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John Oliver - Shameless Establishment Shill



Estimated Reading Time : 5 minutes 02 seconds

This Sunday, February 12, 2017, season 4 of John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight premieres. If the first three seasons are any indication, viewers can expect no deviation from the official party line by the establishment’s favorite comedy accomplice.

John Oliver is a charlatan who appears to be a rebellious liberal comedian speaking truth to power, but is really a shameless shill for the ruling class in the U.S. Oliver specializes in telling his liberal audience and those in the establishment exactly what they want to hear. He never genuinely challenges or questions the U.S. power structure, making him an agent of the status quo, which is why the media love him so dearly.

In order to maintain most favored status among liberals, Oliver assails universally loathed entities like FIFA, the NCAA, tobacco or televangelists. Or he’ll investigate a wonky subject like infrastructure, voter ID laws or reforming the bail system. While Oliver gets quite a lot of attention for these stories, they only generate heat, not light. Nothing changes as a result, not even popular opinion since Oliver is only preaching to the converted in the liberal echo chamber.

When it comes to potentially controversial topics, like the rare times he looks at the U.S. political, military and media establishment, John Oliver gives his sycophant fans the soft sell. In the 89 Episodes of Last Week Tonight that have aired, they have shown 250 segments. In those segments, Oliver has scrutinized issues pertaining to the U.S. military and foreign policy just 11 times, that’s 4.4%. In contrast, the show has dedicated 14 or 5.6 % of their segments to Russia, Putin and Russia’s foreign policy. And those numbers do not include the innumerable one-liners at Russia’s expense scattered throughout various other segments, as Putin is Oliver’s favorite comedy whipping boy.

Even when Oliver looks into issues like drones, torture, Guantanamo Bay or NSA spying, he does so with the gentlest of tones and the kindest of language. For example, in regards to drones he called U.S. strikes, which killed civilians, “a little disturbing”. At end of the segment he concluded that now “might be the time to think about drones”. So his scathing assessment of the drone program was that it might now rise to the level of “thinking about”? And I guess “might” was the operative word in his statement since Oliver has never returned to the topic.

Contrast this delicate approach to the U.S. with his scorched earth campaign against Putin, where Oliver leads a cacophony of establishment media voices preaching a Russian hysteria. Oliver has assured his audience that the “brutal Russian dictator” shot down MH17, invaded Ukraine, committed war crimes in Syria, murdered Boris Nemtsov and would starve and freeze the population of Crimea once winter arrived. Oliver’s stance on Russia is just as vacuous, assumption-filled and fact-free as the rest of the mainstream media. A braver comedian would challenge the current prevailing presumptions, but courage is obviously not John Oliver’s strong suit.

Even when Oliver is mildly critical of the U.S., like he was in his torture and Guantanamo Bay pieces, he deflects those American failures by pointing to other nations that he feels are much, much worse, like Russia, North Korea, Iran, and Sudan. He also avoids using moral and ethical frameworks to argue against alleged U.S. failings, instead favoring arguments about “image”.

Oliver’s main thrust on torture was that it causes “serious harm to America’s image”. He had an entire segment titled “The CIA’s Public Image” which dealt with how the CIA handles its social media. Of all the things to talk about regarding the CIA, their social media prowess seems to be the most frivolous, which is probably why Oliver chose it. In Oliver’s interview with NSA chief Keith Alexander, an important part of the conversation was on the NSA’s image and how to change it for the better, not on its Orwellian surveillance programs.  When it comes to questioning the U.S. establishment, Oliver never dare wander into the heart of the matter, only stay on the surface and stick to appearances.

The discussion with Keith Alexander was also enlightening when contrasted with Oliver’s interview with Edward Snowden. Watching the Alexander and Snowden interviews side by side, it is easy to see where Oliver’s loyalties lie. Oliver uses the softest and most playful tone with Alexander, where he is extremely aggressive and nasty with Snowden.

The Snowden interview also reveals Oliver’s tactic of obfuscating uncomfortable issues. Oliver spends the first half of his Snowden segment making the story about how frightened he is to be in Russia. He is fearful because Snowden is late, the old KGB building is across the street and Russians are no doubt listening to his every word. You could come away from these bits thinking it is Russia that’s been eavesdropping on the world and not the U.S. But that was Oliver’s point with the Snowden interview and many other segments, to distract from U.S. crimes by imagining foreign ones.

The cherry on top of the Snowden episode was when John Oliver blamed Edward Snowden for the “major f***- up” of the New York Times publishing information that allegedly named a secret agent and a target.  In John Oliver’s world, the New York Times is sacrosanct and above blame, but that scoundrel Snowden makes for a convenient scapegoat.

Lies of omission are littered throughout Last Week Tonight episodes as well. When Oliver did a segment on Obama’s visit to Saudi Arabia, he made the story about how rude the Saudi’s were to the president but gave no context at all. According to Oliver, the Saudi’s just randomly decided to hate Obama. Of course, the actual context is pretty important, Obama went to Saudi Arabia to calm the royal family over the 9-11 lawsuits and the congressional bills opening up the Saudi’s to liabilities for the attacks. Why Oliver would ignore this is beyond me.

When Oliver doesn’t ignore context is also revealing. In two segments on Ramzan Kadyrov, the Sunni strongman in Chechnya who had lost his cat, Oliver went to great lengths to give Kadyrov’s ties to Putin. He also spoke of Kadyrov’s Wikipedia page, which has a section about his human rights abuses, and spoke of it as if it were some sort of smoking gun. This is curious, as there was no mention of human rights abuses when another group of despotic Sunni Muslims, the Saudi’s, were the topic. And the Saudi’s don’t just have a section on their Wikipedia page about human rights abuses, they have a whole page dedicated to their human rights abuses! But Kadyrov is an enemy of the U.S. establishment and the Saudi’s are protected by it, so Oliver acted accordingly.

Oliver only uses context when it supports the official narrative, not when it undermines it. A case in point was his coverage of the protests in Brazil against the left-wing Workers Party government. Oliver made that story about left wing corruption in Brazil, and nothing more. A closer examination of those protests reveals that a major factor was class and race, with wealthy Whites protesting against the government and poor Black/Brown people protesting for it. Race and class would normally be things that someone like John Oliver, and his liberal audience, would focus on, he certainly would in relation to the Tea Party or Trump supporters here in the U.S. But in South America, the official U.S. narrative is left-wing, populist governments are “no bueno”, and so  Oliver, whether it be in regards to Dilma Rousseff in Brazil or Rafael Correa in Ecuador, propagates that position.

In contrast to his coverage of Brazil, watch this segment on turmoil in another left-wing South American country, Venezuela. In it, Oliver opens the segment with a news story that clearly defines the context of the protests, with the poor and working class on one side, and the military and police on the government side. Why clarify the struggle in Venezuela so distinctly but keep the Brazil situation murky at best? Because context in the Venezuela story supports the establishment media narrative that Oliver wants to sell, and it undermines it in the Brazil story.

And finally, the most remarkable proof of Oliver being an establishment shill occurred on the season three finale. Oliver actually pleaded with his audience to subscribe to the New York Times and the Washington Post in order to counter Trump and fake news. This was the first time John Oliver ever made me laugh out loud, as buying the Times and Post as an antidote to fake news is like treating obesity with a diet of pizza and ice cream.

It is too bad that Oliver’s insipidly predictable comedy and insidious support for all things establishment are so beloved by his minions. They obviously don’t know it yet, but John Oliver isn’t laughing with them, he’s laughing at them, all the way to the bank.

Previously published on Saturday February 11, 2017 at RT.


La La Land : An Analysis - Political Subtext



DISCLAIMER: This is an in depth analysis of the film La La Land, if you haven't seen the film, you probably shouldn't read this until you have. Also, I am aware that the overwhelming majority of people will find this to be at best a wonk-ish, if not foolish, exercise. I totally get it, but I wrote this piece for the maybe two or three other people in the universe besides me who might find it interesting. And finally, keep in mind that the political views in this analysis are what I believe to be the the film's, not mine. Now…sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride!! Or not.

Estimated Reading Time : 11 minutes 11 seconds (that's the time on Seb's clock in his apartment too!)

La La Land is, on its surface, a "delightful" musical romp of pure entertainment, but when you peel back the joyous cover of the film, a political sub-text is revealed that makes for a fascinating lens through which to watch the film again. 

The most important thing in watching La La Land is to pay attention to the color scheme. Director Damien Chazelle uses very vibrant colors to visually tell his story on multiple levels. The colors make for an interesting viewing experience, and they also reveal the political underpinnings of the story. The most apparent colors are yellow, green, blue and red. In the most basic way to look at the film, realize that Blue is Mia's core color (even when she wears Yellow…I'll explain later), and Red is Sebastien's core color.

To look even deeper at the color scheme, one must understand that Mia (blue), who drives her quiet, eco-friendly Prius, is symbolic of the left of the political spectrum, meaning she is liberalism and progressivism in all their shades, and the democratic party. Sebastien (red), who drives his red, gas-guzzling, noisy, American sedan, is symbolic of the right of the political spectrum, meaning he is conservatism and traditionalism in all their shades, and the republican party. The color scheme is also relevant to the "seasons" that the narrative goes through as well, but they are most relevant as a means to disclose the political sub-text. 

Here is a (not-so) brief look at the film from the perspective of the movie's political sub-text and things I picked up on and noticed as I watched it again. Keep in mind that these are the film's politics, not necessarily mine. There is probably much more than this, but these are the things that stood out the most, and what i had time to explore. 


Sebastien is conservatism in post-1960's sexual revolution, America. Sebastien symbolizes a mix of conservatism, traditionalism, right-wing ideology and republicanism. He yearns for a return to the halcyon days of, specifically, 1950's America and the nation's vision of itself back then. Here are some indicators this is the case.

1. When Seb first enters his apartment, he looks left and is startled because his sister is in his home. She is on his left because she symbolizes liberalism or the left side of the political spectrum. She also wears blue, the color of liberalism in the film. She brings him a blue (liberal) throw rug as a gift, which he doesn't want. In addition, she sits on a stool that Seb cherishes because Hoagy Carmichael sat on it. Hoagy Carmichael is a jazz composer from the 1950's (he won an Oscar in 1951). Jazz, the quintessential American art form, represents Seb's 1950's vision of America, so if people don't like jazz or respect it, that means they don't like or respect America. Seb's sister is disrespectful of America because she doesn't respect Jazz's (America's) history/tradition and belittles it, for example by sitting on Hoagy Carmichael's stool, or joking that Miles Davis pissed on the blue throw rug she bought Seb. 

Speaking of history, the Jazz club that Seb is obsessed with is now a Samba and Tapas place. This club, the "Van Beek", used to be home to famous jazz bands (Count Basie) from back in the 50's, but that history is now being desecrated by immigrants and multiculturalism, in the form of samba and tapas. This is symbolic of what Seb would see as the changing of America through immigration and multiculturalism and the forgetting of what made America great in the 1950's, at least in his eyes. 

In addition regarding that club, Seb indicates he was hustled out of a business deal by someone, and that is how he lost his jazz club. Symbolically, the person who stole Seb's jazz club dream (his American traditionalism and conservatism dream) was Richard Nixon. This is revealed when Seb describes his being robbed by this guy as being "Shanghai'd", a clue he speaks of Nixon who is so associated with his opening of relations with China. Seb's sister also says of this Nixon-esque "crook", that "everyone knew he was shady except you". 

Seb's sister says she has a woman she wants Seb to meet. Seb is resistant, he asks if this woman "likes jazz" (likes 1950's America)? Seb's sister says "does it matter?"…but to Seb it does, as the question really means is she a "traditional/conservative" American like Seb. She writes down the woman's number on an envelope and then leaves. Seb hollers out to her as she goes that he is "a phoenix, rising from the ashes", much like conservatism in the 70's rising from the ashes of Nixon's horrific presidency. He then looks at the number on the envelope, which happens to be written on a past due bill notice, a symbol of his view of liberalism as a bankrupt ideology, and then he tosses it out. 

Sebastien then sits down at his piano and plays a "red" colored album, Monk's Dream by Thelonious Monk, where he tries to recreate the piano music on it. He plays it over and over trying to get it just right. Monk's Dream was released in 1963, before the sexual revolution and all that came with it for traditionalism and conservatism. That is also the year of JFK's assassination, which forever changed America. The psychological shock of Kennedy's murder sent America into a tailspin and shook the foundations and assumptions upon which the traditional and conservative order were based…thus the sexual revolution was born. Seb is trying to recreate and conjure up the time before that happened with his piano playing.

2. I-Ran

The next indicator of Seb as American traditionalism (and conservatism) is in the Spring section of the film where he sees Mia at a Hollywood pool party. Mia recognizes him from their "curt" encounter at the dinner club, but now he wears a cheesy red jacket and plays keyboards in an 80's cover band. In an act of vengeance and in order to embarrass Seb, Mia requests the song "I Ran" by Flock of Seagulls, which is, oddly, not a very keyboard heavy song. But when she says the name of the song out loud, it sounds like "Iran", the country. This entire sequence, which is meant to humiliate Seb, is a metaphor for the Iran Hostage crisis of 1979-80.This is an excruciatingly embarrassing moment for Seb, a "serious musician", just as it was for Cold War Superpower America, a "serious nation". Mia is wearing a yellow dress when she requests the song, the same color as all of those yellow ribbons that were tied everywhere in remembrance of the hostages in 1980. (as an aside, in the film, the song "I Ran" is followed by "Tainted Love" by Soft Cell, which has the lyric in it, "Once I-Ran…I-ran... to you, now I run from you"…)

After the song, Seb confronts Mia and she is still wearing the yellow dress but now holds a green soda can, no doubt "Canada" Dry Ginger Ale (Canada a symbol of a more European style Social Democracy). The equation of the yellow dress and green is only lacking one thing, blue (yellow + blue = green), but the blue in this picture is Mia, her liberalism being the blue. After this somewhat flirtatious confrontation and once the party ends, Mia asks Seb for help in getting her car keys from the valet. Seb asks her what kind of car she drives, Mia answers a "Prius", which doesn't help because there are dozens of Prius keys, so she clarifies and says "with the green ribbon". This again, indicates yellow (her dress) and green (the ribbon) equalling blue, her liberalism. Also, her saying the word "ribbon" ties back into the yellow ribbons for the Iranian hostages and makes that connection even more apparent. 

