaos and mayhem of it rang familiar to the madness surrounding my own struggle with substance abuse a few years before the film came out. Another reason I loved the film so much was because it was such a revolutionary and inventive work of cinema. Director Danny Boyle brought a unique and distinct style and perspective to the story of junkies languishing in Edinburgh, that it felt like a whole new wave of film was being born with Trainspotting

Boyle has gone on to have a very good, but frankly, not great and often uneven career. Although Boyle is unquestionably a remarkably skilled filmmaker, he has not turned out to be a  revolutionary director, and that's ok. But part of the appeal with Trainspotting was that it felt like cinema might be on the cusp of something very big and transformative. With T2, that air of possibility is deflated and long gone, and in a certain ironic way, that benefits the theme and tone of the film tremendously. 

T2 is nowhere near the film Trainspotting was, but with that said, it is a serviceable sequel, entertaining and even insightful at times. Boyle's bag of cinematic tricks was spent on the first Trainspotting, but to the sequel he brings a self-assured and high quality craftsmanship. The chaotic and powerful energy of the first film is missing, but in its place is a proficient and calculated middle-aged desperation.

Ewen Mcgregor became a star as Renton in Trainspotting, and much like his director Boyle, McGregor has never become quite as big a star as that first major role promised. But the fact that both McGregor and Boyle have never hit the heights that seemed to be their destiny, is a wonderful backdrop for a film about lads in Edinburgh who never seem to get out of their own way or to have lived much of a life at all.

The undercurrent running through T2 is that of impotence and emasculation. All of the main characters are either incapable or disinterested in sex with women. Begbie can't get it up, Renton is sterile, Spud has lost his kids and Sick Boy hasn't closed the deal with his hot Bulgarian girlfriend. Add to that the school principal whose dirty little secret is that he likes to get banged in the ass by an attractive woman with a strap-on, and you've got a recurring theme…the deterioration and desecration of the archetypal Scotsman.

In T2, the Scotsmen have lost their balls and can only wallow in nostalgia for a time when they had them, be it 1690 or when Georgie Best ruled the world. This Scottish impotence is highlighted by the fact that the women dressed in Scottish garb greeting people at the airport are actually Eastern European. The Scotland of old is dying out and Renton, Spud, Sick Boy and Begbie are dying with it. The Scottish male is an endangered species and the existential crisis that rages at their core is why they so often turn to booze (Begbie) or drugs (Spud, Renton and Sick Boy) to medicate themselves.

The American working class is suffering through the same existential crisis as the Trainspotting crew went through twenty years ago. Opiates are killing Americans in record numbers, and there is no end in sight. The soul crushing aimlessness that festered in the soul of Edinburgh twenty years ago is now devouring an entire generation of working class Americans and whole swaths of America. In twenty years America's lost generation will be just as impotent and eternally flaccid as the T2 gang are in their sequel. 

Some of the Trainspotting crew, like Renton, have cleaned themselves up since we last saw them, but addiction is a spiritual disease and "not using" is a step in the right direction, but it isn't a cure. The spiritual ailment at the core of the Trainspotting lad's woes remains, so without some sort of emotional/spiritual/mythical catharsis, relapse is inevitable. While the machinations of the plot of T2 are a bit mundane, this sub-text is what I found fascinating. Only Spud is able to be "re-born", both literally (the vomit scene) and figuratively (as a storyteller), into a person who can find catharsis from his existential malaise. Begbie is little more than a pre-historic id searching for a skull to bash, but in the end even he is able to find a deeper meaning to his otherwise savage life through his relationship with his son. But Renton and Sick Boy are both so narcissistic and adolescent that they are incapable of any true growth and are sentenced to a lifetime hating/loving each other.

It also fascinates me that T2 is a film about nostalgia, that is itself, a form of the same nostalgia that it comments upon. The lads all think about the good old days, which weren't very good, and can barely keep up with the present, never mind consider the future. And the fact that T2 even got made at all is a tribute to the susceptibility we all have for nostalgia. We all feel the pull of either the past, or the future, anything but the terrible here and now. 

