"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

Eternal Darkness of the Artist's Mind

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Estimated Reading Time : 4 minutes 03 seconds

A friend of mine, the inimitable Johnny Steamroller, sent me this short, six minute documentary about Jim Carrey today. I was hesitant to watch it because I figured, how interesting could a Jim Carrey documentary be, right? But after some hemming and hawing, I relented and watched. I was very glad that I did. I highly recommend you watch it now…here it is (again it is only 6 minutes long).

I found this brief glimpse into Carrey's mind and soul to be stunningly insightful, profound and deeply moving. What struck me most about the film was that I was unable to specifically pin point exactly why I felt the way I did about it. Maybe it was discovering that even though Jim Carrey and I are very different people living very different lives, we share a great deal in common, so much so that I would say we are kindred spirits nearly identical in our essence. Or maybe I just related to Carrey's desperate yearning to grasp anything tangible in the blinding hurricane that is life. 

Upon further reflection I have come to wonder if the film resonated so much with me because Carrey and I share a similar affliction and suffer from the accompanying symptoms of that affliction, namely a desolation of spirit and isolation of heart. From that desolation and isolation comes the quest for…something…be it Truth or meaning or purpose, to be a salve for the existential despair and discomfort. 

We do not get to choose the cross we will bear in life, the cruel twins of fate and destiny do that for us. Most would say that Jim Carrey's cross is a pretty sweet one to have, but when it comes to suffering, the cross on the other fellows back always seems lighter. Jim Carrey is a millionaire and very successful, but his humanity is just as delicate and fragile as the rest of us. Unlike a child born in Yemen or Sudan, Jim Carrey is not in danger of starving to death, but that doesn't mean he doesn't suffer from a form of hunger that could consume him if not satiated.

I realize this post is a bit…unfocused…but that might be the point of it. A lack of rigid clarity and coherence is the only way to find the esoteric sweet spot where the world recedes, the veil thins and the Truth enters. It is in this no man's land where illusions fade away and cracks in reality reveal things as they truly are. In this in-between state where shamans pass between the worlds with ease and artists, poets and prophets sojourn, if you keep still you are able to hear the trees conversing with one another in the midst of a raging blizzard, or see Deer materialize out of the hazy dusk air to welcome you to their secret haven, or receive messages from Hawk, unseen by others, who brings you greetings and messages from A, or THE, Great Spirit. Like trying to grasp water, holding onto this sweet spot too tightly results in it slipping quickly through your fingers. 

The artist, poet or prophet is just like the rest of us, a drowning man lost and doomed in the middle of an endless ocean, but the artist, poet and prophet has the wisdom to not waste time and energy swimming for a distant and entirely unattainable shore, but rather he repeatedly dives beneath the tumultuous seas to catch the briefest of glimpses of where he is destined to spend eternity. When the artist, poet and prophet surfaces from the deep gasping for air, he shouts out what they have observed fathoms below the surface, these cries are his art, his poetry and his prophecy, hopefully heard by some other drowning fool frantically swimming for the horizon. Maybe that lost ill-fated soul, upon hearing the penetrative howl of the artist, poet and prophet will momentarily feel slightly less alone on his hopeless scramble for survival.

It is in these icy depths of his soon to be watery grave, that the artist, poet and prophet discovers that it is, in fact, HE who is the artwork, a masterpiece of complex simplicity from an unknown, virtuoso master artist. The artist, poet and prophet does not come to understand this revelation, he comes to remember it, as this knowledge was at his fingertips all along but consciously just out of his reach. Only in the depths of the unconscious can the artist discover what at once seems so foreign yet so familiar. It is in these same dark depths of his quiet sea that the artist, poet and prophet overcomes his fear of spiritual death, and ultimately becomes immortal by returning to the mystery from hence he came. 

©2017

Wind River : A Review

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

My Rating : 4.5 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation : SEE IT IN THE THEATRE. This is a top-notch film that works on multiple levels and should not be missed.

Wind River, written and directed by Taylor Sheridan, is the story of Cory Lambert, a tracker/hunter with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, who teams up with FBI agent Jane Banner to solve a murder on the Wind River Indian reservation in Wyoming. The film stars Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen, with supporting turns from Graham Greene and Gil Birmingham.

The first thing to know about Wind River is that it is not an art house film, well...not really. Writer/director Taylor Sheridan writes mainstream types of stories, about the drug war in Sicario (2015), or bank robbers in Hell or High Water (2016) and now a murder mystery with Wind River, but Sheridan is so skilled and gifted as a writer he is able to infuse these well-worn narratives with such originality, insight and intelligence that they are elevated from the mundane to the sublime. 

Taylor Sheridan is unquestionably the best writer working in Hollywood today (proof of this being he has two nominations and one win for the most prestigious award on the planet…The Mickey©®!!). His previous screenplays, Sicario and Hell or High Water, were exquisite masterpieces. The script for Wind River certainly lives up to his stellar earlier work. 

 

Wind River is Taylor Sheridan's first time directing a major feature film. His direction is unspectacular but noteworthy for being both proficient and efficient. Sheridan keeps the pacing taut but never rushed, and allows his scenes and his actors some breathing room in the vast expanse of the Wyoming wilderness.  

As screenwriter, Sheridan is a physician who keeps properly diagnosing the disease eating away at the core of America in general, and the American Man in particular. Sheridan's characters are not verbose, but they speak volumes about the wounded state of masculinity in this country. While on the surface Wind River is a murder mystery in Big Sky country, it is considerably more than that. Wind River is a meditation on grief and the current state of Man. The film reveals the festering toxicity of damaged masculinity that is contagion in America, and that infects and destroys everything it touches (look no further than the current occupant of the White House for proof of this). Sheridan has written about the world of men effectively in both Sicario and Hell or High Water, and he does so again in Wind River. The murder-mystery story is well-executed and intriguing, but for me the most compelling part of the film is Sheridan's sub-text dealing with the debilitating state of modern manhood and the crippling effect of grief. 

Jeremy Renner plays hunter/tracker Cory Lambert and delivers the best performance of his career. Renner's work is well crafted, meticulous, detailed and is most definitely Oscar worthy. Renner's Lambert is a reserved and laconic man, but the anguish and fury contained within him is palpable. The scenes between Renner and Gil Birmingham's Martin Hanson contain some of the most subtle and layered acting on film this year. The scene between the two men on the front porch of Martin Hanson's home is a wrenching one, where the pain that pulses through these men's souls reveals itself out of the abyss of their heartbreak. It is a startlingly fantastic scene that would have been ordinary in the hands of lesser actors. 

Elizabeth Olsen does terrific work as well as fish out of water FBI agent Jane Banner. Olsen's Banner is in over her head, but she has the smarts and guile to keep herself together, until she doesn't. Her scene with Renner towards the end of the film highlights her skillful, subtle and wonderfully effective work in the film. Olsen is an often overlooked actress, but she is a potent talent who just needs the right script to shine, thankfully she gets one with Wind River.

The supporting actors, particularly Graham Greene, as a local Indian police chief, and the previously mentioned Gil Birmingham as Martin Hanson, are fantastic. They are two characters used to the bleak existence of life on the reservation, and their existential grief and angst hang over them like storm clouds. 

Another actor who has a very minimal but pivotal role is Jon Bernthal, and his work is exceptional. With minimal screen time and dialogue, Bernthal is able to create a fully formed and multi-dimensional character that is unique but familiar. Bernthal's work is vital to the film, and he shows himself to be a really strong actor capable of doing a lot with a little.

Cinematographer Ben Richardson makes the most of the glorious setting and delivers crisp visuals highlighting the contrasting colors of the wintery mountains. Richardson's striking visuals combined with Nick Cave and Warren Ellis' soundtrack make for a mesmerizing film going experience. 

As someone who has felt the biting sting of grief, Wind River resonated deeply with me. As someone with an intimate connection to the Native American community, my kindred relationship to the film was further enhanced by Sheridan's respectful but brutally honest assessment of the state of Indian life in America that was both depressing and infuriating. The fact that Native American women are the only group of people in the United States for whom they do not keep statistics regarding missing persons is one of the more incredible statistics you can find. It is also all the evidence you need to understand that Native people in America are continually de-humanized by many Americans and the U.S. government. 

In conclusion, Wind River is a terrific film that boasts an Oscar worthy performance by Jeremy Renner and and equally impressive script from Taylor Sheridan. Wind River was very captivating but at times difficult to watch, but regardless of how emotionally wrenching the film could be, it was always honest and insightful about humanity and the malevolent world we inhabit. I highly recommend you spend your hard earned money and go see Wind River in the theaters. The lessons it imparts are ones we all desperately need to learn.

©2017

Detroit : A Review

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

My Rating : 0 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation : SKIP IT. DO. NOT. SEE. THIS. MOVIE. This movie is the cinematic equivalent of something you'd find floating in your toilet. It is awful beyond words. An absolute and unmitigated disaster of a film. 

Detroit, directed by Kathryn Bigelow and written by Mark Boal, is the story of a racially motivated police brutality incident at the Algiers Motel during the infamous Detroit riots during  the summer of 1967. The film's ensemble cast includes John Boyega, Will Poulter and Anthony Mackie among many others. 

I had high hopes for the film Detroit. The reason I was so intrigued by Detroit is that I am a very strange person who is fascinated by the history, psychology and cause of riots in America. Be it the draft riots during the civil war or the riots a hundred years later in Newark, Watts, Philadelphia and Detroit, or the infamous Rodney King riots in Los Angeles in the early 90's. What sparks a riot? What is its fuel? And how do individuals and society react when the crowd loses control? Are all topics I could learn and talk about for days on end. So a movie about the 1967 Detroit riot is right up my alley, count me all in. Then I went and saw Detroit

I say this without any glee, but Detroit is not only a terrible movie, it is easily the worst film I have seen in recent memory (it makes Kong: Skull Island look like Citizen Kane). Detroit is so appalling it is difficult for me to articulate the scope and scale of its deplorability except to say that as I watched it I fantasized that a riot would break out in Los Angeles and someone would light the theatre on fire with me in it so I'd no longer have to watch this pile of garbage.