As Seb and Mia walk looking for her car, she thanks him for "saving the day back there", which is symbolic of Seb being Reagan, the traditional/conservative who got the hostages released from Iran (the actual story of that situation is far less clear cut and is quite nefarious, but that is a discussion for another day). Then they come upon a glorious view of L.A. at sunset. But when they look at the sunset they are looking to their left, which is either an indicator of liberalism's decline in Reagan's America, or of the direction of east (since they are standing atop of the world, looking down, left would be east), where it wouldn't be a sunset, but a sunrise, symbolic of Reagan's "Morning in America". 

Mia carries a red hand bag on her arm, and Seb a blue jacket on his arm. This is a metaphor for the two of them being open to the other's ideological arguments. Mia also wears blue shoes that are very uncomfortable. She even sings about how this view (of the sunset, or sunrise depending on perspective) would be appealing if she weren't in those heels, "maybe this appeals, to someone not in heels". The blue heels represent liberalism becoming too constricting as a political ideology at the time. Liberalism, and those heels, were ill suited for the time and place of the 1980's. Mia must change out of the blue shoes and liberal political views, in order to flirtatiously dance with Seb, who, curiously enough, has discarded his blue jacket on a nearby tree stump. For the dance number they wear matching black and white shoes which represent a Manichean worldview they can momentarily agree on. 

At the beginning of the dance number, as they sit on a bench, Seb puts his head and shoulders down and scratches his foot on the ground, sending dirt flying onto Mia's feet. This act, where Seb looks like a bull, is done three times, and is symbolic of Reagan's bull market and economic growth in the 80's. Mia is at first irritated by this, but then they begin their dance flirtation. At the end of the dance, Mia's blue shoes are on the ground in front of the bench, and the red bag is on the bench above the shoes, this is symbolic of traditional conservatism being on top during the 1980's Reagan era time period.

As Seb walks Mia to her car, he hands her blues shoes back once she sits inside her eco-friendly Prius. He then walks back to his big, red, gas guzzling, American car, which is parked right across from the valet stand. 

3. Rebel Without a Cause

When Mia gets a call back for a tv show, she describes the show as like "Rebel Without a Cause". Seb says a James Dean line from the film back to her, "I got the bullets!". This line is interesting as it symbolizes the right wing's militarism and willingness to spend money on the military. Mia has no idea what Seb is saying as she has never seen the film, which is interesting since she was raised on classic Hollywood films. But Rebel Without a Cause is an iconic 1950's film, and Mia's background is in 1940's cinema, which is symbolic of FDR's New Deal America and not Eisenhauer's conservative America of the 1950's. Seb then invites Mia to go see Rebel at the Rialto and she agrees, "for research".  James Dean wears a red jacket in Rebel Without a Cause, again a symbol of the conservatism of the time. It is at the showing of the film where Mia and Seb fall for each other. Seb has successfully seduced Mia with his vision of 1950's America, and the two kiss while having a fantasy sequence at the Hollywood observatory. 

4. Summer

The summer section is interesting because of the use of colors. When Mia is beckoned outside by Seb's loud American made car horn, she exits her apartment and all of the garbage bins lined up in the alley, which in real life here in L.A. are black, green or blue, are now all purple. Purple is red and blue combined…Sebastien and Mia and conservatism and liberalism blended together. Mia's handbag is now purple as well. Throughout the "dating montage" of the summer section, Mia wears some purple, light-red, or a red top with blue skirt or vice versa. Seb even wears blue, as he is wearing a Dodger baseball cap when he learns of his sisters engagement to a black man (more on this later). During the montage, Seb and Mia also work together to destroy the "Samba and Tapas" sign outside his old jazz club, with Mia holding the door closed while Seb smashes the sign. This, of course, is symbolic of immigration and traditional/conservative America's discomfort with it and lashing out at it with cover from democrats.

When Seb plays piano and Mia dances in the crowd at the Lighthouse, she wears a red top and blue skirt. After the song is over they sit down and she drinks her red beverage and Seb drinks his green bottle of beer, conservatism is still ascendant at this point, but Seb has softened, as has conservatism (maybe this is compassionate conservatism?). Then Keith shows up….

5. Keith

Keith shows up at the Lighthouse and Seb is instantly uncomfortable. He introduces Keith to Mia and says they "went to school together", but he is obviously not happy about that fact. This is symbolic of school desegregation (1954) and forced busing (1970's). Seb and Keith have an undisclosed issue, something in their past that is never clearly enunciated. This is symbolic of traditional/conservative America's unease with racial issues, and reluctance to be more open on issues like civil rights, school integration etc.  

Keith offers Seb a job but he turns him down, even though Keith tells him it pays. Seb doesn't trust Keith, that much is clear. Keith is Obama…and Seb feels about him the same way traditional/conservative Americans felt about Obama.  

When Seb takes a job with Keith, his first day in the studio, Seb is wearing blue. Traditional/Conservative Seb is on Obama's liberal turf now. And Keith/Obama talks to Seb about how in order to save Jazz(America), you have to be progressive, and not traditional. Traditional is killing jazz (America). Here is Keith's entire speech. Replace the word "jazz" with "America" and the speech takes on a deeper significance.

"I know…it's different. But you say you wanna save jazz? How you gonna save jazz if no one's listening? Jazz is dying because of people like you. You're playing to 90 yr. olds at the Lighthouse, where are the kids? Where are the young people? You're so obsessed with Kenny Clarke and Theolnious Monk, these guys were revolutionaries,…how are you gonna be a revolutionary if you're such a traditionalist? You're holding onto the past, but jazz is about the future. I know, the other guy, he wasn't as good as you, but you're a pain in the ass."

Keith is making Obama's progressive argument about how to save America in the 21st century. Monk and Clarke are musicians that represent the 1950's, which is Sebastien's dream world. Keith/Obama, wants to transform America in order to save it. Seb is reluctant but gets on board because he needs the money and wants to be able to support Mia, and in the political sense, he does want America to flourish, so he gives Obama a try.

A closer examination shows that Keith is Seb's biggest problem. Keith takes him away from Mia with touring. Keith convinces Seb to compromise his principles for money, which reduces his attractiveness to Mia. And finally, Keith is the reason Seb misses Mia's one woman show because he needs Seb to do a PR photo-shoot.

Keith/Obama/Race are Seb's/traditional/conservative America's kryptonite, and he is never able to fully get control of his Keith issues. Even though Seb prospers while working with Keith, he is never happy or fulfilled working with him. 

This brings up a bunch of race issues that appear just under the surface of the film which I'll touch upon briefly later in this piece.


Mia is the color blue, and represents liberalism, progressivism, left-wing ideology and the democratic party. She yearns for an FDR New Deal type of politics or a European social democracy. Here are the indicators of that.

1. Ingrid Bergman

Mia has a giant poster of Ingrid Bergman on her bedroom wall in her apartment. There are dozens and dozens of actresses Mia could have on her wall, but she has Bergman, which means a great deal. Bergman, a Swedish actress, with Sweden being home to a renowned social democracy with stellar social programs that are greatly admired by American leftists, was a star in the 1940's…which was the height of FDR's New Deal America.

Bergman also was much more progressive for her time in her sexual politics as she became scandalized when she cheated on her husband with Italian director Roberto Rossellini. Bergman divorced her husband and married Rossellini, which was shocking for the time. So Bergman was not only a symbol of New Deal politics, but a pre-cursor to the sexual revolution. 

In addition, Bergman did win a Best Actress Oscar (her second), in 1956, which is in the heart of Seb's conservative American dream, but she won it for playing an amnesiac living in Paris who looked like the Russian Czar's daughter Anastasia. Russia, of course, being a symbol of socialism and Paris being a center of bohemian social democracy.

Ingrid Bergman also starred in "Casablanca", a film which Mia mentions by name. Mia says that a window right outside the coffee shop where she works, is the window Bogart and Bergman looked out of in Casablanca. In fact, the camera shot for the opening of this scene between Mia and Seb is from that exact window. This is followed by Seb asking who Mia's "Bogart" is? Meaning her boyfriend. This shows that Mia is, in fact, symbolically Ingrid Bergman. Another thing to keep in mind is that Casablanca came out in 1942 and won the Best Picture Oscar, during FDR's presidency. 

The Bergman poster in Mia's room takes up a whole wall, and there is a striking dash of blue on the lower left hand side of that wall, indicative of Bergman's symbolic connection to Mia's liberalism. 

When Mia moves out of her apartment and in with Seb, she brings her Bergman poster with her. There is a shot of it rolled up on the floor as she packs, but is never shown in Seb's apartment, meaning that Mia carries it with her, but wouldn't unveil it in Seb's "American" home.

2. Paris

Paris is a recurring theme for Mia. There is the obvious Ingrid Bergman connection with Paris, as both Casablanca and Anastasia are either set in, or revolve around Paris. But there is also Mia's aunt, who went to Paris and jumped in the Seine, as she sings about in her audition song. There is also Mia's one-woman show which is set in Paris. And there is the Warner Brothers studio lot where Mia works, which looks remarkably like Paris, including the little european car parked on the street. Mia even has a poster of Paris in her childhood bedroom at her parent's house in Boulder City, Nevada.

The biggest Paris connection for Mia is that her big break is a role in a film that shoots in Paris and she must go live there for 7 months. Seb tells her to go, but that he will stay in America even though Paris "has good jazz". Seb is America through and through, he can't leave, but Mia is liberalism and for her to flourish and become all that she can become, she must go to Paris, the preeminent European capital. 

3. Color

As previously mentioned, Mia's color is blue, for liberalism. But early in the film she is rushing to an audition and someone spills coffee on her white shirt. She ends up auditioning with a blue jacket covering her stained white shirt. This stain imagery appears later in the film when Mia talks on the phone with her mother and Seb overhears the conversation. Seb looks up and sees a similar brown stain that had been on Mia's white audition shirt, on the white ceiling. It is at this moment that Seb decides to take Keith up on his offer of a job. The stain on the pure white is a sign of decay. The decay for both Mia and Seb (and America) at those moments in the film are about their imperfections(and America's) and trying to cover them with ideology, in both cases liberalism.

Mia has other auditions that reveal the meaning of color throughout the film. When she plays a caring physician in one she wears blue (liberal) scrubs with a green background. When she plays a tough cop in one and says the line "damn Miranda rights!", she is wearing a cop uniform with a striking red (conservative) backdrop. And finally when she auditions as a white teacher in a Black school, and says the line, "why you be trippin' Jamal, why you be trippin'?'", she wears a red jacket.  The color red shows a rather conservative outlook on law and order and racial issues, where the blue shows a liberal outlook on caring for people. 

After the "Someone in the Crowd" party, Mia walks through a very blue downtown L.A. The entire city is lit in blue and the only place that isn't, is the dinner club where Seb is playing that night. There is a red light that is like a beacon, beckoning Mia to enter. Seb is the lone sign of traditionalism in the blue sea of L.A. That encounter does not go well for Mia as Seb is "curt" with her. Other red encounters end just as badly, like when she wears a red jacket to her callback audition and they stop her after just a few lines. The director, dressed in blue, instantly dismisses her. Mia leaves the audition and tears her red jacket off like it is poisoned. But as she drives home she drives past the Rialto where Rebel Without a Cause is playing and she smiles, reminded that traditionalism and conservatism (Seb) and a red jacket, might no be that bad after all. 

As Mia becomes more and more enamored by Seb, she wears more and more red or variations of red. Mia needs an injection of traditionalism and conservatism in order to succeed in the world, even though at her core she is a blue liberal. 


The ending sequence of the movie is very interesting and reveals a great deal about the sub-text of the entire narrative. A closer look reveals the political underpinnings of the story.

1. Mia

Mia is now a successful actress and her face is plastered on a giant poster right outside Seb's club. The poster is very reminiscent of the Bergman poster Mia had on her bedroom wall. Mia has become Ingrid Bergman by going to Paris and making her movie that catapults her to stardom.

Mia is also married to another man. He seems nice enough, but is extraordinarily dull. He does wear blue though, and has a blue tie on for their night out. An interesting little piece of information is that Mia's daughter wears a red bow in her hair. Mia has learned traditionalism from Seb, and she has passed it on to her daughter.

As Mia and her blue-tied husband are stuck in traffic, Mia is illuminated by red light from the car stopped in front of them, and she suddenly says they should get off the highway and go get dinner. After dinner, Mia and her husband walk to the car in a very blue L.A., and then the husband hears some music and they walk toward the red light. This is Mia's original meeting with Seb all over again. They enter the club and walk down into a sea of red. Mia then realizes this is Seb's place, and even sees the sign she designed, which is all in blue. 

As she sits next to her husband, Seb comes on stage in his red suit. He spots Mia and freezes.

2. Seb

Seb's club is ready to go and has a giant picture of John Coltrane on the wall right as you enter, just like Seb's apartment had a smaller picture of Coltrane. Coltrane died in 1967…right before Nixon took office and the sexual revolution truly took off, and traditionalism got steamrolled.