I know I enjoyed the nostalgic effects of T2, and that feeling of possibility that came along with the original Trainspotting. Like listening to Nirvana in the early 90's, Trainspotting made you feel like something was shifting artistically, and anything was possible. Cold, hard reality reared its head in the form of Kurt Cobain's heroin addiction, and the rigors of a film industry more interested in money than artistic transcendence or cultural relevance. But at least T2 brought back memories of that spirit of chaotic revolution, even if it was only momentary. 

In the same vein, I kept thinking about the Scottish Independence referendum as I watched T2. When Independence lost that vote, I wondered why the Scots didn't have the balls to tell England to go fuck off. It seems in T2, Danny Boyle asks the same question. As a nation, if Scotland could have mustered the courage to become independent from the UK, then maybe the spiritual disease that ravages the soul of Scotland could have been healed, and catharsis could take place. But it didn't happen and Scotland, and the T2 lads, are still languishing in some sort of cultural and spiritual purgatory that drives them to stick needles in their arms and sleep their useless lives away. Heroin addiction, with its enforced ritual of shooting up, is a religion that fills the void left in a spiritually vacant heart. It also gives meaning and purpose to the addicts life, as insane as that seems to people not seduced into worshipping the god of opiates and dreams, Morpheus.

At least with the initial sting of the needle, the junkie feels something, which is better than being lifeless and numb all of the time. Americans know the numb all too well, and we use any and all means available, be it food, sports, technology, porn, or TV, to numb ourselves to the slow suffocating cultural and spiritual death that is wrapping itself around us like a python squeezing its prey. The sweet sin of heroin may leave a bitter taste in your mouth, but at least it tastes better than the bullshit of the delusional American dream being shoved down your throat. 

America is stuck in its death spiral with no conceivable way out, this is why Trump was elected. The dupes who voted for him thought a grenade thrown into the system would change the trajectory of our death spiral, it won't. The Scots though, have a second chance at life with Brexit becoming reality. Scotland has another chance to find courage and get its balls back with a new referendum on Independence. I hope they can muster the strength and energy to do it, because it will be their last chance. For "no true Scotsman" would rather live on his knees than die on his feet, and if Scotland remains in the UK, the archetypal Scotsmen's balls will be permanently kept in a glass jar by the Queen's bed. Scotland will be reduced to a distant memory, to be wistfully recalled and remembered only through the aching haze of a fever dream induced nostalgia. 

©2017

Song to Song : A Review

****THIS IS REVIEW CONTAINS SOME VERY MINOR SPOILERS (Discussion of themes and plot structure)!!!! THIS IS TECHNICALLY NOT A SPOILER FREE REVIEW!!!****

My Rating : 4.5 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation : SEE IT (with caveats).  If you are a fan of director Terrence Malick, you will enjoy this film a great deal. If your tastes are less "experimental" and more conventional, you will absolutely hate this movie, so skip it.

Song to Song, written and directed by Terrence Malick, with cinematography by three time Academy Award winner Emmanuel Lubezki, is a meditation on love, shame, sex, mercy and forgiveness set in the music scene of Austin, Texas. The film stars Rooney Mara, Ryan Gosling, Michael Fassbender and Natalie Portman.

For some reason, every time I go see a Malick film in the theaters, I run into some issue with my fellow moviegoers. This time around I had two white-haired biddies come into the theatre as the previews rolled and they proceeded to talk very loudly during them. Then when the film started, one of the old Crones said very loudly, "it's hot in here!!".

I turned and said to them, in as gentle a voice as possible, "excuse me ladies, would you mind not talking, that would be awesome." They said, "ok", but then proceeded to talk throughout the entire film anyway. I kept getting distracted by these two nasty hags and daydreamed of stomping their empty skulls to dust with my steel toed boots every time they felt the need to say how much they hated the film as it was playing. 

I never killed them, or even kicked them, as much as I wanted to, mostly because I assumed one or both of them were packing heat…just a hunch...but because of this irritating distraction it was difficult for me to get into the proper Malick head space to watch the film. The first third of the movie was definitely a struggle, but against all odds, Song to Song was able to win me over, and in the final two thirds was able to transport me into the mind and spirit of its genius director, no small feat with the Greek chorus of dipshits persistently chiming in behind me. 