In my adult life I have only walked out of one film, that being Mel Brook's Robin Hood: Men in Tights in 1993, and I walked out of it because it was horrendous and it was a free screening so I didn't pay for it. It took all of my might and fortitude not to walk out of Detroit. The only reason I stayed and suffered through its entire two and half hour running time was because I felt a duty to watch the whole thing before I wrote a review of it. In other words, I did it all for you, my dear readers….so you owe me…big league!!

Detroit opens with a jaw-droppingly tired and corny animated piece meant to give context to the Black experience in Detroit that led to the riots. I cringed when I saw it because it was such a frivolous and vacuous explanation for such a complex and compelling issue. I should have walked out right then and there. As the absurd little animation ran I got a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach that this was going to be bad…but I convinced myself that this was just one small mis-step and things would get better. I was wrong…things went down hill from there. Then, after suffering through nearly two hours of vapid nonsense, just when I thought the film had bottomed out and could not become any more ridiculous, monotonous and redundant, then Jim from The Office strolls onto the screen to play a shark of a lawyer in the final third of the film that was already way too long. John Krasinski is so mis-cast as a defense attorney it left me muttering and shaking my head wondering when this nightmare would be finally over.

Why is Detroit such a catastrophe? Well, let's start with the basics, the writing, casting, directing, acting, cinematography, sound, lighting, costuming, make-up and editing are all appallingly deplorable. Besides that how was the movie, Mrs. Lincoln? 

Just from a filmmaking perspective, Detroit is so dreadfully made it is shameful. The film is completely devoid of the most rudimentary storytelling skill and craft. The movie is an amateurish, sloppy, incoherent, interminable disaster area with absolutely no redeeming value whatsoever. None. The technical aspects of the filmmaking are no better. The cinematography is muddled and flat, the sound sub-par and the make-up and costumes so atrocious as to be cringe-worthy. 

Kathryn Bigelow won a Best Director Oscar for The Hurt Locker, but her direction in Detroit is so abhorrently lazy, unimaginative and trite that I think her Academy Award should be revoked and she should be exiled from filmmaking forever. Bigelow proves herself to be a careless, craft-less and unskilled director with her disgraceful work on DetroitDetroit should be a serious film, but Bigelow is an unserious director. She is incapable of even the most rudimentary of filmmaking skills, and along with her screenwriter Mark Boal, proves herself to be intellectually shallow and artistically incurious by reducing the characters and narrative to a contrived Manichean melodrama.

There has been some debate as to whether a white director (Bigelow is white) should direct a film like Detroit because understanding the Black experience is so integral to the film. I think artists of any color or gender should direct whatever stories they want, but they need to be at least remotely proficient in their craft. Bigelow is not proficient, she is staggeringly deficient and her lack of talent and ability are made all the more egregious by the fact that she soiled and degraded what is such a potentially fascinating and worthy subject matter. Bigelow's ineptitude reduced the dramatic bombshell of civil unrest and racial strife in 1967 Detroit to nothing more than a hackneyed, contrived, maudlin, unmoored, unbelievable and ultimately cinematically insipid and dramatically flaccid endeavor. If she had the slightest bit of artistic self-awareness she would be utterly ashamed, but I am willing to bet that isn't the case. 

Some have assailed the film for being pornographically violent, which I find laughable. The violence would need to be compelling or even interesting for it to rise to the level of pornography. The problem with Detroit is that since there is zero character development, the viewer has no attachments to anyone on screen, therefore the violence is not jarring, but tedious. Add to that the fact that the choreography of the violence and the make-up are so second rate as to be embarrassing, thus rendering the scars and blood more chuckle-worthy than horrifying. If Detroit were violence porn it would at least rise to the level of being interesting or repulsive as opposed to being dull and boring, which is what it is.

The cast may be fine actors, but they are certainly wasted here. The acting feels more like little kids playing make-believe in their parents basement more than anything else. Will Poulter may be a good actor, I don't know, but he is so bad in Detroit I actually felt bad for him. He looks like he's twelve years old, and he is supposed to be this menacing lunatic who lusts for Black blood. It is an eye-rollingly horrendous performance. Frankly it isn't all his fault, the character is so poorly written and one dimensional that they might have been better off just propping up a cardboard cutout of a White cop and having it stand there in each scene. 

John Boyega is the lone bright spot in the film. I have only seen him in the Star Wars movie and thought he lacked charisma in that film, but in Detroit he hits a sweet spot and even though his character is poorly written as well, Boyega fills him with a believable and palpable inner life. After reading about the actual incident at the Algiers Hotel, it seems that Bigelow and Boal both dropped the ball on Boyega's character, as he is infinitely more interesting, complex and more nuanced in real life than they make him out to be in their film. 

As mentioned in the last two paragraphs, the writing of Detroit is grievously unacceptable. Mark Boal who wrote Bigelow's last two films, The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty, turns in an execrable script. Boal's script is so incoherent and ungainly that it didn't just need dozens more edits, but rather to be trashed entirely never having seen the light of day. It is almost incomprehensible that anyone read this script and thought that it was even remotely screen-worthy. Boal has exactly one more Academy Award for screenwriting than I do, but good Lord he churned out a steaming pile of dog mess with Detroit

After bolting from the theatre the very second the film ended, I sat in the lobby and looked online to see what critics were saying about the movie. I never read reviews, but I had to see if people hated the movie as much as I did. I went to Rotten Tomatoes and saw that the film was at 98% critical praise (it has since gone slightly down). I was rendered shocked and speechless by that revelation, and also remembered why it is I never read reviews. Detroit is so awful that it is inconceivable that anyone with even the most remote understanding of the art and craft of filmmaking would think it is worthwhile. Then after meditating on it for a few moments, I understood what was happening. 

Reviewers are saying they like Detroit not because it is well-made or a top-notch film, they are saying good things about it because they do not want to be labelled racist. This is a common occurrence when it comes to racially themed films. When Spielberg made Lincoln, which is an abysmal mess of a movie, reviewers bent over backwards to say how great it was in order to avoid being branded racist. One slightly critical reviewer explicitly stated that even though he didn't love the film, he still was against slavery. He literally said that…out loud. And so it is with Detroit. You are not a serious cinephile or film connoisseur if you think Detroit is an even average level film. You are demeaning the art of filmmaking if you do not clearly state the rancid awfulness of this movie. Hating a poorly made film about racism does not make you a racist, it makes you an honest, truth-telling critic. 

Another reason critics are tentative to trash the film is that it is directed by a woman, and the fear of being labelled a misogynist is almost as strong as the fear of being labelled a racist. The bottom line is this, Kathryn Bigelow is not a shitty director because she is a woman, she is a shitty director because SHE IS A SHITTY DIRECTOR. It isn't complicated. I understand that critics are not exactly known for their intestinal fortitude, but if any reviewer recommends Detroit to you, instantly know that they are a spineless shill who do not care about cinema but about their delicate reputations. 

Obviously Detroit frustrated me no end. The reason for that is that the subject matter is so relevant and vital to our current times. Understanding the why's and how's of the Detroit riots, and the atrocity at the Algiers Hotel, are crucial if we are to move forward as a nation and culture. He who forgets will be destined to remember, but with Detroit we are given a false and vacant memory absolutely devoid of insight. Bigelow's failure to bring any clarity to the narrative or understanding to the topic, are not only egregious filmmaking errors, but cultural and historical sins. She should not be forgiven for this, or for the shameless propaganda piece she sold to America with Zero Dark Thirty

Detroit, or as I have taken to calling it Detritus, is exactly that, a piece of cinematic detritus that should be banished as quickly as possible. The film will no doubt get lots of Oscar nominations for the sole reason that it is directed by a woman, and the Academy wants to push movies directed by women, and also because it is an "important" film about race, and God knows the Academy wants to embrace movies about "race" lest they suffer the idiotic wrath of the factually nonsensical #OscarsSoWhite campaign again. But do not be fooled by the sycophants at Rolling Stone or the New York Times of Washington Post, Detroit is a cinematic abomination. It IS about an important topic, but that doesn't make it important. Think of it this way, Donald Trump is President, does that mean he is presidential? 

In conclusion, Detroit is the worst movie of the year, if not the decade and possibly the new century and the old one too. The film's only value is to expose the critics of the big, mainstream publications for the charlatans and shills that they are. Ignore those critics and ignore this film. If I ever have to sit through Detroit again, I will unleash my pent up rage and burn not only Los Angeles, but all of America to the ground. On the bright side, I promise you that my one-man riot will be infinitely more interesting, insightful and entertaining than the shit sandwich that is Detroit

©2017

Dunkirk : Random Thoughts

****THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS SOME MINOR SPOILERS****

Estimated Reading Time : 6 minutes 39 seconds

After seeing Dunkirk I exited the theatre and sat in the lobby at an isolated table next to a big window that gave me a nice view of most of Los Angeles. I sat there and jotted down my thoughts on the film and once that was done, I kept on jotting. In a near stream of consciousness, I scribbled down everything that came flooding into my mind. These thoughts may be completely incoherent, totally random and not make a lick of sense, but if you think that means I'm not going to share them with you then you don't know me very well. So sit back, relax and enjoy unfettered access to the dark corners of my post-Dunkirk mind.

BREXIT STAGE LEFT

Director Christopher Nolan's politics are always difficult to read, but it strikes me that his newest tour-de-force, Dunkirk, is an unabashed metaphor for modern-day Britain escaping the EU before that whole enterprise goes under.