Seb lives alone, and has a seemingly monastic life, much like he did at the start of the film. He does have his club though, which acts as a Benedict Option or monastery to traditional values and conservatism amidst the all encompassing blue liberalism of L.A.

When Seb sees Mia and then plays their song on the piano at the club, they have a fantasy sequence. In the fantasy sequence, everything turns out perfectly for Mia, and it is predominantly colored in blue. The Paris she goes to is overwhelmingly blue, except for the red light of a jazz club sign, and smatterings of red along the Seine, like a little boys red balloon and a red flower. But Paris is really blue. And Seb can only visit there in a fantasy.

When we see "home movies" of Seb and Mia's relationship and her pregnancy and child, it is all done in the style of 1950's home movies. The family is the symbol of tradition and that would be Seb's success in this fantasy. His dream is to perpetuate his traditional values and in his dream with Mia he does that with their marriage and child. 

When Seb and Mia go out to dinner, Seb wears a blue suit and tie, just like Mia's real life husband. They sneak out past their son, who wears red, white and blue striped pajamas, and the babysitter, who wears purple. They have made the perfect American family, a blend of liberalism and conservatism wrapped in traditionalism. The second half of the dream leans far to Seb's side just as the first half leaned toward Mia's side. As Seb has his perfect 1950's, pre-sexual revolution family, he also has a Latina nanny.

As Seb and Mia sit and listen to the piano player at the dream jazz club, Mia sits curled toward Seb, and he toward her. She has her left hand over his heart, and he has his left hand on her lap. They are connected through the left. In contrast, when Mia sits in the same club with her real life husband, they sit not touching at all. They aren't even should to shoulder, but have a table between them. This shows that Mia has compromised love to be with her real husband. 

3. The Actual Ending

The ending where Mia leaves the club and stops to look at Seb can be seen as bittersweet. Mia doesn't love her husband like she loved or loves Seb. When she looks to Seb she is worried about how Seb will react. He pauses and then smiles, and she returns the smile. Seb smiles because Mia has been taught his traditional values, and she proves that by sacrificing her happiness in order to maintain her family and raise her child. She doesn't leave her husband and child to be with Seb, which is what a child of the sexual revolution would do, or Ingrid Bergman. Instead she acknowledges the lessons Seb taught her and which she integrated into her liberal value system, and has made a new system that is partially traditional and conservative, and partially liberal and progressive. With the lessons from Seb, Mia has overcome the criticism Seb has of liberalism, that it "worships everything and values nothing."

 Interestingly though, in both the fantasy and real life jazz club scenarios, Mia does not wear blue, but wears black…which is the first time she has done that in the entire film. I believe this is symbolic of her becoming a void where no color can enter and where no stains can appear.

Seb smiles at Mia because he realizes that he has passed his traditionalism on to her. Seb will gladly sacrifice his happiness to know that traditionalism and conservatism live on beyond him. He has carved out a small corner of the world where his Jazz and traditionalism can thrive in the blue sea of L.A. When he realizes that Mia has learned this "valuable" lesson and is not going to leave her husband, he smiles…his job is done. And then he gets back to the music…one, two, three, four...


As previously mentioned, the main Black character, Keith, is a symbol of Obama, and of Seb's discomfort with racial issues. Keith is not the only Black character that reveals things of note though. Here are some of the others.

1. Seb's Sister

Seb's sister gets engaged and then married to a Black man. We never hear him speak and never know his name. Seb plays at their wedding. As Seb's sister and her Black husband dance and kiss at the reception, the camera pans over the wedding party and the mix of races and then settles on Seb playing the piano. In the context of the film's narrative, Seb is melancholy over his break up with Mia, but I believe this sequence is meant to reveal Seb's melancholy over his sister marrying a Black man. This is another sign of Seb's dream of a 1950's America dying before his eyes. I also think this is why Seb is so reluctant when his sister says she has a woman she wants him to meet at the beginning of the film. Seb knows his sister is not a "traditional" American like him, and therefore the woman could be Black or of another ethnicity, so Seb wants nothing to do with it. 

2. Black Couple on the Pier

After Seb goes to Mia's work and has a great day with her, he ends up alone on the pier and sings a little song. The sun is setting and there is an older Black couple a little further out on the pier. Seb whistles and then sings "City of Stars". He sees an old style hat lying on the ground and picks it up. He brushes it off and does a little dance move with it but never puts it on. 

He walks over to the Black couple, who both wear blue, and hands the hat (which looks strikingly similar to the hat worn by Thelonious Monk on the Monk's Dream album cover!) to the man who thanks him with a gesture. Seb then takes the Black woman and dances slowly with her. As he takes her hand to initiate the dance he sings the line, "Who knows, is this the start of something wonderful and new.." and he then spins the woman. After the spin he sings, "or one more dream..". Right after saying "dream", the Black man slaps Seb's arm to get him to let go of his wife. Seb does and then walks off singing, "that I cannot make true". The Black couple dance together in the background as Seb exits the shot. 

This entire sequence reveals Seb's and America's struggle with racial issues as he tries to reach out to people of color, but is rebuffed. The Black man, is pleased to have his hat returned, which could symbolize the civil rights act of 1964, but doesn't appreciate Seb getting to comfy with his wife. It is intriguing that Seb sings of "one more dream" and then the man slaps him. "Dream" conjures images of Dr. King's famous "I Have a Dream" speech, which to many feels still unfulfilled. Seb (traditional/conservative America) may have thought that everything was cool after the hat return (civil rights act), but that is proven not to be the case.

3. Opening Sequence Dancers

There are two Black dancers in the opening fantasy dance number on the highway that I think are important to notice. The first Black dancer, is a young woman in a green shirt. She gets out of a red car when a white man in a red shirt opens the door for her, and he then helps her up onto the hood of the car. Once on the hood she dances and then does a flip off the hood. The person driving that car wears a red and white baseball hat with a large "X" on the front. 

This sequence reveals a certain perspective on America's racial history. The white man freeing the Black woman from her imprisonment in the red car of America. He then gives her a helping hand up and she dances in joy. Then the X-capped character (Malcolm X and his version of Black Conservatism?) comes out and dances with a woman in red. The Black woman then flips, the world turned upside down momentarily, until she is right side up again and off to the side. 

The second Black woman of note is a featured singer who wears a blue denim outfit and a pink bandana on her head. The striking thing about this woman is that she wears her bandana in an Aunt Jemima style, which conjures memories of a much bleaker time in America for people of color. She also sings the lyrics, "and even when the answer's no, and when my money is running low" as she dances with a White man in a red tie. This White man, another featured singer, is the one who unleashes the burst of glorious music from the big blue truck that brings everyone, people of all colors and backgrounds, together for a dance party. The shot right before he opens the truck to reveal the modern day revolutionary pipers, there is the red of a nearby Black man's outfit, the White man's white shirt, and the blue of the truck. This is America at its finest, but it is born out of the Black woman with the bandana and the White man with the red tie, singing together. 

The racial underbelly of La La Land is pretty interesting. It is striking how people react to the Black characters in the film who aren't background jazz musicians. What this says about America and its history I will leave to the reader.


On its surface, La La Land is a musical love story, but the deeper you dive into the picture, the more layers of narrative intrigue are revealed. The symbolic use of color and the sub-text of political ideology tell a far deeper and more meaningful story than the surface entertainment alone that many believe La La Land to be. 

I encourage you to go watch the film again, or many times over again, and see if you think I am crazy or if there is something to what I am saying. If nothing else, it will make you watch the film in a different way, which is always a good exercise for a cinephile.

The opening dance number alone is worthy of an article all to itself, as are each of the musical numbers, but frankly, I don't have the time to get into it at the moment. Hopefully this overview of the film is good enough to satiate any other people out there like me who love this sort of stuff. I don't think there are very many of us…so if you do exist…let me know.

And finally, to answer your questions before you ask them…Yes, I have way too much time on my hands (even though I really don't). No, I don't have a life or any friends. And yes…this article is pure insanity…no scratch that…this is pure lunacy…pure lunacy. (If you watch the film closely enough you'll get that reference!!)

© 2017


La La Land is Hollywood's Version of "Make America Great Again"

Estimated Reading Time : 5 minutes 18 seconds


La La Land is Hollywood’s version of “Make America Great Again”

 Hollywood is revolted by Trump, and Trump voters resent Hollywood, but both are enchanted by the same quintessentially American myth. The optimistic nostalgia of Trump’s “Make America Great Again” and La La Land are proof of the delusional fairy tale that binds us all together.

“People love what other people are passionate about” – Mia

 La La Land, which is nominated for a record tying 14 Academy Awards, is a fantasy-musical that tells the story of Mia, a barista and aspiring actress, and Sebastian, a struggling musician, as they navigate their relationship and the travails of life in Hollywood. While the story of Mia and Sebastian is a play on the age-old musical love story, the more elemental myth at the films core is one of passionately delusional confidence and a wistful yearning for a return to glory.

Just like the premise of La La Land, Trump’s candidacy was founded on a similar type of exuberant expectation and backward-looking inspiration. Trump’s “Make America Great Again” was nebulous and hopeful, just like previous successful campaigns, from Reagan’s “It’s Morning Again in America”, to Bill Clinton’s “Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow” to Obama’s “Hope and Change” and “Yes We Can”. This upbeat and anticipatory message has successfully played upon American’s hopeful idealism for generations.

 “How are you going to be a revolutionary if you’re such a traditionalist? You hold onto the past, but Jazz is about the future.” – Keith

 Trump’s harkening back to a past time of national grandeur is echoed in La La Land as well. The film is a cinematic ode to Hollywood’s history. Mia, played by Emma Stone, was raised on vintage movies and works at a coffee shop on a studio lot, where she can point out where all the classic scenes of old were shot. In addition, Sebastian, played by Ryan Gosling, is a jazz purist, traditionalist and staunch idealist. Jazz, the kind Sebastian reveres, was at its creative heights in the 1940’s, 50’s and early 60’s, which coincides with Hollywood’s golden age of the classical musical. This pre-1960’s revolution era, is often thought to be the time Trump refers to when he proclaims he is going to  “Make America Great Again”.

 “I’m letting life hit me ‘til it gets tired. Then I’ll hit back. It’s a classic rope a dope.” – Sebastian

 Like Trump the billionaire, selling the American success story, La La Land reinforces the age-old Hollywood rags to riches tale. If Mia, the barista, works hard enough, and believes strong enough, then her dream of making it as an actress will become reality. As an acting coach out here in Los Angeles, I can testify that there is a never ending tide of young people from across the country who come here inspired by that same story. They may or may not have talent, or looks, or a work ethic, but like Mia, they all have a dream and limitless ambition.

 “They worship everything and value nothing.” – Sebastian

 And I know, “regular” people in Middle-America may laugh at these eager would-be actors and think they’re foolish for following their dream. I understand, it seems ridiculous from the outside looking in, but left coast liberals think the same of their flyover country opposites. Those Springsteen voters, the white-working class Trump supporters from the rust belt, seem just as optimistically foolhardy as the fresh-off-the-bus, wannabe starlets who come to Tinseltown by the thousands to claim their millions. The ingénue has La La Land as inspiration, and the Springsteen voter has Trump as aspirational figure. Both are certainly being unrealistic and impractical, but that doesn’t mean their dreams won’t come true, just that it’s a very long shot at best.

 The thing about Americans, regardless of political party, race or religion is that they not only want to believe, they need to believe. Americans will buy into anyone or anything that restores their belief in their country or themselves. Making people “believe” in their dreams has been the film industry’s goal from day one. The Hollywood sign might as well be a banner that says “Dreams For Sale” that looms over the entire city. Trump has made a name, a fortune and a presidency, out of doing the same thing. Trump has convinced, and his opponents would say “conned”, people into putting their trust into him to restore their dream for the country.

 “You’re a barista, I can see how you can look down on me from all the way up there.” – Sebastian

 While both Trump and La La Land are selling sentimentality for a bygone era, they’re also putting a new twist on that old song and dance. For instance, La La Land is not just a rehash of the old classical musical, but is a reimaging of the musical genre, it is a “millennial musical”, if you will. The film is intentionally less polished, and therefore seemingly more genuine, that its glitzy and fancy forebears. The film’s two stars, Gosling and Stone, are good enough at singing and dancing, but not nearly as technically impeccable as the classically-trained musical stars of old. The reason for this is their short-comings make them more human and therefore appealing to the modern audience which values relate-ability over all else.

 Trump is similar in that he is a politician for the millennial age. His speeches are not like the speeches of the consummate politicos he went up against. He speaks roughly, off-the-cuff, just like his audience. That is why Trump resonated with those Springsteen voters, they thought that even though he was a silver-spooned billionaire, he was rough around the edges, like them. As with La La Land, it is Trump’s flaws that made him more attractive to his crowds, because it made him approachable.

 “Maybe I’m not good enough!” – Mia

 “Yes you are!” – Sebastian

 “Maybe I’m not, it’s like a pipe dream!” – Mia

 “This is the dream! It’s conflict and compromise, and it’s very, very exciting!” – Sebastian

 As an example of the psychological need many people have for myth, I will relate a brief anecdote. I had a discussion many years ago with an actor who was in his late-seventies. He was a tremendous guy, gigantic heart, just the salt of the earth. He had never had any success as an actor at all, none, but he loved doing it and he hustled his butt off to look for work. To give you an indication of where he was in his career, at the time of our conversation, his only work was volunteering as a stand-up comedian at a nursing home. We were chatting one day about our lives and our love of acting, film and theatre, when he paused as if to compose himself.