Enigmatic filmmaker Terrence Malick's work can be an acquired taste, I readily acknowledge this fact. His recent string of films, Tree of Life, To the Wonder, Knight of Cups and this year's Song to Song, are often times describes as "experimental" films. I label them "contemplative cinema" because they are not meant to be watched like you watch a "regular" movie with a linear narrative, but is meant to be enjoyed as more of a meditative storytelling experience.

Malick speaks in a very distinct language, and if you do not understand that language, his films will not only be confusing, but will be downright frustrating and irritating. It would be like watching a foreign film without the subtitles and with sunglasses on. Hence you get people like the two morons behind me who were so out of their depth watching Song to Song they felt the need to assume everyone was equally as ill-equipped to understand what they were watching. Those old whores (again this is just a hunch, I have no definitive proof that they have or had sex for money) didn't understand Malick's language, hell, they probably thought they were going to see the animated musical Sing.

The thing to understand before going to see a Malick film is that Malick makes films that speak in a veiled, but distinctly religious and cinematic language. The trouble with this is that the people who are artistically cultured enough to understand the cinematic language, will most likely be members of the Church of the Libertine and not understand Malick's Gnostic Catholic religious language, and those with the religious understanding will not be cinematically sophisticated enough to understand the structure, style and visuals of the film. It is a dilemma, no doubt, but at this point, I do not care, as I am apparently one of a very, very tiny minority of people (and critics) for whom Malick's film's deeply resonate. I don't care how, or why that is, just that it is. I consider myself blessed because of it. If you do not "get" Malick's work, that is on you, and I beg you to keep your ignorance to yourself, because next time I might not be so reticent and go full on Hulk and smash those who ruin my sacred experience in the local art house. 

As for the film itself, cinematographer Lubezki once again does a masterful job with his floating and dancing camera that creates an otherworldly aura about the entire project. Malick's films, (and Lubezki's), are gorgeous to look at, but they also tell the deeper story of the film with visuals alone, and so it is with Song to Song. Lubezki consistently moves his camera from left to right, sometimes to observe a conversation, other times to expand the make up of the shot. The left to right camera movement is meant to symbolize the alchemical journey the lead character makes on the "left hand path" away from her center.

Regardless of what Lubezki is shooting in Song to Song, each fluid shot offers a brief glimpse at a visual masterpiece. It is like spinning your way through an art museum, the view is staggeringly beautiful, but ephemeral, quickly replaced by a new work of wonder to amaze you.

The themes that Malick examines in Song to Song are similar to the ones he explored in his Dante-esque masterpiece Knight of Cups. This time though, the main, but not exclusive, protagonist is a woman, Rooney Mara's Faye, a struggling musician in Austin, as opposed to the man at the center of Knight of Cups, played by Christian Bale, who was navigating the perils of Hollywood.

Rooney Mara does exquisitely wondrous work as Malick's muse Faye. Mara is able to fill the camera, and her scenes with a painfully yearning melancholy that is mesmerizing to watch. She seems wonderfully comfortable with her discomfort in front of Malick's camera, and that translates remarkably well to the myth at the heart of the film. Mara's face is striking, and she is able to draw the viewer in towards her even while she withdraws into her cocoon of self doubt and spiritual turmoil.

Ryan Gosling plays BV, a song writer and Faye's love interest, while Michael Fassbender is music producer Cook and Natalie Portman plays Cook's girlfriend Rhonda. They all do top-notch, and at times spectacular work in Song to Song. BV's Christ-like gentle nature and kind heart are balanced by Cook's Mephistophelean and insatiable hunger, just like Faye's melancholy yearning is balanced by Rhonda's crushing desperation. 

Cate Blanchett also has a small role but proves once again what a extraordinary actress she truly is. Blanchett is a wonder to behold in her brief screen time. She can tell an entire story with just the smallest of gestures with her hands, watch her tap the glass!! I would encourage any and all actors to closely watch Ms. Blanchett's hands in both Song to Song and in Knight of Cups to see a masterclass in subtly powerful acting.