One supporting clue to that thesis is that the first civilian small boat that crosses the channel and lands on France's shore to save and extract British soldiers from Europe is named "New Britannia". Add to that the films overall underlying premise that Brits are palpably and desperately yearning for "home", and Kenneth Branagh's Henry V-esque role/performance, and it seems pretty clear.

This is obviously an interesting time for Dunkirk to be hitting the theaters. In Britain, the tumultuous uncertainty of the impending Brexit (along with the fact that Theresa May's government is teetering) hovers over the nation like a dense fog. To many this is a catastrophe on par with the British armies defeat at Dunkirk. At this darkest hour comes Dunkirk, a film, and a story, that highlights the very best of Britishness, their resilience, resourcefulness and stiff-upper lip and all that. That Britishness was on full display in 1940 at Dunkirk when the Brits had their back against the wall and all, including the war and the world, seemed lost, but they rose to the occasion back then for their finest hour. 

Love it or loathe it, the British will now have to withdraw back to the their island fortress and work together in order to survive the coming inevitable post-Brexit winter. I happen to think that Brexit will be revealed to be a prescient decision by the Brits once the financial troubles and civilizational clashes in the EU boil over and chaos ensues. The UK will then have a head start in localization and in rebuilding their nation, traditional national identity and economy well before the other EU nations are forced to do the same by economic and political forces well beyond their control or knowledge. The movie Dunkirk also gives some not so subtle signs as to what it believes will happen to the French (and the rest of Europe) in the coming years, as there is one major French character in the film and he ends up at the bottom of the channel, unable to escape the rising tide that is destined to engulf the EU.

The film Dunkirk can be a roadmap for the British to follow in their flight from Europe and return to "home". They must change course by jettisoning the historic shackles of their own imperialism and colonialism and prioritizing their own national interests and the interests of their native and traditional peoples. Many folks will get hurt, some will be left behind and some will die. But it all MUST happen if Britain, the nation and culture, is to live to see another day. Similar to how after the actual evacuation of Dunkirk the Brits, my Scottish grandmother and her children among them, had to suffer through the blitz by seeking refuge in tube stations as the German bombardment raged overhead, so it will be with post-Brexit Britain. As the world order tumbles, and the EU crumbles, Britain will have to hunker down in order to avoid and survive the external onslaught.  

THE OLD ORDER IS DEAD

The U.S. global empire is over. Neo-liberalism is dead. China and Russia are potentially ascendant because they will be able to withstand hardships and instability much better than their counter-parts in the west due to their more recent experience with calamity and their less diverse make-up. Having a more homogeneous population will make for less ethnic competition and confrontation as resources dwindle and power consolidates especially in cultures that are not born of a melting pot. Also to the Sino-Russian advantage, is that they are beginning to work much more closely together in regards to their economies, resources and militaries in order to ascend to power and eclipse the fading star that is U.S. global hegemony. 

From the rubble of neo-liberalism and the old world order, post-Brexit Britain will have a chance to rise from the ashes and will benefit from having a head start on most of the rest of the Europe. "Dunkirk" will be the first step in Britain's grand Brexit maneuver. First comes consolidation (Dunkirk), then comes resilience and localization (the Blitz), then comes intelligent re-ordering of priorities and the world order.

In world war two, Britain allied with the hated Soviets in order to defeat Nazism. And regardless of what you've been taught in school, it was the Soviets who defeated Hitler, not the British and Americans. And so it will be in post-Brexit and "Blitz" Britain, where the Brits will realize that the U.S. has become a global albatross around their necks, and that Russia and China and others are the most rational choice for allies and very limited partnerships, regardless of their obvious flaws.

THE WINTER OF OUR DISCONTENT

Look, I understand that these thoughts will be unpopular and deemed unpleasant at best. I am not endorsing this inevitable trajectory, only acknowledging it. The writing is on the wall and to ignore it would not only be the height of folly but perilous. Understanding where the collective unconscious is leading humanity is vital in order to prepare for and respond to the black swan events that sneak up on us but are all too obvious in hindsight. My Isaiah Wave Theory®© shows that film, in conjunction with other social/economic/historical/political trends, can be a very critical element in getting a glimpse into the collective unconscious to see what lies ahead for us. Just like 2016 when the story lines, color schemes and visuals of Captain America: Civil WarBatman v. Superman: Dawn of JusticeX-Men: Apocalypse, Rogue One and even La La Land  were telling us of the disastrous clash awaiting us later in the year (2015 films The Revenant, The Martian, The Hateful Eight, Avengers : Age of Ultron and Star Wars : A Force Awakens portended the same exact thing), so it is with Dunkirk, War for the Planet of the Apes, Logan and Wonder Woman this year. As the Game of Thrones has been telling us over the last few years, "Winter is Coming"…well...I have bad news for you, "Winter is Here". Or more accurately, "The Long, Cold Winter of our Discontent has just Begun".

THE CENTER CANNOT HOLD

There has been a lot of talk about how the Brexit vote and Trump's victory in America are actually outliers, and that the right-wing or the alt-right trends are receding worldwide. People often point to Geert Wilders defeat in the Netherlands and Marine Le Pen's loss to Macron in France's last election as proof of this fact. There are many things wrong about not only that interpretation of those election results but the premise of an alt-right ascendancy or decline.

Let's start with the former. What is really happening now with Trump and Brexit as examples, is not an alt-right/right wing rise, but rather the collapse of the center and the establishment. Yeats, as a million writers (myself included) remind us ad nauseum, tells us that "the center cannot hold", and that is where we are now. This is why it is so vital for the democrats to jettison the centrist, neo-liberal, "Clinton-way" and embrace a far left economic ideology. Many democrats keep telling me that to defeat Trump they must position themselves as the centrist and "rational" party. I understand the sentiment as Trump seems so outrageous that by going to the center democrats believe they will flourish. This could not be further from the truth. A leftist, not liberal, but leftist, economic agenda is the only thing that will defeat Trumpism. More of the same Wall Street corporate ass kissing will be punished by voters because the establishment, media included, is in a credibility death spiral. Trump won by out flanking democrats to their left economically, democrats simply must go further out on the flank to defeat him and the republicans next time. And it is important to note that what is vital is a leftist economic message, not a culturally liberal message. A culturally liberal agenda with its accompanying substance-free identity politics will be doomed to fail and will scuttle the entire progressive ship right along with it. 

Jeremy Corbyn's powerful rise in the last British snap election, despite constant attacks on him by the media and the Blairites in his own party, is proof of the current vitality of this old school leftist ideology. Labour's showing in that election was stunning, but not for those who can properly read the tea leaves. I saw it coming just as I saw Trump's victory coming, and could not understand how others didn't see it coming. 

There are democrats who have poo-pooed Corbyn and Labour's stunning election showing by saying, "they didn't actually win". This is myopic analysis at best. Corbyn is actually better positioned now because he didn't win and become Prime Minister. He can sit back and prepare for his ascent to 10 Downing Street while Theresa May is on the hook for all of the failures of her makeshift coalition government. Corbyn is a shadow Prime Minister, which means power with no responsibility…in other words, the catbird seat. And of those establishmentarians diminishing Corbyn's election results, imagine if the entire mainstream media and a good number of his own party hadn't attacked him relentlessly and mercilessly at every turn…he and Labour might actually have won outright.

As for the election in the Netherlands and Geet Wilders, people terribly misread that result in regard to a wider trend. Wilders is a one man gang and it was impossible for him to actually ascend to power. What he was able to do though is push the center right party out towards him at the far right, as they fully embraced his stances on immigration, for example, and won the election. This was an electoral loss for Wilders, but a resounding ideological victory

APRES MACRON - LE DELUGE

As for France, democrats and the establishment media in America have been touting Macron as the second coming who will save centrism and neo-liberalism from the populist hordes. Guess again. This is just another mis-reading of the trend. All of the mainstream, traditional parties in France were decimated and didn't even make it to the final round of the presidential election. Macron ran and won as an outsider (even though he is a consummate insider). His victory over Le Pen  and the more baser instincts of the populace, will only be temporary as he is not only terribly ill-equipped to deal with the existential threats to France, he is completely blind to them. He, like Trump, is wrapping the same old turd in a different type of bread, but it will still taste like a shit once everyone has to take a bite of it. 

Macron will fail in France because the ground he stands on is quicksand. There will be more terror attacks which will stoke the fires of ethnic nationalism even further. At some point, probably after a particularly nasty attack and/or an economic earthquake, people will say enough, and it won't matter what your passport says, the French will brutally evict or restrict anyone who doesn't look "traditionally French". Many think this is an impossibility and tell me so. This makes me laugh as France and a whole bunch of other European countries have, in living memory, been ruthlessly efficient in removing a population they deem troublesome. If you don't think it can happen again, you are fooling yourself.

ONCE MORE UPON THE BREACH, DEAR FRIENDS, ONCE MORE; OR CLOSE THE WALL UP WITH OUR ENGLISH DEAD!

The same will happen in Britain. Citizenship will not matter as much as tribalism once the heat of civilizational clash and economic instability rises to an unbearable level. Just this year England has suffered through multiple terror attacks that are like logs on a camels back. At some point, the camels back will shatter and the Islamists will get the blowback they want, but it won't go quite as well as they expect. In a clash of civilizations, always bet on the home team…in the middle east bet the Islamists, in Europe/UK bet the natives. Britain will probably recede back into England, with Northern Ireland, Scotland and maybe even Wales being jettisoned to independence in order for the English to survive the coming storm. 

Unlike America, all of these European countries are not built upon a culture of immigration. The English, French and German cultures (not nations) are thousands of years old. Those countries were built upon their cultures, and are now trying to transform into multi-cultural utopias that at their core they simply are not. These countries immigration issues stem from the evils of colonialism, and are in many ways are due punishment for those sins. But that doesn't mean the native culture will embrace change so easily or willingly. That is what is bubbling up from the collective unconscious in Europe and America right now, resistance to the other and a yearning for the tribally traditional and familiar.