 He slowly turned to me and looked me right in the eye and with a deeply moving sincerity he said, “I gotta tell you, Mick, sometimes I wonder…am I ever going to make it?”

 I was taken aback by his heartfelt emotion, I kept silent but put my hand on his shoulder to reassure him.

 He then said, “I don’t know what I’m gonna do if I don’t make it.”

 I knew very well that he was never going to “make it”, but seeing the desolation in his eyes at even the briefest consideration of that fact, reinforced my decision not to burst his bubble.

 It would be easy to think of my starry-eyed compatriot as a fool or crazy, as his pie-in-the-sky vision of stardom was obviously a pipe dream. But like the unemployed machinist in Youngstown or the former assembly line worker in Flint, my old-timer pal wasn’t insane, just a hopeless dreamer. My friend, like those rust belt Trump voters, wanted to believe that his life could be better. He needed to believe in the fable that Hollywood presented to him, just like regular Americans need to believe in the tale Trump is offering them, which happens to be the same. This myth gave my friend’s life meaning just as Trump has given a purpose to those who felt like they had none.

“Here’s to the one’s who dream, foolish as they may seem. Here’s to the hearts that ache. Here’s to the mess we make.’ – Mia

 My friend has long since died, his dreams of theatrical notoriety buried with him. I don’t doubt that he would have loved La La Land as it would have spoken to his inherent love of the fantastical and his eternal hope for the impossible, just like Springsteen voters love Trump.

 The title of the film La La Land has two meanings, the first, is that it is a nickname for the movie’s setting, the city of Los Angeles and Hollywood. The second definition of the term is “a fanciful state or dream world.”  La La Land, its title’s multiple meanings and the parable at its core, are a wonderful metaphor for the current state of America. Whether we want to admit it or not, we all live in La La Land now. 

Previously published at RT


Welcome to La La Land!!

Estimated Reading Time : 5 minutes 27 seconds


The phrase La La Land has two meanings, one is shorthand for the city of Los Angeles and Hollywood, the second “a fanciful state or dreamworld.”  Both the movie La La Land and the terms two definitions directly apply to the current delusional state of America.

This past January, the film La La Land, which cleverly plays upon both definitions of that term, was nominated for a record-tying 14 Academy Awards. The movie, a fantasy-musical, tells the story of Mia, a young aspiring actress, and Sebastian, a struggling musician, as they navigate their relationship and the travails of life in Hollywood.

At its heart though, La La Land is really just another of Hollywood’s cinematic odes to itself. Like Narcissus falling deeply in love with his own reflection, Hollywood adores gazing at itself lovingly. La La Land is one more in a long line of movies that allows Hollywood to tell a story about how wonderful it is. From Show People in 1928 to Gene Kelly in Singin’ in the Rain to Fellini's 8 1/2 to 2011 Oscar winner The Artist, and lots of movies in between, the film industry has a long history of rewarding moviemakers who spend time celebrating Hollywood’s favorite subject, itself.

 The scorn heaped on Hollywood for its vain and congratulatory view of itself along with its eternal frivolity, is hard earned and well deserved. But don’t kid yourself, Hollywood’s brazen self-worship and facetiousness is just a symptom of a much more widespread disease of delusional self-love and un-seriousness that has infected the entirety of our culture. For this reason and others, I believe that La La Land is indeed the perfect film for our times.

 To see an example of La La Land as both “a fanciful state or dreamworld” and an act of ludicrous self-absorption, one need look no further than our nation's capital. We have just finished two weeks of the Trump administration, and our current Narcissist-in-Chief and the odious press corps who hang on his every word, have shown an astonishing level of egoism and frivolity that is easily on par with their navel-gazing counterparts out here in Tinseltown.

The vainglorious Trump spent his first weeks in office arguing with the pompous media about the size of his inauguration crowd and the millions of people he claimed had voted illegally for Hillary Clinton. It was even revealed that Trump had pressured the Parks Service to find proof for his inauguration crowd number claims. The insidiously dramatic press covered Trump’s vacuous claims like they were Soviet naval maneuvers during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Meanwhile, America’s drone war continues unabated in the Middle Eastthe U.S. backed war in Yemen rages on and Navy SEALs murdered an 8 year old American girl with nary a mention from our intrepid reporters in the commercial media. If this isn’t La La Land, I don’t know what is.

Just like the film La La Land is an example of Hollywood’s undying self-admiration, the kerfluffle over the inauguration is an example of the virulent narcissism of both Trump and the media. A story so inconsequential as the attendance figures at an inauguration can only be relevant because it is serves as a proxy for the pissing contest between Trump and the media. Neither the President nor the press, gives a flying fuck about the American people, only their own self-interests. In a battle for egoic supremacy, Trump and the press corps have battled to a stand still thus far, but we are only two weeks in and this repugnant nonsense appears to have no end in sight.

Trump’s vanity and egocentricity were entertaining when he played himself on the Celebrity Apprentice, but in the role of President they are deeply disconcerting. At least with the film La La Land, Hollywood’s self-aggrandizing but whimsical nature will keep you occupied for two hours, but then you can leave the theatre and return to real life. You can’t walk out of Trump’s America, or away from his desperate and delusional self-worship and triviality, or from the cocky, puffed up, braggadocio he calls his foreign policy,  or from the administration's fantastical claims of Iranian acts of war or imaginary massacres in middle America.

 In addition to the bafflingly myopic egotism of President Trump, we have a rabid yet impotent press corps devoid of any interest in subjects of any depth or substance. A great example of this was a few weeks ago when President Obama commuted Chelsea Manning’s thirty-five year sentence for violating the Espionage Act. While watching cable news I witnessed segment after segment that discussed Manning’s genitals, Obama’s supposed compassion and even Julian Assange’s alleged vanity, but not once did anyone mention the most critical part of the Manning story, the war crimes that she had revealed. Talk about living in La La Land.

 This is typical for our mainstream media, they only cover the salacious and insubstantial, like Manning’s transgenderism or Trump’s delusional inauguration attendance numbers, while ignoring or diminishing the more profound and morally troubling stories, like American war crimes, the Navy SEALs murdering an 8 year old American girl, and the continuing devastation in Yemen.

 Hollywood, Trump and the mainstream media are all in the same business, the business of giving the people what they want. Hollywood deceives itself with a vision of its own magnificence with the movie La La Land, while Trump cons America with a revisionist form of utopianism with “Make America Great Again”, and the press deludes itself with self-serving grandiosity by thinking that they are all Woodward and Bernstein breathlessly breaking their own Watergate (and no doubt dreaming of who will play them in the movie!) with the inauguration numbers story.

 The curious thing about Hollywood, Trump and the mainstream media is that they all loathe one another because they mirror back to each other their own malignant and delusional narcissism. When Hollywood rants against the reality TV star turned politician Trump, it is because he reflects back at them their own self-absorption and furious hunger for validation. When Trump rages against the commercial media it is because he despises them for mirroring back to him his own staggeringly deep-seeded insecurities and tenuous relationship with the truth. And the commercial media detest Trump because he echoes back to them their own asinine vacuity and superciliousness.

 And even though we in the public would like to think otherwise, we are no better. We love Trump, Hollywood or the media for the lies they tell us, and for allowing us to live in our own “fanciful state or dreamworld”. Whichever one of the three tells us what we want to hear, they are the one that we will believe. Whoever tells us contrary facts, we will mercilessly label as a liar. What matters most is not the Truth, but that we are proven right. So we filter our newsfeeds to buttress our viewpoint and confirm our bias. We use cognitive dissonance in order to avoid any mental or emotional anxiety brought on by information that conflicts with our previously held worldview.

A brief look at the polls proves my point, Clinton voters cling to any and all stories that reaffirm the belief that the election was tampered with by Russia or the FBI. And Trump voters embrace any story that he tells them, from his claim of winning the popular vote to there being three to five million fraudulent votes for his opponent.

We have gotten the La La Land country and culture we deserve. Hollywood gives us the garbage movies we demand because we throw money at them to see one empty-headed sequel after another and then complain that no one has any original ideas anymore. We have the President we have earned because like us, he is a self-absorbed charlatan who sells the hungry public “a fanciful state and dreamworld” and yet we complain of fake news and living in a post-truth world. And finally, we get the media we deserve, a vacuous and insipid bunch of self-centered drama queens who entertain us with conflict rather than inform us with content because we prefer to be lost in the fantasy of La La Land than wake up to the stark reality of the cold hard world.

 You can make fun of me, and my artistic compatriots, out here in the original La La Land for our delusional self-love and substance-free storytelling, but don’t kid yourself, the rest of America is just as deluded, self-absorbed and shallow as we are. Two weeks into the Trump administration, and we have all officially taken up residence in a Hollywood-esque La La Land, or fanciful dreamworld, where egomania, cognitive dissonance and confirmation bias rule the day, and Truth is a stranger in a strange land. Unlike in the contrived fantasy world of the film La La Land, in the real world, I seriously doubt we will get a happy ending.


Express Yourself? Madonna Don't Preach!

Estimated Reading Time : 4 minutes 11 seconds


At the Women’s March on Washington this past Saturday, Madonna tried to cut President Trump down to size with an impassioned speech, but she ended up helping her opponents and hurting her cause.  

Let me say right up front that I am not one of those people who thinks celebrities should never talk about politics. I feel that all Americans, celebrities included, should share their thoughts as they see fit. Of course, I also believe that people, celebrities most especially due to the size of their audience, should be held to account for what they say. Which brings us to Madonna and the Women’s March on Washington inauguration weekend.

 At the anti-Trump/pro-woman event this past weekend, Madonna gave a profanity-laced speech where she said, in part, “Yes, I am angry. Yes, I am outraged. Yes, I’ve thought about blowing up the White House”.  No doubt the Secret Service are drawing straws right now to see who gets stuck with the miserable assignment of interviewing the erstwhile Material Girl. While most people will chalk up Madonna’s statement as just a bit of emotionalist nonsense, the Secret Service, sadly for them, don’t have that luxury.

While the 58 year-old, former pop-princess isn’t entirely culturally irrelevant, she can certainly see irrelevance from her backyard. Madonna’s artistic insignificance aside, her diatribe at the rally this past weekend will no doubt bring her some much-desired attention, but it will also most certainly undermine the anti-Trump cause for which she alleges to be speaking.  

Problem number one with Madonna’s speech is that you cannot decry what you consider to be Donald Trump’s outrageous statements by making outrageous statements of your own. Doing so only serves to highlight your own hypocrisy and diminish and normalize what you believe to be Trump’s inappropriateness. In addition, violent speech, whether it comes from Madonna or Trump or anyone else, simply cannot be permitted to stand unchallenged in the public square. Violent speech eventually can lead to violent action. This was on display at a Trump rally in North Carolina during the campaign where a protestor was sucker-punched by a Trump supporter after candidate Trump had talked of getting tough with unwanted agitators. Conversely, this past weekend, alt-right leader Richard Spencer got punched in the face in broad daylight by a masked man while giving an interview on a street corner in Washington D.C. Regardless of what you may think of the protestor at the Trump rally or of Richard Spencer, there can be no tolerance for violence towards people because of their political beliefs. If you can’t convince people of your argument with your words, you certainly won’t convince them with your fists.

Speaking of failing to convince people of your arguments, who, exactly, was Madonna trying to sway with her diatribe? Like Meryl Streep’s recent speech at the Golden Globes, Madonna’s tirade was not meant to persuade anyone, only to preach to the already converted.  Madonna and Meryl both gave their immediate audiences what they wanted, and got the cheers they expected, the problem though is that while their speeches were directed towards those who agree with them inside the Hollywood bubble, ‘regular’ people in flyover country heard them as well.  Among those flyover folks are the swing voters democrats need to convince if they want to stop Trump and get back into power. I am willing to bet those 80,000 or so working class white voters, or as I call them “Springsteen voters”, who voted Obama twice and put Trump over the top in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin in 2016, were less enamored with Madonna’s screed than the true-blue liberals cheering her at the Women’s March.

 President Trump tweeted his response to the protests. “Watched protests yesterday but was under the impression we just had an election! Why didn’t these people vote? Celebs hurt cause badly.” I am not a Trump voter or supporter, truth is I dislike him “bigly”. That said, he is spot-on about that last part, “Celebs hurt cause badly”. Trump knows his target audience extremely well, and he is well aware that Americans in the Heartland, chief among them the “Springsteen Voters”, are tired of being preached to and looked down upon by liberal coastal elites, so anytime a celebrity or the media attacks him, Trump gets considerably stronger and his opposition gets weaker.

 While Madonna’s rant may have felt good to her personally and momentarily excited her cohorts in the democratic base, it was terribly counter-productive in terms of a strategic resistance to Trump. Madonna and Meryl Streep are both so deeply entrenched in their own epistemic echo chamber that they are unable to grasp how their harangues are heard by the great, unwashed masses in Middle America. To swing-voting ‘regular’ Americans, these anti-Trump speeches are not heard as heartfelt emotional rebuttals against President Trump, rather they are heard as the self-serving tantrums of spoiled entertainers.

 If celebrities want to truly help their cause and hurt Trump, they need to stop thinking and acting emotionally and start thinking and acting strategically. Instead of urgently reacting to everything Trump says, they should methodically and rationally respond to what Trump does. They should be all the things they claim Donald Trump is not, they should be measured, calm and thoughtful. Before they utter a single word, they should think about how those pivotal Springsteen voters in the Rust Belt will hear the message they are trying to convey. Those swing voters can be convinced, and democrats have swayed them before, so instead of calling them racists or idiots or misogynists because they voted Trump, liberals should lick their wounds and then set out to methodically persuade them back to their point of view using logic and reason and not emotion.