As with many of Malick's films, most notably Knight of Cups, the theme of forgetting one's true self runs throughout. Faye has forgotten her true nature, her connection to God and her goodness. Like a Prodigal daughter she must leave home, and the Divine, and take the "left hand path" of struggle in order to return to her center out of choice, not chance. Unlike most films, Song to Song is structured as a circle, not a straight line. When Faye returns to where she began, it all seems so new that it is only vaguely familiar. The starting point is the same, but Faye is different, she sees it with new eyes.

The haunting sense of the familiar, and of a lost connection to the true self are common themes that Malick explores in many of his more recent films. Malick films are like dreams and should be watched and understood through that prism. Everything means something, but not what it appears to mean on the surface. And, as in all Malick movies, and as it is in dreams, time in Song to Song is at best fluid, and at most, non-existent.

As Faye tries to return to the Eden she left behind, she is seduced by the temptations of the "left hand path" of this world, success, fame, wealth, and power. But this is a fallen world, and Cook, like the fallen angel Satan, is the king of it. To follow the path of Cook is to embrace the momentary over the eternal, the profane over the divine. While Cook's world is deliciously tantalizing, it is most assuredly the way of spiritual death. On some level Faye knows this, but the allure of that sweet death can be both intoxicating and spellbinding. 

The message at the heart of Song to Song is one that should resonate with spiritual seekers of all kinds, that in order to return to our true selves and higher nature, we must evolve beyond our animal drives and instincts, and simplify our lives and embrace a true and honest heart inspired love (as opposed to genital inspired). Of course, that is much easier said than done, and even when one makes that choice, their more base desires will still call out to them like the Sirens singing ships into their doom on the pointy rocks of shore, but as Song to Song shows us, evolution is a process, one that is cyclical and circular. We return Home from our travels and travails, born anew, but will be called once again to the "left hand path" of our lesser urges and will have to make the journey all over again, just with new eyes.

When BV washes Faye, her sins are cleansed, her heart and soul clear, and they are both born again into a new, and more simple life. Cook will still be in Austin hunting for souls, damaged ones or ones he seeks to damage, but the key for Faye and BV is to return to the simplicity of Eden. Their journey is a return to the earth, a return to love, a return to their true and higher selves. 

Mercy and the freedom of forgiveness are the gifts Faye receives and they propel her to evolve beyond her limiting animal nature, and to sacrifice her wants for the higher purpose of her true self and love. I now this all sounds very new-agey, but it isn't, it is in many ways deeply traditionalist, just without the female subservience. The answer for Faye and BV, is a traditionalist return to a grounding on the earth, not the new age promise of life among the stars. And this may be why Malick's film has caused such a negative stir among cinephiles. The more sophisticated of viewers will probably be members of the Church of the Libertine, and therefore will not see Faye's dalliances with debauchery or moral and ethical compromises as problematic, they would see them as a form of freedom. But the reality is that freedom for Faye, and for many of us, is an illusion, and comes with a steep price, namely your soul. 

That message is anathema to American culture, one that celebrates the individuals wants and demands instant gratification of any and all desires. As Song to Song tells us, sex is a gift, and to abuse it for any reason is a sin against oneself and the divine. That is a message that most members of the Church of the Libertine will reject out of hand, which may explain why critics are so hostile to Song to Song, as they are unconsciously repulsed by the films moral, ethical and spiritual compass.

Song to Song is a piece of art to be experienced, not a puzzle to be solved. The film, like all of Malick's recent work, not only works visually and acoustically, but viscerally. Song to Song, if you can lose yourself in it, washes over you like the cool waters of a cinematic baptism, inviting the viewer to witness the struggle and the possibility of faith and a true and transcendent love. 