THE #WOKE ARE #SOUNDASLEEP

The coming "winter" will bring with it a desolation that can be transformative, but only by those insightful enough to recognize it as an opportunity and not a catastrophe. This is why I find it so frustrating watching the democrats try and "resist" Trump with their nonsensical #staywoke idiocy and "A Better Deal" bullshit. The democrats I know are so desperate to hold onto the ideological corpse of neo-liberalism and American capitalism that their politics resembles little more than a stale Weekend at Bernie's sequel. These allegedly liberal democrats have fully embraced our nefarious intelligence community, neo-conservatives and their foreign policy, and unabashed corporatism while they cry racism, misogyny and xenophobia to anyone who points out their political hypocrisy and intellectual vacuity and vapidity. These dupes and dopes have absolutely no clue for what they fighting. Are they even aware that by protesting FOR Obamacare they are protesting for a right-wing, republican health care plan that is a corporate handout and are insuring that universal coverage/single-payer will never happen? And are these same fools even remotely aware that they are substantially diminishing the impact of the once devastating words racist, misogynist and xenophobe every single time they utter them. They use those words like Americans use antibiotics, as a first option, too frequently and when it is entirely unnecessary and inappropriate, and just like with antibiotics, overuse of those words greatly diminishes their potency.

You cannot "resist" Trump and Trumpism with Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. If you do you will fail. You cannot have the neo-liberal, corporate, holy trinity of Wall Street whores, Hillary, Nancy and Chuck roll out the "Better Deal" and have anyone take them seriously. The longer they are the face of the democratic party, the deeper the hole of credibility gets…so deep it might just be a grave. But try telling that to members of the Clinton cult and watch them shriek and scream with emotionalist abandon. This sorry group of people are so ill-prepared to do battle and succeed they should have "Born to Lose" tattooed across their chests.

OUR LAST, BEST HOPE

In contrast, Sanders and Corbyn are certainly not perfect, but they are exactly the way to counter the decomposing old order, even though they themselves are as old as dirt. Just like the billionaire plutocrat Trump was able to win as a populist, so can these two old timers win as a new wave of populist. Austerity has failed, not just in America but across the globe. "American capitalism" has failed. Imperialism has failed. You cannot try and prop them back up or re-inflate the bubble just one more time. An alternative solution must be presented, and when it is, if it is genuine, people will embrace it. Sanders and Corbyn are some of the alternate solutions, and they can fill the vacuum left by the collapsing center. But know this, if leftists do not fill that leadership void created in the wake of the disintegrating center, than a far right demagogue will. Trump did it this time but he is an ineffective fool. But next time, what if we get a ruthlessly effective and disciplined right wing demagogue…which in the post-Trump era is a very distinct and frightening possibility. This is why democrats and the Clinton cult better really "get woke", forget the luxury of culturally liberal politics and get on the economically progressive agenda or they will find themselves exiled to the wilderness at best, or blindfolded  and against the wall at worst . 

The cycle of history we are on is a perilous one, and it is fraught with many many dangers. The world will look considerably different in ten years than it does now, and it won't be because of technology, but rather ideology and economic seismology. The neo-liberal ideology is proven fraudulent and the coming economic/political seismological event that buries it forever will re-shape the world in ways which we can either shape to our benefit, or to our destruction. The first step is, with clear eyes and full heart, seeing and understanding what is happening and what is coming, and then strategically and tactically preparing for it so that what comes next is much better than what is left behind.

Ladies and gentlemen…thank you for enduring my post-Dunkirk rant. Maybe I was just shell-shocked by the film or maybe I am just a full-time maniac, or maybe, just maybe, I am on to something. Who knows? If I am wrong, it sure wouldn't be the first time…and if I am right, it wouldn't be the first time either. Only time will tell...don't forget to place your bets…and please tip the doorman on your way into the bunker.

©2017

 

 

Dunkirk : A Review

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

My Rating : 4.5 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation : SEE IT. See it in the theatre and see it in 70MM if you can.

Dunkirk, written and directed by Christopher Nolan, is the story of the emergency evacuation in 1940 of British forces from the French coastline as the German war machine quickly closed in around them during the second world war. The film features an ensemble cast that includes Kenneth Branagh, Mark Rylance, Tom Hardy and Cillian Murphy. 

Dunkirk is a tense, taut, pulse-pounding and original piece of exquisite filmmaking. Christopher Nolan, who has made such notable movies as The Dark Knight Trilogy, Memento and Inception, outdoes himself with his stellar direction on Dunkirk. The film is minimalist in dialogue and character development, but maximalist in suspense, which is a remarkable achievement for a film that is re-telling such a well-known story from history. With Dunkirk, Nolan has masterfully made a classic movie with technical precision that boasts a very satisfying structural and dramatic symmetry. 

Nolan makes the interesting, and ultimately wise, choice to break the film into three separate story lines all with different perspectives of the massive British military escape from the clutches of the Germans. The three perspectives are, a regular British foot soldier in great peril and living a recurring nightmare (literally) of being stuck on the beach, an RAF pilot giving air cover, and a civilian father and son who take their small boat across the English channel to try and help rescue their countrymen. The shifting perspectives can be at times a little confusing as there are jumps in time that accompany them, but whatever narrative disruption this technique may bring it more than makes up for it with dramatic punch. 

The foot soldier's storyline is enhanced by Nolan's decision to cast three very similar looking actors to play the main characters trying to get out of Dunkirk and back to England. Fionn Whitehead, Harry Styles and Aneurin Barnard all are gaunt, dark haired privates who will try anything to get out of the hell that is Dunkirk's beach. Whitehead, Styles and Barnard do excellent work with very little dialogue. They are focused on their objective, survival, and not on verbal communication. Whitehead in particular does compelling work that is both subtle and dynamic. He has an expressive, everyman's face coupled with a subdued charisma that make for a dynamic performance. Styles is a famous boy band star in his own right, but to his credit he does surprisingly solid and steady work in Dunkirk.

Tom Hardy is superb as the RAF fighter pilot dueling with the Luftwaffa over the English Channel. Hardy has an air mask on his face for the overwhelming majority of his screen time, but while his face is covered, his charisma is not. Confining a volcanic talent like Hardy into the cockpit of a Spitfire has the potential to be a disaster, but Hardy is able to focus his energy and intent into his eyes and he lights up the screen. 

The civilian boaters are Mark Rylance, Tom-Glynn Carney and Barry Keoghan. Rylance is one of the great actors working today, and his work in Dunkirk is stellar. Rylance has a soft and gentle power about him that emanates through his entire performance. There is a quiet, steady strength in Rylance's character that is meant to symbolize the British everyman who, when his nation needs him, steps up and delivers. Rylance, who won a Best Supporting Oscar for his work in Bridge of Spies two years ago, may well garner another nomination with his work in Dunkirk

Kenneth Branagh has a pivotal supporting role as Commander Bolton, the pier-master who overseas the evacuation. Branagh, who, not coincidentally, came to prominence as the ultimate symbol of English resilience and strength, Shakespeare's Henry V, conjures up a similar energy as Bolton. Branagh is a fine actor, and his presence in the film is a crucial lynchpin that ties all of the different narratives together. 

Dunkirk will no doubt be nominated for multiple Academy Awards in many categories, but sound mixing and sound editing are a sure thing. The sound is absolutely fantastic and is pivotal in enhancing the film's pressure packed drama. The music has the same effect, as Hans Zimmer once again produces a pulsating and chilling score that elevates the film to the sublime. 

The cinematography by Hoyte van Hoytema is transcendent as well. The film's crisp and lush visuals are absolutely beautiful to behold. Hoytema is able to imbue a distinct and effective style to the cinematography of the film without ever compromising in any of the three narratives. Hoytema's camera work in the water, on the beach and in the sky are all noteworthy for their disciplined impeccability. 

I saw Dunkirk at a high end theatre in 70MM and it was breathtaking. Sadly, even at my fancy cinema, there were issues with the projector and the film had to be stopped for a few minutes, and then when the film came back on they left the lights on in front of the screen for ten minutes, which is not exactly the optimal way to enjoy the film. But that said, the film was so good I was still able to enjoy it regardless of these distraction. If you do have the opportunity to see it in 70MM, you most definitely should. 

In Christopher Nolan's already stellar career, the stunning Dunkirk is his finest film. I highly recommend that you see Dunkirk in the theaters, and see it in 70MM if at all possible. Dunkirk is a staggering technical and cinematic achievement by Nolan and his crew and is not to be missed. It is also an inspiration for Brits and the rest of us to get through the dark age that is descending upon our world, so that we may live to see and fight another day. Go spend your hard earned money on Dunkirk, you will not be disappointed. 

©2017

Has the Fear of Putin Seized Hollywood?

Estimated Reading Time : 5 minutes 04 seconds

Is Hollywood cowering from their most frightening bogeyman Vladimir Putin, or is the business of anti-Russian propaganda stronger than ever?

 Los Angeles is a very strange place to live. The weather is almost always sunny, comfortable and clear, leaving the city in a state of perpetual summer. On the rare occasion it does rain, the local media cover it as though the apocalypse were underway. This glorious weather may sound heavenly to those who suffer with brutally humid summers or bitterly cold winters, or both, but it has a downside to it, namely it can be terribly disorienting.

The longer you live here the more disorienting it becomes as you are rendered incapable of remembering if something in your past occurred on the Fourth of July or Christmas Eve, as those days, and nearly every other day, look exactly the same. 

This disorientation is heightened by the constant influx of beautiful young people who come to the land of milk and honey to find their fame and fortune. This yearly harvest of fresh blood combined with the interminable glorious weather leads many Angelenos to live in a state of surreality, where their imagination and the real world morph into one. 