 One final point, here is a piece of anecdotal evidence I will share with you. On the day after the Women’s March, I had a discussion with my neighbor here in Los Angeles. She is a woman in her late thirties originally from Pennsylvania (everyone who lives here is from somewhere else). When the subject of the Woman’s March came up she told me that “all of her female friends” had gone to the march. I was really surprised and impressed to hear this and it made me think the rally and resistance to Trump had a deep base and were very wide spread. I then rattled off a list of names of her friends from Pennsylvania, asking if they went to the march.

“Did Lisa go?”


 “Did Jenny go?”


 “Did Karen go?”

 “No. None of my friends from Pennsylvania went, only my friends from LA.”

 “Oh,” I said, the bigger picture becoming more clear, “but what did your Pennsylvania friends say about the march on Facebook?”

 My friend paused a moment and then replied, “They didn’t really comment on it at all.”

 This conversation is one of the reasons why I believe that Madonna and other celebrities fail so miserably when they carelessly attack Trump. Madonna and Meryl Streep’s fellow travelers in the liberal big cities will cheer their every word, but the “Springsteen voters” who can make the electoral difference in Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, will either tune out, be turned off to the liberal cause or be turned on to Trump at the sound of celebrity political pontification, even when it comes from their idol Bruce Springsteen.

 I am sure Madonna felt invigorated giving her speech surrounded by adoring fans this past Saturday, but she won’t feel so great when she has to give another speech to the same group of down-trodden liberals after Trump’s inauguration in January of 2021. If these celebrities really care about the anti-Trump cause, they would be most wise to think long and hard before assailing him so recklessly. Everyone has the right to speak, but strategically it is sometimes best to keep your mouth shut. As the old saying goes, “better to remain quiet and be thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt”.

Previously published on January 24, 2017 at RT.


President Trump : A Viewer's Guide

ESTIMATED READING TIME: 2 minutes 48 seconds


President Trump has been in office for less than a week and it has already been quite a ride. In an attempt to try and understand the man we are dealing with in the Oval Office, I have put together a collection of scenes from films. These scenes highlight the myths and archetypes that are alive and well and living at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. It would be wise for you, dear reader, to seek out and watch these films in their entirety again, or for the first time, in order to get a primer on what we have in store for the next four to eight years. 

So, sit back, relax, and enjoy a preview of our potential future and a glimpse into the psyche and soul of America's 45th President, Donald J. Trump as brought to you by the art of cinema. 


A Face in the Crowd, is directed by Elia Kazan and stars Andy Griffith, yes, THAT Andy Griffith, as a drunken, southern, ne'er do well, con artist who is blessed with an intoxicating charm and a gift for the gab. Griffith's performance is outstanding, as is Kazan's direction, but what makes the film worth watching now is to see the prescient representation of the money and power-hungry huckster and charlatan that lives deep in the soul of Trump, and that many American's have fallen prey to. Here is a brief scene to give you a taste, but please check out the film in its entirety when you have a chance, it is remarkably well done.


Citizen Kane is an easy choice, so easy that even a dimwitted buffoon like Chris Matthews could and did pick up on it, making a documentary last year titled Citizen Trump. I bring it up here because it is really uncanny how Trump and Kane are thematically intertwined. Trump's narcissism is born out of a childhood father wound, just as Kane's egomania is born out of his childhood wound. Both men have spent their entire lives pursuing their Rosebud, and the world has had to suffer the consequences of that hole in their psyche. As further proof of Kane as Trump, here he is giving a political speech where he promises to lock up his corrupt opponent. Sound familiar?


The Apostle is a brilliant film showcasing a mesmerizing performance from one of the all-time greats, Robert Duvall. In this scene we get a glimpse of what it must be like for Donald Trump at 4 a.m. when his fragile ego and pulsating father wound are screaming out for recognition as a sign that he has some value and worth. As Duvall's character rants to God, imagine Trump, sweaty and agitated, taking to twitter to find validation and redemption in conquering imagined enemies and getting revenge for imagined slights.  


Oliver Stone's Nixon, is one of his underrated masterpieces. Sir Anthony Hopkins gives a magnificent performance as Pre-Trump America's most insecure president. This scene is a glimpse of President Nixon doing his best Trump impersonation, firing anyone who doesn't cow to his demands. Nixon's resentment of elites and low self-esteem fueled his self-destructive tendencies, no doubt Trump will fall prey to the same egoic traps. Please go watch Nixon for a best-case scenario preview of the Trump administration. 


Daniel Plainview, the lead character in There Will Be Blood, has the same hole in his soul as Donald Trump. Plainview must win at all costs and destroy his enemies no matter what the price. Plainview, like Trump, takes every slight personally, even where none exist. And he will move mountains to exact his revenge and stand a top those who looked down their noses at him. This scene is what I imagine Trump would be like at a dinner with the Bush family and the establishment Republicans. 


Daniel Day-Lewis is one of the great actors of our time, and in There Will Be Blood he pulls out all the stops. This scene, which is the end of the film, is what I imagine Trump would be like when he meets with the democratic party. Trump stole their milkshake, their old-time economic populist message, and he makes them beg and plead for him to stop tormenting them. Plainview goes mad in his quest for respect and revenge, and I don't doubt that Trump will go similarly insane.


Apocalypse Now is one of the greatest films ever made. This scene along the Do Long Bridge, perfectly captures the chaotic madness of America's war in Vietnam. I think it also captures the pandemonium and disorder that will descend upon the American government under the rule of Trump.

"Who's the commanding officer here? "

"Ain't you?"

"Hey soldier, you know who's in command here?"


That sums it up perfectly.


Not surprisingly, Oliver Stone gets a second film on the list. Wall Street is the inspiration for many, if not most, of the guys working on Wall Street back in my day and today, except they don't see Gordon Gekko as a villain, they revere him as an idol. Michael Douglas' Gekko is a masterful acting job, and his lesson to Bud Fox on capitalism should be taught to every child in school when they learn of President Trump's reign. Gekko is how Trump sees himself in his minds eye…the business acumen, the toughness, the brains, the guile. But in reality Trump is a silver-spooned brat who was born on third base and thinks he hit a triple. I know Gordon Gekko, and Donald Trump is no Gordon Gekko.


You can't have a list of movie scenes about a rich douchebag like Trump without having Gordon Gekko's iconic "greed is good" speech. Gekko's brilliant monologue is compelling and convincing. If Trump were wise, he'd just play this clip at his first State of the Union address, drop the mic and walk off the stage, because this is America's unquestioned mantra, and has been from time immemorial.


Another easy choice, Network is one of the great films of all-time and is so prescient about our current state of affairs that it is eery. Trump is Howard Beale, a man who tapped into the resentment and rage that seethes just beneath the surface of our arrogant and delusional American exceptionalism. Trump understands what none of the establishment fools can grasp, that people don't care about solutions, or ideas, or policy, they just want to feel...SOMETHING. Sometimes they want to feel good, sometimes they want to feel angry. Trump is catharsis for the anger that is bubbling up from the dark shadow of our nation and enveloping the collective consciousness. 


A second scene from Network reveals what I imagine to be the monologue/conversation that the Deep State has with President Trump if he actually tries to govern as an economic populist. Paddy Chayefsky's script perfectly captures the the truth of our world, and cuts through the propaganda and bullshit that we gorge upon everyday at the mainstream/commercial media trough.


In Kubrick's cold war masterpiece, the world is brought to the brink of destruction and beyond, but thankfully we have the comedic genius of Peter Sellers showing us a feckless U.S. president in action. When the shit hits the fan, and it most certainly will, Trump's adolescent bluster will be a mask for the scared whimper of Trump's lonely little inner boy. President Merkin Muffley is Trump without the combover, stripped of all his defenses.


Trump, ever the lecherous pervert, will be easily manipulated by those trying to control him who will tap into his more base instincts. No doubt the intelligence community and military industrial complex are setting honey traps for him at this very moment. I am sure Trump's administration are making a list of the most desirable candidates to accompany our pussy grabbing Commander in Chief into the bunker. President Trump and his little hands will have his pick of all the beauties in the Miss Post-Apocalyptic World Pageant!!

That's it folks. A festering father wound, malignant narcissism and an Oedipal complex, and that's not even the half of it. If you think that's bad, imagine how mentally and emotionally ill the nation that elected him is!

Hope you enjoyed our fun little jaunt through some great films and outstanding acting to get a taste of the archetypal demons that hound the psyche of the most powerful man on the planet. See you at the funhouse.





As Ringling Brothers Closes Its Doors, Cirque du Trump and the Media Clownshow Takes Center Stage

ESTIMATED READING TIME : 5 minutes 01 seconds.

This past Saturday, January 14th, Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus announced they are ending their 146 year run as The Greatest Show on Earth. Concidentially, a new circus, The Cirque du trump and Media Clownshow, is poised to take its place.

The term "synchronicity", loosely defined as a "meaningful coincidence", came to my mind when I learned of the news that Ringling Brothers was shutting down this coming May. After the freak show that was the 2016 election, the carnival that has been the Turmp transition and the media circus that has covered them both, it strikes me as a "meaningful coincidence" that The Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus has decided they can't hold the public's attention any longer. The circus market is officially saturated since the most astonishing media spectacle the world has ever known is coming to the public square for at least a four year engagement.

The Ringling Brothers Circus bought the Barnum & Bailey Circus in 1906, with the two shows officially combined to perform together for the first time in 1919. The new circus replacing it, the Cirque du trump and Media Clownshow, is a child of circus marriage too, between the Trump Circus, which has been operating for the last forty years or so with a P.T. Barnum-esque level of commitment to self-promotion, and the repugnant Media Circus, also known as The Clownshow, which has been lying, distorting  and self-aggrandizing, since at least the time of William Randolph Hearst.


Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus gave themselves the moniker "The greatest Show on Earth", but Trump, with his improbable 2016 election victory, is undoubtedly the "Greatest Showmen on Earth", better than Barnum, Bailey and all of the Ringling Brothers combined. Naturally, Trump is the unquestioned ringleader of Cirque du Trump and Media Clownshow. he is part carnival barker, part high wire act, part clown, part acrobat and part lion-tamer. Like the carnival barker he will draw viewers to the show with his curiously flamboyant hair and bold declarations of remarkable abilities and accomplishments. Like the tightrope walker he will leave everyone on the edge of their seats with his death-defying (hopefully) foreign, military and economic policy. Like the clown he will amuse and offend millions with his defensive midnight tweet storms. Like the acrobat, he will astound and amaze with his ability to politically contort and contradict himself, sometimes even in the span of a single sentence. And finally, like the lion-tamer, Trump will manipulate the mindless media to do what he wants, when he wants, either by throwing them a distracting piece of read meat, or cracking the whip on their backsides.


What makes Cirque du Trump's accompanying Media Clownshow so entertaining is that they are unaware of their comedic brilliance. Examples of their gut-busting comedy abound., like when they rail against the scourge of fake news…while reporting a plethora of fake news. Or how they breathlessly declare that Intel reports are "definitive and devastating" proof of Russian interference in the U.S. election, but then also say the same dispatch is entirely evidence-free. Or how with stern-faced seriousness, they broadcast a story on a dossier that alleges that Donald Trump not only adorns his buildings with gold, but likes to watch people shower in it too. The ribald comedy of the "Golden Shower" story is two-fold. First, it is a story so vacuous and devoid of any substance or proof that even a feckless shill like Bob Woodward describe it as a "garbage dossier". Secondly, the unfolding of this story is similar to the Iraq War, where Bush officials would anonymously give a quote to the New York Times saying Saddam had WMD's, and then go on television and say, "hey, see what the New York Times is reporting?…Saddam has WMD's!!" 

These jesters of the Media Clownshow think they;re cutting Trump down to size with these poorly sourced and paper thin Russian hacking and golden shower stories, but they are really inoculating him against more serious and substantial charges that may come his way in the future.  


While the Media Clownshow may get second billing, without it the Cirque du Trump would not exist. The curious thing about Trump and the media, while they both venomously hate each other, they also desperately need each other. 

What is remarkable considering their disdain of him, is that the pancake-faced, tragic-comic buffoons on the mainstream media never failed to deliriously cover live, every single rally and speech (not to mention tweet) Trump delivered during the campaign. Their standard approach would be to show Trump's speech, with fingers crossed a fight breaks out or he says something outrageous, and then mournfully recount either the fight that broke out the outrageous thing he said, or how afoul he was. Trump strategically used his free television time to engage in attacks upon those giving him free television time, thus sparking a narcissistic - vanity cycle where the mainstream media played upon his vanity by focusing on him so often, while he played upon their vanity by focusing on them so often, and thus both parties prospered.

With the unwitting aid of the mainstream media, Trump, the billionaire plutocrat, was able to convince middle Americans that he was on their side simply because they shared the same arrogant antagonists. These middle Americans saw the establishment media belittling Trump and thought they looked down on him, just like they looked down on them. Like a scene out of Tod Browning's iconic 1931 film Freaks, these folks went to the polls saying the mantra, "one of us, one of us, one of us." The great lesson of he 2016 election is that having the proper enemies can get you pretty far, even all the way to the White House.

Donald Trump won the presidency by attacking an out of touch and despised mainstream media, and the media made millions and millions of dollars by covering his attacks on them. Like the joining of the Ringling Brothers Circus with the Barnum & Bailey Circus nearly a hundred years ago, the Cirque du Trump and Media Clownshow has been a wildly successful merger for everyone involved, except of course, for the people of the United States. 