If you are a lover of mainstream movie fare, Song to Song is most definitely not for you…not at all. If you love Malick films, I believe you will love Song to Song. If you are somewhere in the middle, I would assume that Song to Song would be a bridge too far for you. This type of cinema, whether you call it "experimental" or "cinematic contemplation", is very challenging, and if you aren't up for the challenge, then you should stick to your comfort zone. But if you do make the ambitious trek to see Song to Song, then please just give yourself over to it. And if you hate it, keep it to yourself. Let's make a deal, I won't ruin the Fast and Furious movies for you, and you don't ruin Malick movies for me? Ok? Great!! See you at the concession stand!!

©2017

 

Buzz Lightyear Claims Hollywood is Nazi Germany, Captain America to the Rescue?

Estimated Reading Time : 5 minutes 03 seconds

Last Week, conservative actor Tim Allen said that liberal Hollywood was akin to 1930’s Germany because of its intolerance of opposing political opinions. Does Buzz Lightyear have a point?

I am not a fan of Tim Allen, at all. I would rather light myself on fire than watch a single second of his work. I doubt Mr. Allen, the iconic voice of Buzz Lightyear and star of Home Improvement, as he sits in his solid gold mansion, cares one bit about what some nobody like me thinks.

That said, as a citizen of the People’s Republic of Hollywood, I took offense at Allen’s claim. What Allen said on Jimmy Kimmel’s show last Thursday was,“In this town, I’m not kidding, you gotta be real careful around here, you know, you can get beat up if you don’t believe what everybody believes. This is like ‘30’s Germany.” He was joking and hyperbolic for effect, but at the heart of every joke is a kernel of truth. So even though I reflexively disagreed with Buzz Lightyear’s statement, I thought I would take a closer to look to see if could find that truthful kernel.

First, it is accurate that Hollywood is liberal in that the majority of people vote democrat. But upon closer examination, Hollywood is not quite as “liberal” as most think. For instance, when Michael Moore gave his famous anti-Iraq war speech at the 2003 Oscars, the audience booed him robustly. I guess the Oscars crowd, like democrats in Congress, supported the ill-fated invasion too.

In addition, if you take a look at conservative actors it is easy to see they are not discriminated against because of their political beliefs. Unlike liberals during the 1940’s and 50’s McCarthy era blacklists, no conservatives have been banned from working in film or tv, quite the opposite.

Proof of that is easy to see, Tim Allen being a perfect example. If Hollywood were 1930’s Germany, Tim Allen would not be on his current show, the dreadful Last Man Standing (see, 1930’s Germany wasn’t ALL bad!). That show has, at best, middling ratings, and zero cultural cache, cancelling it over Allen’s conservatism would be an easy thing for Hollywood bigwigs to do.

Allen keeps his show for one reason, because he has made a lot of people in the business wealthy with his work, like Home Improvement, Toy Story and the Santa Clause films. That is the thing to remember when talking politics in Hollywood, deep down what matters most is not politics, but the revenue you generate.

Case in point, the list of republican movie stars is strikingly similar to the list of box office champions over the years. Clint Eastwood, Sly Stallone, Arnold Schwarzeneger, Mel Gibson, Bruce Willis, “The Rock” Dwayne Johnson and Adam Sandler, all of whom are openly conservative and none of whom have struggled to work in liberal Hollywood.

The same is true of tv stars Patricia Heaton and Kelsey Grammar, who along with Tom Selleck , Gary Sinise and Jon Voigt all espouse conservative beliefs but who have had consistently active acting careers.

While money is the prime force in Hollywood, many of these republican actors have also been chosen for awards, which are voted on by their liberal colleagues. Clint Eastwood, Mel Gibson, and Jon Voigt have won Oscars and Patricia Heaton, Gary Sinise, Bruce Willis and Kelsey Grammar have won Emmys. This is proof that liberal Hollywood has historically treated conservative artists considerably better than conservative America, with their blacklists of the 40’s and 50’s, treated liberal artists.

With that said, and as loath as I am to do it, upon reflection I admit that Tim Allen may have hit upon something with his jokes on Kimmel. Something has changed out here in Hollywood since the election of Donald Trump.

Actor Chris Evans, best known as Captain America, recently said in an interview with Esquire about Trump’s election, “I feel rage, I feel fury. It’s unbelievable.”