An example of this bewildering condition where fantasy and reality blur, occurred this past Wednesday, July 19, when The Hollywood Reporter published an article provocatively titled “Vladimir Putin Cut From Two Upcoming Hollywood Movies”. Upon reading the headline I wondered if the Russian President was moonlighting as an actor and had felt the bitter sting of being left on the cutting room floor. Sadly, as entertaining as that premise may be, upon reading the article it was revealed that was not the case.

What the article did claim was that Hollywood studios are so petrified of retaliatory hacking by Vladimir Putin, they will not even mention his name in two upcoming Russian-themed films, The Red Sparrow and Kursk, for fear of angering him.

Apparently, Putin has become a kind of Creature from the Black Lagoon, or in this case the Black Sea, who if provoked, will rise from the depths to terrorize the innocent folk of Tinsel town. And like the citizens of Tokyo in a Godzilla movie, the studio big wigs are doing all they can not to agitate the great beast Putin in order to save their hides.

Studio executives are not exactly known for their profiles in courage, but the level of Putin-phobia described in this article is bizarre to say the least. That said, it would be understandable for Hollywood to cower in fear of Putin considering the steady diet of anti-Russian hysteria that they are continually fed by the mainstream media. The establishment press has turned Putin into a combination of Darth Vader, Sauron, Lord Voldemort and Hannibal Lecter, an omnipotent purveyor of evil who not only controls Trump, but aches for global domination and eats America’s elections with some fava beans and a nice chianti.

A case in point of the media’s voracious appetite for anti-Russian stories is that the aforementioned Hollywood Reporter article with its Putin headline, which was printed in an industry periodical and geared toward entertainment professionals, quickly spread and was reported on by standard news outlets across the globe, with similarly misleading headlines.

If Hollywood is afraid of hacking, it is not entirely unfounded, as Sony was the victim of a devastating hack. That hack occurred in 2014 and was blamed on North Korea who was allegedly trying to stop the release of The Interview, a comedy about trying to assassinate leader Kim Jong-Un.

One illuminating piece of information to come out of the 2014 Sony hack was that a senior U.S. State Department official, Richard Stengel, was actively trying to get Hollywood studios to create anti-Russian propaganda. This is an intriguing piece of information to keep in mind when digging through The Hollywood Reporter- Putin story in question.

The Hollywood Reporter article says that, despite their apparent fear of hacking reprisals, “the film industry is finding the Russia theme too irresistible to ignore” right now. The article mentions no fewer than 8 Russia-themed films that are either in production or in the pipeline. The list of films includes the previously mentioned Jennifer Lawrence vehicle Red Sparrow and the true story of a Russian submarine disaster, Kursk, along with a Wonder Woman sequel where Wonder Woman goes back in time to fight the Soviets, a Rocky spin-off with a Russian villain, a potential Mikhail Gorbachev bio-pic, and films with titles such as The Tracking of a Russian Spy, How to Catch a Russian Spy and The Girl in the Spider’s Web.

 Combined with Russian portrayals in recent feature films such as the dreadful Child 44 and the abysmal Bitter Harvest, and in television shows like House of Cards, which featured a Pussy Riot cameo and a recurring evil Russian leader meant to be Putin, and it seems as though the State Department were successful in their quest for assistance from Hollywood in the propaganda department.

No doubt the greatest propaganda comes from the news media though, and I have to include The Hollywood Reporter in that category.  Upon closer inspection it becomes very clear that this ‘fear of Putin hacking’ story is little more than “fake news”.

The only person quoted in the article who makes any mention of Putin and hacking concerns is Ajay Arora, who does not work in the film business, but rather runs a computer security firm. Mr. Arora being the only source for the Putin claim is absurd, since his company stands to gain mightily by stoking the fears of studio executives over hacking.

The article also states that, “Insiders describe the moves (to excise Putin) as ‘creative choices’, but by avoiding Putin, Fox is also steering clear of any Russian hackers who might protest.” This is quite a remarkable sentence, as the writer quotes people who are speaking anonymously and are therefore free to speak their mind, but who say it is a “creative choice” to remove Putin, and yet she sticks to her premise, despite a lack of any evidence that hacking is the real reason for Putin being removed from the pictures.

The writer makes the rather illogical case that Russia-themed stories are blossoming everywhere in Hollywood, but the film industry is so scared of Vladimir Putin hacking them they won’t even mention his name in a movie. I guess Putin is so narcissistically evil that he will only retaliate against those that speak ill of him but not his nation, and Hollywood executives know this and are confident in this knowledge. This is obviously, absolutely and completely preposterous.

The Hollywood Reporter article ends by claiming, “But while Hollywood is willing to feed the public's hunger for all things Russia, studios will likely continue to play it safe when it comes to depicting the current leadership. After all, even Oliver Stone, who directed the pro-Russia documentary series The Putin Interviews, left the president out of last year's Snowden.”

Yes, even that America-hating, pro-Russian shill Oliver Stone cut any mention of Putin from his film Snowden! In fact, Oliver Stone was so afraid of Putin he went to Russia and interviewed him for a four-hour documentary.  Wait…what? The article’s final paragraph is a perfect synopsis of the incoherence of the entire story.

The writer of this Hollywood Reporter article is guilty of not writing an article around the provable facts of the story, but rather manufacturing a story to suit her preconceived narrative. No doubt she had to search far and wide to scrounge up the agreeable quote from Mr. Arora that quenched the thirst of her hypothesis.

Does that approach to journalism sound familiar? A great number of mainstream journalists have done the same thing over the last three years in regards to most any Russian story. Open the New York Times or the Washington Post and you will read lots and lots of assumptions, innuendo and self-serving opinions regarding Russia, but very few facts.

This sort of rancid propaganda and lazy journalism serves no purpose but to feed the fever of Russian hysteria, and foster a Dr. Strangelovian paranoia over fear of Putin contaminating our precious bodily fluids, namely our “sacred” elections.

When powerful institutions that shape our culture, like Hollywood and the media, set out to incite hatred against Russia and its people, it can only end badly. The spate of shamelessly one-sided news reporting and the villainous portrayals of Russians in entertainment have ignited an anti-Russian frenzy and panic that borders on delirium. The dehumanization of Russians is now at a fever pitch and will grow into madness, and from that madness will come war.

The Hollywood Reporter fantasy of Putin hacking movie studios is but a symptom of a wider disease that will inevitability lead to catastrophe. Cue Slim Pickens and his nuclear bronco ride to our oblivion. 

 

This article was previously published on Sunday, July 23, 2017 at RT.

©2017

 

Lady MacBeth : A Review

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

My Rating : 2 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation : SKIP IT.

Lady MacBeth, written by Alice Berch and directed by William Oldroyd, is the story of Katherine, a young woman in 1860's rural England, stuck in a stifling marriage and a suffocating culture. The film stars Florence Pugh as Katherine, along with Cosmo Jarvis, Paul Hilton and Naomi Ackie in supporting roles. 

Lady MacBeth has all the trappings of an art house gem, an exquisite period setting and costumes, a breakout performance from a talented young actress and a political sub-text of female empowerment in the face of a controlling patriarchy. Sadly, Lady MacBeth is not the sum of its parts and winds up being little more than a pretender to the art house crown. 

The biggest problem with Lady MacBeth is that it tries to do too much, too fast and goes too far. The reason period pieces like this work is because they set up constraints upon the characters in the form of cultural customs and traditions, and they force the characters to struggle against or break free of them. The cinematic drama is born and bred in that struggle. That is why people loved Downton Abbey for example, or Netflix's recent hit The Crown, those shows put the restraints of tradition upon human emotions and yearnings and we all watched to see the characters resist against them. The problem with Lady MacBeth is that those traditional and cultural obstacles are too easily discarded, ignored and overcome, rendering the struggle against them dramatically impotent and entirely moot. 

The first third of the film is very compelling because those cultural hindrances are front and center and are a cross that seems unbearable for Katherine. Her confinement to her husband's house is palpably stultifying. Director Oldroyd makes the interesting choice to shoot all of the indoor scenes as static shots to effectively enhance the rigid sense of emotional suffocation. Oldroyd also wisely contrasts this static indoor approach with hand held shots when Katherine finally goes outside, indicating her sense of freedom and abandon.

But then the train goes off the rails in the latter two thirds of the film when the narrative unravels as the traditional reins upon Katherine aren't simply loosened, they disappear completely. The film rapidly deteriorates from there when all of the tension and drama those constraints brought with them dissipates entirely. The art house ship is scuttled at that point and a rather predictable and conventional film takes its place.

The one bright spot in the whole endeavor is the discovery of Florence Pugh. Pugh, who is vaguely reminiscent of a young Kate Winslet, has stardom written all over her. She is a beautiful woman, but her beauty never overshadows her talent. She is blessed with the skill of being able to convey her character's intentions and vivid inner life with the slightest of glances. Pugh is a charismatic and powerful screen presence who exudes an intelligence and strength that few young actresses possess. I am willing to bet that she has a most stellar career in front of her.

The rest of the cast are all eclipsed by the supernova that is Ms. Pugh. Cosmo Jarvis plays the love interest but is entirely of no interest. Naomi Ackie is given a rather thankless job of having to portray a character that is so poorly written it is difficult to reconcile. And Paul Hilton's Alexander is so terribly one-dimensional he might as well be twirling his mustache whenever he's on screen.

I was ready to go all in on the ride of Lady MacBeth, but the film made the fatal error of not grounding it's story in a consistent reality, and thus the entire exercise seemed a rather empty and fruitless endeavor that became harder and harder to buy into. I was very disappointed with the film, but on the bright side found solace in Ms. Pugh's sublime performance despite it all. 