And finally, while the Cirque du Trump and Media Clownshow will no doubt be entertaining, this next four or eight years will be a most perilous time for our country and the world. History shows us that a circus can end tragically. For example, The Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey's Circus used to sue a mixture of paraffin wax melted in gasoline to waterproof their Big Top tent. In 1944, during a performance in Hartford, Connecticut, either by accident to an act of arson, no one knows for sure, the Big Top went top in flames. The resulting inferno and ensuing stampede killed 167 people and injured 700, making it one of the worst fires in American history. 

Trump now take spewer with a constitution that has been deeply weakened after continuous assaults by both Bush and Obama, who have, through their myopic governance, paved a way for a demagogue like Trump to freely follow his more imperial instincts. In addition to this constitutional decay, we've had a dramatic deterioration of civic institutions, coupled with a hapless, untrustworthy and unserious press, and our national Big Top has most definitely been soaked in gasoline. Maybe it will function properly and keep the rain off of our heads. Or maybe, with a combustible personality like Trump in charge, either through his recklessness, vindictiveness or inexperience, he will accidentally or intentionally, set off a spark and ignite a conflagration that will engulf us all. 

The Cirque du Trump and Media Clownshow is coming to town folks, enjoy the show, but make sure your seat is near an exit, as you sure as hell don;t want to get caught int he stampede for the doors when the big tent goes up in flames.





Silence : A Review


Estimated Reading Time : 6 Minutes 37 Seconds

My Rating : 4.5 out of 5 Stars

My Recommendation : SEE IT. If you are a Catholic you must go see it now!! If you are a person of no faith or of another faith or even another denomination, the film may not resonate with you as much as it did with me. You can see it at your leisure.

Silence, directed by Martin Scorsese and written by Scorsese and Jay Cocks, is the story of two Portuguese missionary Jesuit priests sent to Japan in the 1600's to try and find their missing mentor amidst a brutal nationwide persecution of Christians. The film stars Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver as the Jesuit priests, Tadanobu Asano as their Japanese interpreter and Liam Neeson as their missing mentor Father Ferreira. 

Silence is a testament to iconic director Martin Scorsese's filmmaking prowess. It is a monumental film, a grueling, staggering, unrelenting and intensely personal piece of work that is, without a doubt, one of the best of the year. Silence is not only a film about faith, but a film of faith, faith as failure, faith as doubt, faith as struggle. Silence is riddled with intriguing metaphors that speak to our time, on issues like personal faith, religion, cultural assimilation, arrogant colonialism, conquest and submission. 

As much as I was enthralled by Silence, I am acutely aware that others may not, and probably will not, feel the same way about it I did. If you are not a person of faith, or a person of a non-Catholic faith, this may not be the film for you. The film could feel impenetrable for someone who has not spiritually struggled in a similar fashion as the film's lead character Father Rodigues struggles. The film is a question with no answer, and if you think you have the answer, then it will most definitely be lost on you. The film is also intensely and specifically Catholic. The Christ of Catholicism is a mystical whisper, a flicker in the dark, a distant yet vaguely familiar mystery. When and if Christ/God ever does speak with Catholics, it is in the stillness, in a voice as quiet as the grave and as thundering as the end of the universe or the beginning of one. If you are Christian but not Catholic, the film may feel spiritually foreign to you and thus be a more frustrating than enlightening experience.

Silence, while a marvelous and compelling film, is also not a perfect one. The film runs two hours and forty minutes which was cut down due to pressure from the studio from a reported running time of three hours and thirty minutes. The studio no doubt wanted a shorter running time in order to facilitate more showings per day-per theatre, which equals more money. As strange as this is to say, the film should have remained three hours and thirty minutes long, as it is too short at two hours and forty minutes. The third act of the film is clearly rushed and the overall power of the narrative undermined by that fact. I sincerely hope that at some point a directors cut of the picture is released so that Scorsese's true and entire vision can be seen and appreciated. The irony of the studio forcing Scorsese to cut the length of the film in order to get more showings, is that the film is performing dismally at the box office anyway. A film like Silence, directed by Martin Scorsese, one of the iconic filmmakers of all time, is a prestige picture and should be treated as such. The emphasis should be on bringing Scorsese's unmolested artistic vision to the screen, not trying squeeze every nickel and dime out of the public. Due to its subject matter, a dark religiosity and spiritual struggle, Silence had slim chances of being a box office smash anyway, so the studio would have been wise to shoot for a bevy of Oscar nominations and wins in order to drum up audiences. Once again the commerce of Hollywood has done harm to the art of a filmmaking genius, I am sure it won't be the last time. 

The performances in Silence are all very solid. Andrew Garfield easily does the best work of his career as Father Rodrigues. Garfield played a somewhat similar type of role in Mel Gibson's Hacksaw Ridge this year, which was a terrible performance and a terrible film. Garfield's work in Silence is, thankfully, a million miles away from his lackluster work in Hacksaw Ridge. Garfield's performance in Silence is wonderfully crafted and filled with such a vivid internal life and struggle that he mesmerizes. Father Rodrigues' battle with fear, doubt, spiritual vertigo and pride are compellingly captured by the complex and layered work of Garfield. Garfield creates a character that is hoisted upon the cross of his own grandiosity and arrogance, who is both filled with a ferocious religious fire and also a delicate emotional and spiritual fragility. Garfield never wastes a moment on screen, or rings a false note in his entire magnetic performance which carries the picture upon his frail shoulders. 

The supporting actors do solid if unspectacular work, especially compared to Andrew Garfield's work. The Japanese cast are all excellent across the board though, with Tadanobu Asano being the most noteworthy. His work as the priest's Japanese interpreter is crucial for the film and he never fails to captivate with his character's, at times, infuriating behavior. 

Adam Driver and Liam Neeson do average work in supporting roles as Jesuit priests. I found Neeson to be, surprisingly, a bit underwhelming in his role. Driver was better than I thought he'd be, but he too never rises to the heights that Garfield does in terms of intensity and intricacy of performance. 

After seeing the film I read up on the history of its development and production and the struggle it took to get it made. Apparently the film had been in development hell for over twenty years. One tidbit that I found fascinating was the cast that was scheduled to star in the film a few years back when it got closest to being made. That scheduled cast was stellar and included Daniel Day- Lewis, Benicio del Toro and Gael Garcia Bernal in the three main roles. As much as I loved seeing this rendition of Silence, once I read that those actors could have been in it, I thought that their portrayal would have been markedly better than the one that was made. Day-Lewis, del Toro and Bernal are far superior actors to Neeson, Garfield and Driver. With that said, I was thoroughly enraptured with Garfield and Scorsese's 2017 version, but it is fun to speculate on what may have been.

In conclusion, Silence is a gorgeous, challenging, brutal and ultimately wondrous film. It is an intimate glimpse into the personal passion and crucifixion of a man on the cross of his faith and doubt. If ever there were a film that captured the arduous, perilous and ultimately confusing journey along the secret path of Christ, this is it. Silence is an exquisite work of art from the filmmaking genius that is Martin Scorsese, and is unquestionably the very best film of the second half of his career, and it isn't even close. I readily admit that this film is not for everyone, and that people of no faith or different faiths than Catholicism, will probably not connect as deeply with the film as I did, or at all. But if you are a person of faith, particularly a Catholic, I think this is not only a great film for you to go see, but a vital one. Martin Scorsese's faith mirrors my own in many ways, a sort of Merton and DeMello-esque, Buddhist Catholicism of deep meditative questioning, and hard fought, doubt-riddled belief. If you are religiously and spiritually wired the same way I am, I think Silence is well worth your sparse free time and hard earned money. If you share the same type of spiritual outlook as I do, then you shouldn't just go see Silence, you should seek it out like a man who's hair is on fire seeks water. 



Jackie : A Review


Estimated Reading Time : 5 Minutes 07 Seconds

My Rating : 3.5 out of 5 Stars.

My Recommendation : See It in the theatre. If you are a cinephile I think you'll enjoy the film and Portman's performance. If you are looking for a standard bio-pic, you can wait to see it on Netflix or Cable.

Jackie, directed by Pablo Larrain and written by Noah Oppenheim, is the story of first lady Jackie Kennedy during her short time in the White House and shortly thereafter. Natalie Portman stars as Jackie, with supporting turns from Billy Crudup, Peter Sarsgaard. John Hurt and Greta Gerwig.

Prior to seeing Jackie, I had a conversation with a dear friend of mine who also happens to be a client and is one of the great actresses of our time. When I asked my friend what she thought of Jackie she reported that she was bored by it and that Natalie Portman's work was more akin to an impersonation than an acting performance. My friend and I have never disagreed on anything, ever (she won't permit it!!), so when I sat down to watch Jackie with my friend's sweet voice and less-than stellar critique rattling around in my head, I definitely had some pretty low expectations. After watching the film, I am happy to report that I have a much more positive view of Jackie than my very famous friend, sadly though, the consequences of my disagreeing with her will no doubt leave me banished from her elite and glorious company and be forced to rub elbows with the hoi polloi for all eternity. 

Where my friend saw impersonation, I saw a layered, textured and intimate performance of great skill and craft. Jackie Kennedy was such an iconic figure that it is very difficult to bring her to life in a complex and multi-dimensional way, but Natalie Portman succeeds in doing just that. The key to Portman's performance is that she is able to find an authentic Jackie beneath the veneer of Mrs. Kennedy's public persona. Jackie, like most public figures, was an actress herself, managing the rare glimpses she would give the people and managing their perceptions of her. Portman masterfully navigates the minefield of playing Jackie Kennedy by giving her a variety of public masks to wear, not just the usual two masks of public and private. Portman's Jackie is wearing one mask meeting crowds at Love Field, and a different mask making her demands to LBJ's Special Assistant Jack Valenti and another mask entirely when searching for Jack's eventual grave site. There are even multiple privacy masks Jackie wears, like when she is "alone" in the White House but with a stone-faced secret service agent right behind her, or when she is being interviewed in her "home" by a reporter, or even when she weeps next to her husbands casket. Even when she is having deeply intimate conversations with her kids she is managing perceptions and expectations of her assistant and the nanny.  Jackie is never fully at home, and never without some sort of mask, but Portman creates an inner life to Jackie that is palpable behind her stoic yet soft veneer. 

One of the great insights of the film is how it reveals to the audience the great lengths that Jackie went to cultivating the Camelot image of her husbands administration and her family in the immediate aftermath of the assassination. Jackie is continually aware that all eyes are on her and she uses that attention to craft and maintain a legacy for her dead husband in the history books, and to make a future for herself and her children. 

There are some parts of Jackie that I felt did not work all that well. I felt that Billy Crudup's character, the writer Theodore H. White, was somewhat illogical and unbelievable, as were the discussions between he and Jackie. I felt Peter Saarsgaard's Bobby Kennedy was a weak portrayal as well. Bobby Kennedy is one of the more intriguing people in the JFK drama, but here he is a bit of a dullard and afterthought. 

A bright spot in supporting performances is John Hurt as a Catholic priest. The scenes with Hurt are fascinating to watch and pulsate with an existential energy, as they are the heart and philosophical soul of the film and of Jackie herself. Hurt is an often overlooked actor of notable brilliance, and his work in Jackie was a pleasant surprise as I had no idea he was in the film.

Director Pablo Larrain does a deft and masterful job at creating a dramatic style and visual texture in Jackie. Larrain sets a slow, maybe too slow for some, but steady pace that gives room for Portman's Jackie to be more than an historical recreation, he allows her to be an authentic human being in a setting that begs for inauthenticity. Larrain has a cinematic confidence that serves him well in Jackie. Jackie could have been a run of the mill, paint by numbers bio-pic, but Larrain, along with cinematographer Stephane Fontain, create, an at times, exquisite and challenging piece of art. As I said earlier, the film is not perfect and Larrain fails on occasion, but his failures always occur when he is closer to convention rather than challenging it. 

One other point of note, is that I am someone who has an intense interest in all things Kennedy in general and in the assassination in particular. You would think my Kennedy fascination would facilitate my loving any film about them, but the opposite is actually true. I tend to really hate films about the Kennedy's because they ring so hollow and phony. I am sure my late Kennedy-hating father would reply that Kennedy films are so hollow and phony because the Kennedy's are hollow and phony…touché sir, but obviously I disagree. What usually maims Kennedy films are the performances, which as my famous, soon-to-be former friend suggested, usually are little more than bad impersonations. Combine that with Kennedy film's general inability to challenge conventional structure and religious adherence to propping up the Camelot myth, and you get some stale cinema. With Jackie, director Larrain is blessed with a genuinely terrific performance from Natalie Portman, so the first issue is overcome. To Larrain's credit, he avoids the other two traps by telling a messy, behind-the-scenes story of the Kennedy myth, revealing how it was created and maintained in the days following Jack's murder, and how ugly a process that is and the toll it took on Jackie. For these reasons, Jackie is the best and most honest Kennedy film to ever come along. 

As for Jackie, in spite of, or maybe because of, my low expectations, I enjoyed the film and thought it was very well done. Natalie Portman is very deserving of a Best Actor Oscar nomination for her complex and extremely well crafted performance as America's most iconic First Lady, Jackie Kennedy. While Jackie may not be for everybody, especially those interested in a more straight forward bio-pic, I recommend cinephiles spend the time and energy to go see it in the theatre. Filmmakers, actors and artists of good faith may disagree on the merit and value of Jackie, just like my friend and I, but I found Jackie to be a rare glimpse into how history is made, and the price of managing and maintaining a legacy. If nothing else, Jackie will be a pleasant reminder of when America had a dashing young President and a graceful First Lady, and the world was our oyster, a stark contrast to our current time, where we have a bloated, orange buffoon as President, and the world feels like a giant turd sandwich from which we all have to take a bite. Jackie is a bittersweet reminder that the dream of Camelot is long dead, and the hope of America buried with it, and in its place Mordor is alive and well and thriving on the Potomac.