Evans is not alone in his rage and fury. Since Trump’s victory, anger towards opposing opinions in Hollywood has been ratcheted up to eleven. I am not a Trump supporter, truth is I have despised the man for thirty years and have been unabashed in my criticism of him, but because I have also written critically of democrats and Hillary Clinton, I have lost friends and been called everything from a Putin and Kremlin stooge to a “mansplainin” racist.

I do not doubt that Tim Allen is disliked for his beliefs, but dislike and discrimination are two very different things. Allen perceives this dislike as threatening, but that has more to do with his personal insecurities than it does with violent intent by his liberal co-workers. But his fear of being in the minority and his perception of menace on the part of his political opponents is not just a Hollywood thing, but an American thing.

I recently spent a week visiting family in central Pennsylvania, which the natives lovingly refer to as Pennsyl-tucky, because it is in Pennsylvania – but feels a lot like Kentucky. This is Red America, the heart of Trump country, and the contrast with Hollywood could not have been greater.

I had a conversation while there with an acquaintance of mine who is a life long resident of this rural Pennsylvania town, a white, working class guy who works on a factory floor and is no Trump supporter. He feels isolated, and frankly, just like Tim Allen, a bit afraid. He is trying to raise his amazing children to be kind, loving, and open-minded individuals and yet their classmates often wear confederate flag shirts to school. His neighbors fly the confederate flag at their homes or on their pick up trucks, which is ironic since the spot where Lincoln gave the Gettysburg address is not too far away. He told me he has heard the “n-word” at work more in the last three months than he had in the previous fifteen years. He also said that someone scratched a swastika onto an interior door at his factory. This working class guy is not an ethnic or religious minority, but he is a political one, and, like Tim Allen, he is terribly unsettled by the shift that has occurred since Trump’s election.

As I spoke with my friend and his wife, both told me that they were “unnerved”, and felt like “something hateful had been unleashed” since Trump’s victory, and that their neighbors and co-workers now felt “the gloves were off” and they were free to be “as vicious and nasty” as they wanted to be. They were deeply concerned for their kids and for the world they will inherit.

This Central Pennsylvania resident doesn’t live in a solid gold mansion or drive a diamond-studded rocket car like Tim Allen probably does, but he does share something in common with the Hollywood star, a deep seeded unease about the forces being unleashed in favor of, and in opposition to, Donald Trump.

Is Hollywood like 1930’s Germany? If you ask me, the whole damn country is starting to feel like 1930’s Germany. We have, on both the left and the right, devolved into a nation of feeble-minded mini-tyrants who define ourselves by what we hate rather than what we love. We quash debate, discussion or genuine inquiry because it is easier to scream and shout rather than listen and learn. Sadly, the reality has become that we are all Hitlers now.  

Chris Evans said something quite insightful in his Esquire interview when he said, “Some people say, ‘Don’t you see what’s happening? It’s time to yell,’ yeah, I see it, and it’s time for calm. Because not everyone who voted for Trump is going to be some horrible bigot. There are a lot of people in that middle; those are the people you can’t lose your credibility with. If you’re trying to change minds, by spewing too much rhetoric you can easily become white noise.”

The Captain America character was created in 1941 to be a super-soldier to fight against Hitler and the Nazi’s, the modern day Captain America, Chris Evans, has revealed to us the path for victory over the Nazi that lives inside us all. We must stay calm, overcome our rage and fury, engage in debate and discussion and not attack and vitriol.

Hopefully, both my Pennsylvania friend and Buzz Lightyear are wrong about their fears for what the future holds. The anecdotal evidence of our nation tearing itself apart is certainly compelling though. With any luck we will find, to quote the man most associated with Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, Abraham Lincoln, “the angels of our better nature” and come together to move forward.

I admit that things seem bleak and that we have a difficult road ahead, but I vow that whenever I witness Hollywood’s, our nation’s, or my own, inner Nazi percolating to life, I will let out a plaintive wail, “Save us, Captain America!!” I hope he will be listening.

©2017

Previously published on March 22, 2017 at RT.