My recommendation is to skip Lady MacBeth entirely. Even watching it for free on Netflix or cable would be a waste of time as the film neither reveals nor illuminates anything of worth or substance. It's a shame, for if the filmmaker had screwed their courage to the sticking place, maybe the film could have been elevated to the art house throne. Instead, Lady MacBeth took the easy and cowardly route of the ordinary and won its hard earned exile from artistic relevancy. 

©2017

War for the Planet of the Apes : A Review

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

My Rating : 4.8 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation : SEE IT NOW!!!

War for the Planet of the Apes, directed by Matt Reeves and written by Reeves and Mark Bomback, is the third installment of the recent "Caesar trilogy" of Planet of the Apes films. The movie tells the story of the chimpanzee Caesar and his band of intelligent apes as they do battle against the humans trying to exterminate them. The film stars Andy Serkis as Caesar, with supporting roles played by Woody Harrelson, Steve Zahn and Karin Konoval.

I am admittedly an ardent Planet of the Apes freak. As a kid I went "ape" for the original film Planet of the Apes starring Charlton Heston and Roddy McDowell, and all four of the sequels, Beneath the Planet of the Apes, Escape from the Planet of the Apes, Conquest of the Planet for the Apes and Battle for the Planet of the Apes. Most kids of my generation were Star Wars fanatics, but I was a Planet of the Apes guy. I had Planet of the Apes action figures, a Planet of the Apes lunchbox and even a Planet of the Apes board game. More than once I dressed as the Cornelius character from the The Planet of the Apes movies for Halloween.

My love of the "Apes" films did not diminish as I grew older, it actually broadened. As I became more intellectually aware I enjoyed the Planet of the Apes films not just for their mythology and science fiction, but also as for their very smart and insightful social and political commentary. The original Planet of the Apes films courageously delved into the culturally relevant topics of racism, class, race relations, nuclear war and militarism with an intelligence and force absent from much more "serious" movies.

The reason I bring up my long love affair with Planet of the Apes is because I think my feelings for this new film need some context. I loved the old Apes movies (I loathed the Tim Burton 2001 Planet of the Apes which should be exiled out past the Forbidden Zone!!) and I was so pleasantly surprised and thrilled with the newer additions to the franchise, starting with the finely crafted Rise of the Planet of the Apes in 2011, followed by Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, which wasn't as good as Rise of the Planet of the Apes but was still worthwhile. What I am trying to say is that I love a great Ape movie…and I despise a shitty one…I'm looking at you Tim Burton, you lousy son of a bitch. 

Which brings me to the new Planet of the Apes movie, War for the Planet of the Apes. I can say, without the slightest hesitation, that War for the Planet of the Apes is an astonishingly spectacular film, one of the very best of the year. War for the Planet of the Apes is a big, blockbuster summer movie sequel, that is for sure, but it is also a real, honest to goodness film that tells a genuine, deeply personal, intimate, emotional story while also revealing greater truths about humanity and the state of our world.  

As a filmmaking exercise, War for the Planet of the Apes is staggeringly well made. Cinematically the film is stunningly gorgeous. The CGI is impeccable, as there is never a moment when you don't think you are watching real life, except with talking monkeys. It is simply crazy how great the special effects are in this movie. The attention to physical detail on all the ape characters is beyond exquisite. 

The decision to shoot the film in a cold, snowy, winter climate was a brilliant one as well. The blue and white colors of the scenery accentuate the exacting beauty of the apes and also fortify the sub-text of the personal, emotional winter through which the main characters must journey and endure. The cold weather and the accompanying condensation of breath is the type of detail and specificity give the film a genuine authenticity and elevates it from the mundane to the sublime.

 

As for the story, well, War for the Planet of the Apes feels biblical because it is biblical. The film's protagonist, Caesar, marvelously played by CGI master actor Andy Serkis, is a cross between Moses, Jesus Christ and even Noah. In the context of the Planet of the Apes canon, this story is meant to be be biblical (with God even making an appearance), as it is the basis for the ape civilizations founding religious and civic text, The Sacred Scrolls, upon which the Planet of the Apes mythology is based. In this ape dominant universe, future young apes will study the story of Caesar that we have witnessed in in Dawn, Rise and War for the Planet of the Apes in their Sacred Scrolls just as we humans have studied Moses, Noah and Christ in the bible. The similarities between Caesar and Christ, in particular, are very striking but subtly delivered, as director Reeves uses a deft touch to convey that delicious metaphor. 

Maybe the greatest thing about War for the Planet of the Apes, among the plethora of great things about it, is that it fits in perfectly with the Planet of the Apes universe and mythology, and has a consistent and coherent internal logic and rationality to it that never flounders. Standing alone the film makes entire sense, but in the canon of Planet of the Apes movies, it is even more illuminating.  One could go from watching War for the Planet of the Apes to watching the original 1968 Charlton Heston Planet of the Apes and not miss a beat. That creative coherence is a testament to Reeves and his commitment to, and respect for, the gloriously fertile source material. 

Reeves also makes an enlightened choice to pay homage to another of my favorite films, Apocalypse Now throughout War for the Planet of the Apes. The signs and symbols of Copolla's classic film about war and madness set in Vietnam are scattered throughout the movie, none more so obvious than Woody Harrelson's portrayal of The Colonel, a Kilgore-esque, god-like Special Forces leader who is out to exterminate apes with extreme prejudice and by any means necessary. Harrelson does a terrific job as The Colonel, bringing an imposing sense of power to the role of which I didn't think he was capable. Harrelson is an under appreciated actor who has evolved to be quite the craftsmen and he is an unnerving joy to behold as The Colonel.

The other actors of note are all playing apes, so most would think the CGI does all the hard work, but that is a terribly misguided assumption. Andy Serkis is once again rock solid as Caesar, making the ape leader more a human/ape hybrid than just a miniature King Kong. Serkis has played Caesar for three films now, and the most amazing thing about his performance is that he has made a chimpanzee into a quintessential Hollywood leading man. Caesar is not quite as interesting or entertaining as his fellow bonobo, gorilla or orangutan comrades, but he has been able to carry three very successful and high quality films to great box office success. Caesar, who is a cross between 1970's Clint Eastwood and 1940's Henry Fonda, may be the best leading man Hollywood has going for it right now compared to all of our other modern movie stars, and that is a monumental achievement and testament to the skill and talent of Andy Serkis.

The stand out performance in the film though is from Steve Zahn, who is a very accomplished actor in his own right without any CGI assistance. Zahn plays Bad Ape, and he steals the show. Bad Ape is, in keeping with the Apocalypse Now theme, like Dennis Hopper's photojournalist character in Francis Coppola's masterpiece. Bad Ape is both comedic relief and a holy fool. Zahn's Bad Ape is both funny and touching and is a revelatory piece of work. The CGI of Bad Ape is almost as stunning as that of the orangutan Maurice and is every bit the equal to Zahn's exceptional work in the role. 

Karin Konoval plays the aforementioned orangutan Maurice, and although he communicates through sign language, Maurice has the most palpable sense of humanity about him. Maurice and his CGI are truly a stupendous work of art and may be the most beautiful thing to appear on film in recent memory. But it is the delicate skill of Karin Konoval that gives Maurice a gentle spirit and intelligence that is so tangible and compelling as to be miraculous. 

In conclusion, I have intentionally not given much information in this review so as to not taint anyone's viewing experience of War for the Planet of the Apes. I was enraptured from the get go by this film and I would not want to ruin the movie going experience for anyone else. That said, I am incapable of saying whether a non-Planet of the Apes fan would love this movie as passionately as I did. I do think that non-Planet of the Apes fans will thoroughly enjoy this movie as just a stand alone piece of entertainment and quality filmmaking, I just don't know if it will resonate with them as personally and on as deep a level as it did with me. 

As a Planet of the Apes fan, I can say without hesitation that this is the perfect Apes movie, and is easily the very best of all of the Planet of the Apes films ever made. I am a grown man and this movie about talking monkeys was able to make me cry, cheer, seethe and squirm. That is a testament not only to Matt Reeves stellar direction, but to his respect for the deep mythology and history of the the Planet of the Apes franchise and universe. I wholeheartedly encourage anyone and everyone to go see this film. You simply will not find a finer or better made summer blockbuster movie that is also a top-notch and serious piece of filmmaking. What are you waiting for…GO. SEE. IT. NOW.

©2017

 

A Ghost Story : 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.  A warning : This is an art house film, if your tastes run to the more conventional, you will probably hate this movie. You've been forewarned!

There is an old story, I think it is about legendary producer Robert Evans, that recounts a Hollywood big wig wanting to re-make Moby Dick, but this time...from the whale's perspective. I kept thinking of that as I watched writer/director David Lowery's mesmerizing A Ghost Story. Don't be deceived, A Ghost Story is not a horror film, although it has moments of creepiness, rather it is a ghost story, but this time...from the ghost's perspective. 

The film is not your typical ghost story in that it is more a meditation on the nature of time, place, existence and grief. As someone who has suffered the relentless slings and arrows that accompany the unexpected death of a loved one, I can say that A Ghost Story acts as an intriguing philosophical salve that cools the hot wounds of being forced to contemplate the fragility of life and our own impending mortality. This theme must be in the forefront of the collective unconscious at the moment because other great artists besides director David Lowery have recently made films that touch upon this subject. Both Olivier Assayas with his fantastic Personal Shopper and the enigmatic Terence Malick with Song to Song have delved into the depths of our existential despair and discovered dramatic treasure, and so it is with Lowery and A Ghost Story.

A Ghost Story stars Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck, both of whom give impeccable performances. Following up on her stellar work in Terence Malick's Song to Song, Mara does masterful work as "M" opposite Affleck's "C". Mara is blessed with the ability to draw viewers in to her character's private world while at the same time appearing to be impenetrable to the those around her.