La La Land : A Review


Estimated Reading Time : 5 minutes and 44 seconds

My Rating : 4 out of 5 stars.

My Recommendation : SEE IT. Take the time and effort and go see it in the theatre as it is a very enjoyable film.

La La Land, written and directed by Damien Chazelle, is the story of Sebastian, a struggling jazz musician and Mia, an aspiring actress, who meet and fall in love in Los Angeles. The film stars Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone with supporting turns by John Legend and Rosemary DeWitt.

La La Land is one of those movies that critics and layman alike will all undoubtedly describe as "charming and delightful". A big reason why they will describe it as "charming and delightful' is because it really is "charming and delightful". As cynical as I am, and goodness knows I am very cynical when it comes to Hollywood, La La Land with its vibrantly contagious spirit, was able to break through any resistance I had to it and will most likely breakthrough with other, less jaded viewers as well.

A major factor in La La Land's charm and delightfulness are the two leads. Both Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone are incredibly likable actors and they are at their most agreeable as Sebastian and Mia. For as handsome as Gosling is, and he is impossibly handsome, he is somehow able to play a somewhat abrasive, jazz-purist oddball with a remarkably grounded appeal and subtle charisma. Emma Stone gives an enchantingly strong performance as Mia, the under-employed actress and barista. Stone is able to exude an inner vivacious luminosity that gives her an undeniable magnetism and presence on screen. The fact is, both of these actors are so enjoyable together and have such electric chemistry, that you could watch them banter, flirt and perform with each other for days on end. 

The script and the direction are very well done by Damien Chazelle, who proved with his last film, the critically-acclaimed Whiplash, that he is a formidable filmmaking talent. Once again Chazelle has music in general, and jazz in particular, at the center of his story. Chazelle is really gifted at visually portraying music and musicians in a genuine and realist way, which many filmmakers fail to accomplish. Chazelle's camera becomes just another instrument in the band and another partner in the dance, making the entire film not just a musical, but a piece of musical art, a piece of dance art and piece of cinematic art all at once. Cinematographer Linus Sandgren  paints the Los Angeles of La La Land with a lush and gorgeous palette, creating a vivid and intoxicating dreamscape.

The dance numbers in La La Land are pretty remarkable in that they are almost all done in one take, which is no small feat with such complicated blocking. The thing to realize as you watch La La Land's musical numbers is that Chazelle doesn't use a static camera, like they did in say the Oscar winning musical Chicago, so not only must the choreography of the dancers and performers be perfect, but the choreography of the camera must be integrated as well.

La La Land is a staggering technical accomplishment when you take the intricacies of the musical numbers and the filmmaking process into account. It is also a truly unique and original piece of work that manages to pay homage to the classic Hollywood musicals of yesteryear yet also reinvents that genre with a new, sort of everyman, millennial day-dreamer musical. 

La La Land works on many levels. It is a tribute to Hollywood's distant and not-so distant past (there is a hidden homage to Boogie Nights in it that only the most eagle-eyed will catch) and is also an examination of the life of an artist in a world of commercialism. In addition, the film is a testament to keeping the faith and staying the path in terms of one's artistic purity. Both Sebastian and Mia have to suffer the slings and arrows of the commercial life in order to gather the courage to return to their artistic roots to find fulfillment and happiness which in turn morphs into commercial success, in other words, the Hollywood circle of life. But, as any struggling actor or musician will testify, the battle for artistic purity is never as cut and dried as the artist wishes it were. For example, Sebastian is a jazz purist, but is a demand for jazz purity the reason jazz is dying? Chazelle asks this same type of question of his audience regarding cinema while paying homage to the old Astaire musicals that purists adore, but he presents that tribute in a new, less purist and more populist, package, which is pretty brilliant. 

La La Land is a layered film that can be enjoyed on many levels. You can watch and enjoy it as a pure rom-com, or a love story, or a musical, or an homage to Hollywood or a mediation on the artists struggle, or a combination of all of these. It is tough to watch La La Land and not be overcome by its unrelentingly joyous energy. I recommend you spend your hard earned money and sparse free time by going to see La La Land in the theaters, I think you will find it worth the time and effort.

La La Land will no doubt win a boatload of awards at this years Oscars because Hollywood loves nothing more than movies about itself. I know, I know, you are shocked to hear that Hollywood is so rapaciously narcissistic, it is like hearing that Wall Street is greedy or D.C. corrupt, it can be jarring to realize...but I promise you that it really is true. Besides Hollywood rewarding movies that are about Hollywood, it also loves musicals, even the dreadful ones like Chicago, which means a good one like La La Land is going to be sitting pretty come Oscar Sunday. I assume that Gosling, Stone, Chazelle and a cinematographer Linus Sandgren along with a plethora of behind-the-scenes artists will be nominated and most likely win Oscars as well as the film getting Best Picture. While I thoroughly enjoyed the film, my award voting preferences trend toward more existential and substantial material, so I wouldn't necessarily vote the same way as the Academy. That said, I also won't complain when Hollywood rewards La La Land. There is no sense in complaining here in Hollywood, for as Jake Gittes' partner Lawrence Walsh so eloquently taught me in the film Chinatown, "Forget it, Jake. Its Chinatown." So on Oscar night, as Martin Scorsese and Silence, and Terence Malick and Knight of Cups get overlooked, I'll just keep reminding myself..."Forget it, Mick. It's La La Land."


Fences : A Review


Estimated Reading Time : 6 minutes 27 seconds

My Rating : 2.5 out of 5 Stars

My Recommendation : See it on Netflix or Cable. No need to see this film in the theatre.

Fences, directed by Denzel Washington and with a screenplay written by the late August Wilson based on his Pulitzer and Tony Award winning play of the same name, is the story of the life and struggles of Troy Maxson, an African-American garbage man in 1950's Pittsburgh, and his wife Rose and their teenage son Cory. The film stars Denzel Washington as Troy, Viola Davis as Rose, Mykelti Williamson as Troy's handicapped brother Gabe and Jovan Adepo as Troy's teenage son Cory.

I am a unique, and some might say unfortunate combination, as I am one of those most reviled of creatures, the classically-trained actor, and yet, I am also one of those most loathsome of beings, the film school graduate. This educational background makes me not only insufferable to most people but also virtually unemployable in the real world. That said, it does give me an interesting perspective when I watch films or go to the theatre. It was the classically-trained actor side of me, which absolutely loves live theatre, that was really excited to go see Fences. Classically-trained actor me also really loves August Wilson's work, and believes he is one of the great playwrights of the last century. His ten-part "Pittsburgh cycle", of which Fences is a part, is one of the great achievements in modern playwriting. Wilson wrote the screenplay to this film adaptation of Fences in 2005, finishing it shortly before his death. Denzel Washington and Viola Davis both won Tony awards for their portrayal of Troy and Rose in a 2010 revival of Fences on Broadway. 

For those reasons and others, like most everyone I know who saw it loved it, I had great expectations heading in to see Fences. The way I saw it was that Fences is a truly fascinating story, was a wonderful play and had two transcendent actors starring in it, what could possibly go wrong? Well, as I sat down to watch Fences, the classically-trained actor part of me gave a self-congratulatory bow and elegantly stepped aside and let the film school graduate part of me come to the forefront, and that part of me realized very quickly that a hell of a lot can, and did, go wrong with this film. Fences is a great play, but, sadly, it isn't a great film. A major part of the problem is that Denzel Washington wears a directors hat for the first time in his otherwise stellar career. Washington is undoubtedly a great actor, and in many ways he is getting better and more complex as an actor as he ages, but he is certainly not a great director. And just as the great actor Denzel Washington struggled with a skill out of his wheelhouse, directing, so did August Wilson, a great playwright, struggle as a screenwriter. 

Cinema is not theatre. As the saying goes, it is "moving pictures, not moving words." And so we come upon the first major issue with the movie Fences, namely that it is written to be a stage play and is not conducive to the screen. Writing for the stage and writing for the screen are as different as say, reading the written word as opposed to speaking aloud. The rhythm and meaning change dramatically when you say words aloud contrasted to when you read them silently. This occurs for a variety of reasons, such as the physical act of speaking aloud requires the in and out of breath, the use of the voice musculature, posture, body language, intent and things of that nature. This is why the spoken word takes on a certain distinct rhythm and the written word takes on a very different rhythm. So it is with stage and screen. For instance, on stage, actors do not speak when other actors are speaking, they articulate clearly so that the back of the house can hear them, they gesticulate more grandly so that everyone can see them, and they do not turn their back to the audience as they speak. These actions, while unnatural in the real world, create a rhythm of performance which suits the medium of the stage perfectly. On screen, a different rhythm is created, voices can over lap, actors turn their back, they can whisper and can use the smallest and most delicate of movements to convey deep meaning. On film, speaking is at the very most, a secondary tool to tell the story and convey meaning, whereas on stage, speaking is the ultimate tool of conveying meaning and storytelling. As an example, in Shakespeare's MacBeth, in the early part of the play (Act 1 Scene 4) a character recounts a spectacular battle and everything that happened in it. It is a compelling monologue, and includes the famous line, "nothing in his life became him like the leaving of it." While this writing is basically exposition, it is still exceedingly well done. In theatre you sometimes need to have expository dialogue, but in cinema, you don't need exposition, you can just show and not tell. So, in this example, you would open MacBeth showing that great battle scene, and not having someone describe the great battle. This is one of the most major fundamental differences between theatre and film. Another difference is that film is a director's medium of visuals and stage is a writer's medium of the spoken word. 

The problem with Fences as a film is that it is entirely theatrical and not cinematic. The performances, while good, are theatrical performances, not film performances. The rhythm of the writing and storytelling is theatrical, not cinematic. The arc of the narrative is a theatrical arc, not a cinematic one. The film suffers greatly from the most rudimentary lack of understanding that the art of filmmaking is fundamentally very different from the art of theatre. In my eyes, the great blame for that falls on the film's director, Denzel Washington. 

Simply put, Denzel Washington is a dreadful director. The film lacks any sort of visual cohesion and has a myriad of bizarre and incoherent camera angles and shots scattered throughout which undercut the dramatic momentum of many scenes and the whole film. There is a sequence where Denzel does a critical monologue which feels like it was shot so haphazardly that one wonders if there were any professionals on the set at all. It is beyond strange. Washington's weak eye for visuals, along with his hapless cinematographer Charlotte Bruus Christensen, results in a plethora of oddly framed shots and poorly executed camera maneuvers that left me shaking my head. There are other amateur directing moves that fall flat as well, such as perspective issues, random swelling of music, and a lack of visual, dramatic, and storytelling consistency in regards to the fence for which the play is titled. 

The performances from Denzel Washington and Viola Davis are highly skilled, but they lack great power to move because they are meant for the stage and not the screen. The performances ring hollow because they do not fit the screen on which they are captured. The language is the stilted language of the theatre, not the free flowing language of real life or the screen, thus it always feels like we are watching someone deliver a performance. I am sure if I were fortunate enough to see these same actors give these same performances on stage, I would be left speechless, but I saw them on screen and instead was left profoundly cold. 

Another issue with the performances, is that they feel a bit derivative of other work these great actors have done in their past. Washington's Troy is somehow physically and vocally reminiscent of his Oscar winning role in Training Day, so much so that I half thought he was going to declare, "King Kong ain't got nuthin' on me!!" at one point. Viola Davis' performance echoes nearly all her other stand out work in the past in that she plays a noble, fragile, resolute woman who, at least once during a climactic crying scene, will have snots uncontrollably running down her face. And then there is Mykelti Williamson, an actor I truly admire, who turns in a cringe-worthy performance as Troy's handicapped brother Gabe. Like Washington and Davis before him, Williamson seems to be conjuring up characters from his past, in this case his shrimp- loving character Bubba from Forest Gump

As much as I have been critical of the performances and the film, I do realize that it will receive a whole host of Oscar nominations, but I believe that is because the Academy will be projecting upon the film what it hoped to see, and not what was really there on screen. Denzel Washington and Viola Davis are shoe-ins for acting nominations, as is August Wilson for an adapted screenplay nomination. No doubt Denzel will also get a Best Director nomination as well. While I greatly admire all three of these individuals, Washington, Davis and Wilson, and their talent, skill and remarkable previous work, I think they are not at their best in Fences.

In conclusion, Fences is a lost opportunity to adapt a brilliant play to the screen. Writer August Wilson's inability to adapt his staggering playwriting talents into screen writing results, creates  an uneven and discordant film. Denzel Washington and Viola Davis give technically proficient performances that ultimately ring hollow due to the script and Washington the filmmaker's, fundamental failings. While I didn't hate Fences, I also certainly didn't love it. It is a shame that such a great story wasn't able to translate more seamlessly to the big screen, as Hollywood is in desperate need of unique and original works. At the end of the day, Fences is never able to rise above being just an ordinary film, which is disheartening because it is such an extraordinary play. 


Rogue One : A Star Wars Story - A Review


Estimated Reading Time : 5 Minutes 22 Seconds

My Rating : 2 out of 5 Stars

My Recommendation: See it if you like Star Wars related things, but if you are into Star Wars things you would have seen it already. If you are indifferent to Star Wars or lukewarm at best, there is zero need to see this film.