Rooney Mara is an actress at the top of her game and may be the best actress on the planet at the moment. She is an utter joy to behold in this film, where her master of craft is on full display. She doesn't have much dialogue, but she fills every moment with a specificity and attention to detail that render her work riveting, bordering on the hypnotic. She fills the screen and her character with such clear intentions that there are no wasted movements or moments. Most actors struggle when they don't have words to say, but Mara has proven herself to be an exquisite artist who never succumbs to the alluring temptation to creatively meander.

There is one moment in particular from Mara that resonated with me. The moment occurs right before the "pie scene" that has gotten so much attention on the internet. In the lead up to that scene, Mara throws something away, and then she takes a short beat and actually looks into the garbage can. In the hands of a lesser talent, that moment never would have occurred, but with Rooney Mara, she made a distinct choice and it filled a rather mundane moment with intrigue and artistry. You can't help but watch the scene and wonder…what is in the garbage can? What is she seeing and what does it mean to her? And when coupled with the context of the narrative at that moment, it makes for quite compelling cinema.

Casey Affleck also gives a strong performance, which is remarkable considering the circumstances he is working under. Affleck, coming off his Best Actor Oscar, looks to be an actor who is willing to take chances and commit himself fully to even the most challenging of artistic visions. He, like Mara, never wastes a single moment on screen, and fills his silence with a powerful and tangible humanity that can be both chilling and heartening, but never fails to captivate.

As for the film itself, director David Lowery proves himself to be a unique filmmaker. He is certainly influenced by his fellow Texan, Terence Malick, but that influence never falls into creative sycophancy. Lowery is not the virtuoso talent of Malick, but like Malick he embraces silence and stillness in his films, and philosophical topics in his stories. The other thing that Lowery and Malick share is an artistic courage and comfort outside the mainstream. 

What I liked the most about A Ghost Story is maybe what other people will like the least about it, namely that it has a deliberate pace and uses long, slow takes in order to let the drama and the characters unfold in a sometimes painful, but always interesting, way. It is rare to find directors with the confidence to let the camera keep rolling for sometimes excruciatingly long scenes, but Lowery successfully coaxes viewers into the story with this technique. It is also difficult to find actors who are comfortable with that style of directing, but Lowery succeeded in the casting room by getting two phenomenal artists to sign on to play the parts.

There is one scene in the film which may be the best scene I have witnessed this entire year. It is a monologue, and in a film with very little dialogue it stands out not only for its verbosity but for its intellectual eloquence. This monologue is at once an existential wail into the abyss and also a vivid clarion call to life. The monologue also sums up the philosophical underpinnings of the film, which are fascinating to say the least and will resonate with any human who has ever contemplated their own existence. 

In conclusion, A Ghost Story is a wonderfully original piece of work from director David Lowery, that boasts sublime and meticulous performances from Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck. A Ghost Story is in execution and intention an art house film through and through, so if your tastes tend toward the more mainstream, you will not only dislike this movie, but loathe it. But if you are an adventuresome cinephile or someone who has carried the cross of intense personal grief, or both, A Ghost Story is well worth your time and hard earned money, and I highly recommend you make the effort to see it in the theatre. 

©2017

Spider-Man : Homecoming - A Review

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

My Rating : 2.75 out of 5 stars.

My Recommendation : SKIP IT IN THE THEATRE. SEE IT ON CABLE OR NETFLIX.

Spider-Man: Homecoming, directed by Jon Watts, is the coming of age story of Peter Parker and his superhero alter-ego Spider-Man. The film stars Tom Holland as Spider-Man, with supporting nods from Michael Keaton, Marissa Tomei and Robert Downey Jr.

Spider-Man: Homecoming is the first installment of the second re-boot of the third Spider-Man series of films. If that sounds confusing to you, you are not alone. The original cinematic Spiderman was Tobey Maguire who starred in three films produced by Sony from 2002, 2004 and 2007. Sony then re-booted the series in 2012, with Andrew Garfield as the new Spiderman and Emma Stone his love interest. Garfield lasted for two films, the second coming out in 2014, then he ran afoul of Sony's studio head and was summarily exiled from Spideydom. Now, just three years later, Spidey is back, this time with Disney/Marvel producing after the two mega-studios made a deal to bring Spider-Man back into the Marvel fold, adding one more branch to their gargantuan money tree. Tom Holland dons the signature blue and red tights this time for his first star turn in the Spider-Man franchise. Holland has played the character once before in a supporting role in Captain America : Civil War

I enjoyed the first two Tobey Maguire Spider-Man films, they were solid, well-made movies with a distinct aesthetic and style and that I enjoyed. The third Maguire Spider-Man was an abomination that was so atrocious it stopped the franchise in its tracks. I admit I have never seen the Andrew Garfield Spidey films because at the time they seemed to be a gratuitous money-grab being that they were re-booting the franchise just five years after the last series ended. This time around they are re-booting after only three years, but it is a true re-boot where Spider-Man is absorbed into the Avenger's universe, so that somehow seems a bit less artistically bankrupt as the Garfield versions.

I am a fan of the Spider-Man character, so I had high expectations going to the theatre, but sadly I must report that Spider-Man: Homecoming is a very mixed bag of a movie. It isn't awful, but it certainly isn't great either. There are good elements and bad elements. In keeping with my optimistic nature…*please stop laughing*...I will get to the good points first. 

First off, Tom Holland does excellent work as Spider-Man. In this re-boot, Spider-Man is fourteen and fifteen years old, in other words he is a really annoying teenager. Holland does an exceedingly good job of capturing teenage angst and ennui, as well as the frustrations, social fragility and mental chaos that encompass adolescence. His voice even has a subtle crack to it that lets you know this is a boy thrust into a man's world. Holland seems to have a very bright future, and I hope he can use the monstrous success of this Spider-Man movie to spread his artistic wings and do more than carry water for the Disney money machine.

Holland is not the only bright spot in terms of acting. Michael Keaton plays the villain, Vulture, and he gives a terrific performance. There is an underlying menacing quality to Keaton in this film that he wears very well. It is great to see Keaton back in the game and crushing diverse, quality roles after his years of exile from the big stage. In some ways, Keaton's Vulture character is like his fictional alter ego in the movie Birdman, which can make for an ironically enjoyable perspective on his work in Spider-Man. 

Robert Downey Jr. reprises his iconic Iron Man role in the movie. Downey is the quintessential Iron Man. He is the perfect mix of charisma, charm and emotional fragility to bring a superhero to life on screen and he is uniquely qualified to never be overshadowed by all the pyrotechnics surrounding his performance. 

The film also does something very smart which a lot of television shows have started to do as well, namely, that they use music from earlier eras in order to conjure a sense of nostalgia in older audience members. Make no mistake about it, Spider-Man is a movie for teenagers, but the music in it is the music of the 70's and 80's, in other words the music from the teenage years of late baby boomers and generation X. Television shows like 13 Reasons Why and Stranger Things have used this musical technique to great effect in the last year. This is a brilliant device to bring older audiences into the story without alienating younger viewers. 

Another wise move by the filmmakers is that they do not try and do too much right out of the gate. Too many superhero films are unbalanced between superhero and villain, and superhero and task. In Spider-Man: Homecoming, Spider-man and Vulture are a pretty evenly matched, and Spider-man is not entrusted with having to save the world, just his little corner of it.

And now for the bad news…as I stated earlier, Tom Holland is fantastic at portraying a teenage boy, in fact he does too good a job. Spending two and half hours with a teenager is not something anyone in their right mind would want to actually do…hell, not even a teenager would want to spend that much time with a teenager, but in Spider-Man: Homecoming, we are stuck with an annoying, whiny teenage idiot who makes the same moronic decisions most every teenager would make. Teenagers will relate to him, but adults will want to slap him silly for being so continuously stupid.

Another issue is that the portions of the story that deal with Peter Parker's high school life and friends are pretty unbearable. All of the teenage characters are painfully one-dimensional and are numbingly predictable and corny as hell. Peter Parker and friends are a drag on the entire film.

The story also suffers from a lack of clarity because the film makes large jumps in time and doesn't fill in the gaps properly in order to flesh out the characters and drama. For instance, the movie open with crews cleaning up in the wake of the destruction created by the Avengers in their New York City brawl with aliens in the first Avengers film. Then the movie jumps eight years ahead and we never get to see the critical moments in the development of Keaton's Vulture character, which to me would have been the most interesting part of the film, and we never got see it. 

Spider-Man: Homecoming also suffers from two things that afflict the Marvel films in general, namely that they are visually flat and stale, and also that they are thematically much too paltry and light-hearted. In terms of the visuals of the film, director Jon Watts, whose resume isn't exactly inspiring, is in way over his head. This movie is aesthetically more akin to a made for television movie than it is a cinematic enterprise. To be fair to Watts, Disney/Marvel run a very tight ship and are not interested in artistic vision, only franchise conformity and box-office returns.

As for the light-hearted nature that permeates all of the Marvel films, Spider-Man: Homecoming is definitely no exception. Like all of the Marvel movies, there is a tsunami of zippy one-liners and a flippancy that seeps out of its every pore. I understand that "entertainment' is the goal with these movies, but that doesn't mean they have to be so shallow and frivolous. Christopher Nolan proved with his Dark Knight trilogy that superhero movies can be entertaining and also artistically and archetypally illuminating at the same time. Even Sam Raimi with the original two Spider-Man films was able to pull that off, as was Ang Lee with his much maligned, Jungian inspired, Hulk. Just this year we have seen the superhero game elevated to a much higher level with James Mangold's superior Logan and Patty Jenkin's well-crafted Wonder Woman. Spider-Man fails to live up to the standards set by these quality films, but the truth is the same can be said of all of the Marvel films and Disney doesn't care as long as the money train keeps rolling. 

The final issue I had with Spider-Man: Homecoming was that the rules of the cinematic universe were never clearly defined. What I mean by that is that superhero movies are pretty incredible to begin with, so you have to have a set of rules for the film that the movie sticks to or else the story loses much needed credibility. In Spider-Man: Homecoming, for instance, Spider-Man is knocked out by bumping his head on a roof, but when he gets punched by a super-arm or is in a car crash, he comes out entirely unscathed. It is a little thing, but sometimes the little things add up to a big thing. 

There was one thing that was both good and bad about the film. There is a B-story sub-text about class in the film that is pretty fascinating, which is the good thing, the bad thing is it is so minor as to be quickly forgotten. Spider-man is a local, working class hero, or as Iron Man tells him, he has a whole "Springsteen vibe" going on. I think if the film had fleshed out this idea it would have been a very rich topic to explore. Keaton's Vulture is the same as Spider-man, a blue collar local guy, whereas Iron Man and the Avengers are a globalist bunch of elitists trying to impose their values on the locals. Politically, this is a potent narrative that we have seen play out across the globe and even in our last election. A superhero movie can sometimes be the best place to hash out archetypal and mythic conflicts so that viewers can find nuance, or clarity, whichever they most need. Sadly, Spider-Man: Homecoming spent more time with adolescent pursuits and mostly turned a blind eye to the class struggle that was taking place at the heart of the story, and the film is lesser for it. 

The bottom line is this, Spider - Man: Homecoming is just…ok. It is an admittedly fun but basically mindless movie that will no doubt entertain millions and make billions. If you are a superhero fan you will see the film regardless of what I say, but if you are lukewarm on these types of films, I think you can skip it in the theatre and see it when it's on cable of Netflix. 

In conclusion I will share this, that over the years many readers have emailed me to tell me that they think I am a vicious misogynist, racist and xenophobe, and with my tepid review of Spider-Man: Homecoming, they will no doubt add "incorrigible arachnophobe" to the list of evils that afflict me. I will simply say this in my defense…I am not an arachnophobe (some of my best friends are spiders!!), I am just a cinephile who yearns for a bit more from the standard summertime popcorn movies that Hollywood continuously uses to separate fools like me from their hard earned money. My spidey-senses are telling me I'm going to need to lower my standards. 

©2017

STEPHEN COLBERT HEADS FOR RUSSIA LOOKING FOR LAUGHS; HE'D FIND BETTER MATERIAL AT HOME

Estimated Reading Time : 5 minutes 08 seconds

Stephen Colbert likes telling jokes about Russian interference in the U.S. election. I’ve got a plan to help him vastly expand his comedy repertoire.

Funnyman Stephen Colbert, host of the accurately titled Late Show with Stephen Colbert on CBS, must be desperate for material. On Thursday and Friday of last week, he took a hiatus from his talk show to travel all the way to Russia to shoot some comedy bits he will use in later episodes of his program.

While in Moscow, Colbert appeared on a Russian late night television show hosted by Ivan Urgant that, like its American counterpart, is also very aptly titled, Evening Urgant.

On Mr. Urgant’s show, Colbert made the following declaration, “Ok. I am here to announce that I am considering a run for president in 2020, and I thought it would be better to cut out the middle man and just tell the Russians myself.”

Colbert traveling to Russia to make a joke about alleged Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential election is most certainly clever, if a bit much. I mean, it’s a mildly funny joke, I guess, but it certainly isn’t funny enough to travel 4,664 miles from New York to Moscow just for the gag. That is a frighteningly inefficient comedy rate in terms of laughs produced to miles traveled.

It begs the question though, is New York so devoid of comedic material that poor Colbert has to fly half way around the world to dig up some Boris and Natasha level cold war comedy on his expedition for giggles?

While I admire Colbert’s commitment in undertaking his Arthurian quest to scour the globe in a crusade for the ever-elusive comedy grail (or is it a fountain of eternal guffaws?), I wonder if there isn’t an easier way to get the chuckles Colbert so desperately desires.

I think I have a better idea, and since Colbert is so interested in all things Russia I assume he must be an avid RT reader, therefore I am going to share my brilliant scheme with him directly.

Mr. Colbert, may I call you Steve? No. How about Stephen? Okay, let’s just stick with Mr. Colbert.  Anyway, I have an idea that has the potential to save you precious time and travel expenses in your never-ending pursuit of comedy gold. Here it is.

Instead of traveling to Russia to make a “cut out the middle man” joke about Russian “interference” in the U.S. election, why not stay at home and have potential candidates from all of the countries that have had the U.S. meddle in their elections come visit you in The Big Apple?

For instance, you could have all of the future Ukrainian presidential hopefuls come to your New York studio and declare their intentions to run for office. Former Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland could be a guest at the same time, that way you can “cut out the middle man” of the Ukrainian voters and find out from the horses mouth who the U.S. will select to be leader of Ukraine. It will be uproariously funny because it’ll be like 2014 when the U.S. funded the anti-government protests, violence and coup which killed over a hundred people, which was followed by thousands more dying in the resulting civil war. 

I know what you’re thinking, that this is just a one-trick pony and the comedy will dry up once you do the Ukrainian election show. You couldn’t be more wrong, Mr. Colbert. You could follow up the Ukraine show by “cutting out the middle man” and having some Russians on your program so they can describe how the U.S. shamelessly interfered in their elections of 1996 in order to keep Boris Yeltsin in power and Russia in their back pocket? The U.S. intrusion into Russian politics in 1996 was so brazen it earned a Time magazine cover with the headline “Yanks to the Rescue: The secret story of how American advisers helped Yeltsin win”. You would have your fans rolling in the aisles once you showed them that Time cover. 

I know what you are thinking, the Ukrainian and Russian shows are masterful ideas, but demographically they are pretty…well…limited. But fear not, we can tap into the crucial Latino audience by having Honduran presidential hopefuls appear on your show too. They can recount how Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “cut out the middle man” by supporting and funding a right wing military coup in 2009 to overthrow Manuel Zelaya, the center-left, democratically elected president of Honduras. Maybe you could have Secretary Clinton on as well, it isn’t like she has anything else to do with her time, and she can tell you how she refused to call the brutal takeover a coup in order to skirt U.S. laws and to continue to send financial and military aid to the usurpers. Now that right there would be some top-notch political “interference” comedy.

Frankly, Mr. Colbert, I think you should do a whole Latin America week, where you host potential candidates from all across Central and South America where the U.S. has consistently undermined democracy. Well, I guess a week wouldn’t be long enough, how about Latin America month? To the delight of your adoring fans you could rehash America’s notorious history of supporting anti-democratic, right-wing military takeovers with their accompanying death squads and disappearances in Brazil and the Dominican Republic in the 1960’s, Argentina and Chile in the 1970’s, El Salvador and Panama in the 1980’s, Haiti in the 1990’s, Venezuela in 2002 and the list goes on and on.

We won’t just focus on Latin American countries either. You want to target the Asian audience? No problem. You will start that topic off by doing a Vietnam bit that will kill! Maybe not kill as much as America’s ill-fated war in the jewel of Southeast Asia, but that is an extremely high bar to clear.

In regards to Vietnam, it is apropos that you do your show in Ed Sullivan’s old theater at 1600 Broadway, because Ed himself could have been the first to do this “cut out the middle man” joke back in his day if he had Vietnamese presidential hopeful Ngo Dinh Diem on his show in 1953 when the U.S hand-picked him to run his country and rigged the election to ensure his victory. Ed could’ve skillfully delivered the gut busting punch line about how in 1963 Diem fell out of favor with his American overlords and the U.S. had him summarily assassinated…talk about cutting out the middle man!

Continuing with the Asian theme, you could absolutely slay if you did shows on Indonesia, Laos and Cambodia and how America’s meddling in those countries eventually resulted in homicide on a catastrophic scale.

I think the showstopper of the “cutting out the middle man” bit will be when you host Iranians who survived the CIA-bakced overthrow of Mossadegh in 1953 and lived under the brutal rule of the American installed Shah until 1979.

I am also sure there’s a bonanza of humor a comedy genius like yourself can find in the history of U.S. meddling in Iraq too, where we first installed Saddam, then later deposed him, killing hundreds of thousands, if not a million, Iraqis in the process. Your audience will be splitting their sides laughing when Iraqi presidential hopefuls come, hat in hand, to your studio asking America to “elect” them to rule their ancient land.

I know, you’re right, people are sick of Iraq, but you can always focus on Egypt instead, where the U.S. supported dictator Hosni Mubarek for decades, and after he was toppled in 2011 during the Arab Spring and replaced by Mohamed Morsi in the democratic elections of 2012, the U.S. did what it does best and “cut out the middle man” by backing a coup against Morsi in 2013 and replacing him with General el-Sisi, a military strongman just like Mubarek.

And while you’re clowning about U.S. interference in the Middle East, please don’t forget Libya, Lebanon and (American fingers crossed) the current situation in Syria too! The Middle East is a region that is particularly ripe with the delicious comedy fruits of U.S. intervention that you can pluck to hysterical effect.

I’ve got to be honest Steve…oops, I mean Mr. Colbert, with your comedic talent and skill you can turn America’s long history of anti-democratic violence and coups into a veritable goldmine of comedy. I am literally crying right now I’m laughing so hard at all of the jokes I imagine you’ll conjure up about how many times the U.S. has “cut out the middle man” in foreign elections. I would be willing to bet that the millions of people across the globe who live in the countries where America has interfered in their politics have tears in their eyes as well…they just aren’t from laughing.

This article was originally published on Friday June, 30, 2017 at RT.

©2017

 

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.

This article was originally published on Monday, June 26, 2017 at RT.

©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 the 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 (our "sacred" elections!!). 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's 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 bring 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 intellect 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

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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