I had a little bit of free time to other day and decided I should do my duty as a patriotic American and pay my Mickey Mouse Tax, so I went to see Rogue One.  I was running a little late and got to the theatre with nary a moment to spare. I rushed up to the counter in the sparsely populated cineplex to get my ticket and was greeted by a smiling and friendly young woman with blue streaks in her hair, wearing cat girl glasses adorned with rhinestones. She smiled and said, "Can I help you?" I breathlessly returned her smile and said, "One for Star Wars, please." Her smile evened out and her eyes turned vacant and cold. She looked at me indifferently and after a very effective momentary pause, scornfully retorted, "You mean...Rogue One?" I straightened up, looked her right in the eye and politely said, "Yes, ma'am."  In the eyes of this young woman, whom I had silently named "The Rhinestone Jedi", the stench of my egregious error in failing to properly identify Rogue One hung on me like the stink lines that hover over Pig Pen in the Charlie Brown comics for the remainder of our interaction. Once the transaction was completed, The Rhinestone Jedi dismissively handed me my ticket and turned her back, probably to conceal her rage and loathing at the jackass who had the temerity to ask for a ticket to "Star Wars" and not "Rogue One". As I turned to walk away toward the theatre, I swear I heard her mutter under her breath, "Star Wars? Fucking loser." And thus my Star Wa…oops…Rogue One : A Story Wars Story viewing experience had begun. The film that followed was mildly more enjoyable but not nearly as existentially interesting as my interaction with the gatekeeper of nerd-dom, The Rhinestone Jedi, that blue-haired demon with the cat girl glasses and the unflinching judgement. 

As is my practice, I had not read any reviews of Rogue One prior to seeing it. I was going into the theatre a Rogue One virgin as it were. All I did know was that Rogue One was not a sequel or a prequel to any of the other Star Wars films, but was a stand alone entity. I thought that this was a wise move by Disney as it would enable them to start a whole new Star Wars storyline from which other stories could be born, which would make for a whole new revenue stream. If done properly, Disney could have two Star Wars franchises up and running at the same time, which would mean beaucoup bucks for Mickey Mouse and co. That is what I was thinking before seeing or knowing anything about Rogue One anyway. 

Then I went and saw the film. It was…fine. There are some exciting action sequences, and for the first time in the history of the franchise, there is an actual, genuinely good actress/actor in the lead role (no offense to any other actors or actresses, living or recently deceased, who have graced the Star Wars films, RIP Carrie Fisher) in the form of Felicity Jones. But beyond that, the film is a disappointment. I found it disappointing most of all because it isn't an original and new storyline, but rather the same old storyline just from a different perspective. Rogue One is essentially a one-off, spin-off. Sort of like the ill-fated Matt LeBlanc sitcom "Joey" was in relation to Friends, although the short life span of Joey was not by choice, or if you are a bit older than that, then it is like if The Facts of Life were just a single, stand alone season when they spun-off from Different Strokes. (RIP Alan Thicke)

In terms of the story of Rogue One, there is at its center, as seemingly is always the case, the Death Star, which fails to hold the foreboding doom it once did in the original Star Wars since we already know what happens to it. I found myself rather bored with the whole narrative because all it does is tread old ground in "previously worn" but technically "new", shoes. Hell, it isn't just the Death Star that is less foreboding than I remembered, Darth Vader feels pretty lackluster and limp in Rogue One as well. Vader looked weird in Rogue One, almost like his costume was one size too big or something. And his walk definitely lacked the Imperial swagger it used to have. I am being serious here, Vader looked and physically moved much different than he used to and it made him much less powerful, authoritative and frightening.

What I was really hoping for with Rogue One was an entirely new and creative storyline with no direct connection to the old franchise. Instead I got a retread of the very first Star Wars film except with a female protagonist. The parallels between Jones' Jyn Erso and Luke Skywalker are obvious, both are from remote planets, both have fathers who are "special" and both have pivotal battles in dangerously constructed towers and both are called to do great things in the face of astounding odds against them.

To add to the similarities between Star Wars and Rogue One, Diego Luna plays Cassian Andor, a rebel intel officer who dresses and behaves very similar to Han Solo, except with a Spanish accent. Luna is not a very good actor in any language, in fact he is pretty bad, and his work in Rogue One is distracting at best. As good as Felicity Jones is in Rogue One, Diego Luna is equally bad.

The rest of the cast do the best they can with the little given to them, but no one goes to see a Star Wars film for the acting. People want to see some action sequences, and Rogue One delivers on that count, at least in the second half. There are some great battle scenes in the final third of the film that deliver what most people crave. I certainly was captivated by the battle scenes, but I also had nagging questions that kept popping into my head. Stuff like, if Stormtroopers can be knocked out or defeated by a guy armed with nothing but a stick, what the hell do they wear all that body armor and head gear for? You'd think that since the Stormtrooper armor doesn't protect them from lasers it would at least protect them from a stick. I guess not though. Makes me wonder how much the Empire is paying for all that body armor and if corruption isn't a major issue that needs to be addressed if the Empire is going to succeed in the long term. But, all of those questions aside, I did find the last third of the film to be captivating and was pleased it finally delivered the action goods.

I guess my biggest issue with Rogue One is that there seems to be no purpose in making it. Rogue One is little more than a nostalgia delivery system for people craving a return to their youth, even if the youth they are returning to is the youth of their parents in the 70's and 80's. Rogue One could have been a whole new story, in a whole new time of the Star Wars universe that could have creatively rejuvenated the Star Wars franchise anew. The opportunity is there for Disney to not just remake and reboot the old franchise, but to create an entirely new franchise with the blue prints of the Star Wars universe that George Lucas sold them for 4 billion dollars a few years ago. Sadly, it seems, Disney has no appetite for rolling the dice on truly original Star Wars material, only in rehashing the tired, old formula that has made them, and Mr. Lucas before them, a fortune. Many thought Lucas had become creatively bankrupt (he is sure is hell was never financially bankrupt!!) during and after the Star Wars prequel trilogy and that Disney and some new artistic blood would be able to invigorate the Star Wars brand. In retrospect after seeing Rogue One and comparing it to Lucas' Star Wars prequel trilogy, I have come to the conclusion that Lucas never lost his fastball as a writer of Star Wars films, just that he lacked the requisite skill to direct them. As controversial as Lucas' prequel trilogy have become, a closer inspection of them reveal well-written and genuinely original scripts that Lucas was not able to properly capture on film. In seeing Rogue One it is now clear that it isn't Lucas who is creatively bankrupt, it is Disney, although goodness knows that Disney isn't anywhere near financial bankruptcy thanks to both the Star Wars and Marvel franchises.

IMG_0732 .JPG

When my screening of Rogue One ended I sat in my seat and took my phone out to check my messages. I texted a famous filmmaker friend of mine who had been curious as to what I would think about the movie after seeing it. I texted him "Saw Rogue One…I am trying to figure out what the purpose of this film is. Why make it?" I then realized that something had fallen out of my pocket when I took my phone out and I reached down to pick it up. It was my receipt for the movie ticket, the one handed to me disdainfully by The Rhinestone Jedi, the blue haired woman with the cat girl glasses. I looked at the ticket receipt and smiled knowingly. I took a photo of it and sent it to my famous filmmaker friend with the text, "I figured out why they made Rogue One!!"  The photo showed the receipt and in big letters it said "ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY". Below that in small print it read…"Adult : $12.50". And thus the mystery was solved. Somewhere, Walt Disney's frozen corpse is smiling and Mickey Mouse is bathing in an Olympic-sized swimming pool of $1,000 bills. I then realized that the blue haired woman with the rhinestone cat girl glasses wasn't judging me for being wrong about the title of the "Star Wars" film, she was judging me for going to see the "Star Wars" film. Her prophetic, and accurate final words to me rung in my ears as I exited the theatre. There is a sucker born every minute, and at that minute I realized I was one of millions of them. "Star Wars? Fuckin' loser". You're right about that, Rhinestone Jedi, you're god-damn right about that. 



Meryl Streep, Character and Moral Authority

Estimated Reading Time : 5 Minutes 08 Seconds

Last night after finishing up some work I sat down and turned on the television just in time to catch Meryl Streep's speech when she won her much deserved lifetime achievement award at the Golden Globes. In the speech, Streep spoke out against president-elect Trump but never mentioned him by name.  Here is the speech.

Streep's speech has received a great deal of attention, both good and bad, and everyone seems to have an opinion on it. Here is mine.

I love Meryl Streep. If she isn't the greatest actress of all time, she is most definitely in the discussion. Her talent and passion for her art are only surpassed by her mastery of craft and technique. In addition to being a tremendous artist, Streep has the reputation of being a wonderful human being, kind and generous to everyone with whom she comes into contact . With all of that said, I found myself getting very angry as I watched her speech last night. I wasn't angry because I disagreed with her, I didn't, I agreed with nearly everything she said. I was angry because I was wondering, where have you been for the last eight years Meryl?

If the things Meryl Streep talked about last night meant so much to her, why didn't she speak up for them during Obama's presidency? If she is so concerned about foreigners or immigrants being singled out, why didn't she speak up when Obama deported nearly three million of them, more than any other president? If she is so concerned with "bullying" of the weak and defenseless, why didn't she speak up when Obama ordered the extra-judicial murder of Americans including a 16 year old American and then had his spokesman say the teen "should have had a better father" as being the reason he was killed ? And why didn't she speak up when Obama failed to prosecute torturers and war criminals in the Bush administration? If Streep is so concerned about protecting the press, why didn't she speak up when Obama had twice as many prosecutions of whistleblowers, eight, as all of the other presidents combined? Why didn't Streep speak up for Chelsea Manning who sat in solitary confinement for nearly a year? Or Edward Snowden who sits in exile in Russia? or Julian Assange who has been imprisoned in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for over four years now? If Meryl Streep cares about those issues as much as she passionately displayed last night, why didn't she fight for them when Obama was president? Could it be that she is actually more interested in style over substance? Political party, power and ideology over Truth?

Sadly, Streep's speech will resonate with no one outside of those who already agree with her. She will change no minds and change no policies with her words from last night. The Obama presidency was the opportunity to change things for Streep and those like her. Streep could have spoken out vociferously for immigrants, foreigners and the weakest among us during the last eight years, if she had, she may have been able to change things. She may have, with her respected standing in the public eye, been able to have gotten Chelsea Manning pardoned, or Snowden, or Assange (or Leonard Peltier for that matter). She may have been able to hold Obama accountable for the extra-judicial drone killings of Americans and gotten that policy changed and saved innocent lives that Obama calls "collateral damage". She may have been able to speak out for poor and working class people who didn't get bailed out while Wall street did, but she didn't. She may have been able to force Obama to fight for single payer healthcare and not the corporate friendly Affordable Care Act, but she kept quiet. She was silent on all of these and a host of other issues she claims to hold dear, only speaking out now that Trump is soon to be president. 

The problem with Streep staying silent during the Obama years is that she has lost all moral authority to lecture anyone. She had her chance for eight years to fight for Truth and change things, and she blew it. She stayed quiet when speaking up could have cost her something in her liberal community, but also when her voice could have really made a difference. Streep's anger may be righteous, but she has lost all moral authority and standing because she failed to speak up at a time, during the Obama years, when her critical voice would not have been so warmly welcomed by her Golden Globe compatriots. That is the sin of the Obama years, liberals stayed quiet in order to stay in power, or to support the party or to not be seen as attacking the first Black president. Whatever the reason, it was a most egregious mistake and one that they will rue for decades to come. It is when your side is in power that your voice and dedication to principles must be loudest because that is when you can actually effect change, not when those who oppose you take the reins. Speaking up against Trump now was a safe move for Meryl Streep in the largely liberal world she inhabits, speaking up against Obama during his presidency would have taken real courage.

It is not only what you say or do when you are out of power that defines your character, but what you say and do when in power that reveals your character. The democrats and Obama supporters revealed their lack of character and cowardice by not being true to their supposed values and speaking out forcefully against Obama when he failed to uphold the constitution and fight for the people. When Obama sided with Wall street over Main street, democrats gave him a pass. When he sided with the insurance companies and big pharma over regular working folks, democrats sat on their hands. When Obama imprisoned whistleblowers and murdered Americans without trial, democrats kept their mouths shut. Democrats revealed their character during Obama's presidency with their silence, and they no longer have any moral authority to speak out against Trump. That doesn't mean they won't speak out, it just means no one will listen or believe them when they do. The Obama presidency was a lost opportunity for democrats to prove their character and their moral authority, and they failed miserably. It will take a long time for them to ever be able prove to people that they mean what they say or are worthy of trust.

The first step for Meryl Streep, and other like-minded people, is to come out and apologize for losing their way and failing to uphold their convictions and principles during the Obama years. If Streep came out and said she was wrong to blindly support Obama, and that she is now going to be loyal to Truth above all else, then maybe…just maybe…she can regain the moral authority that is needed to change hearts, minds and policies. Will she do that? Not likely, as self-righteousness is a warm blanket few refuse in favor of the cold, hard struggle of self-reflection. Which is a shame, as Meryl Streep is an important voice that needs too be heard, it just needed to be heard for the last eight years, and not just last night.


Through the Looking Glass : Truth and Lies in Week One of 2017

Estimated Reading Time : 8 Minutes 44 Seconds

Week one of 2017 is in the books and boy oh boy was it a doozy. This most bizarre week no doubt portends the strangeness of the year to come. We are only one week into this new year and we are already through the looking glass where up is down, left is right, lie is truth, good is bad and nothing seems to make any sense whatsoever. What am I talking about…well…let's recount the week and discover the ways our world has gone topsy turvy. 

The big news of the week was the "Russia Hacking" story. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testified before congress and assured everyone that the Russian government in general, and Putin in particular, were indeed behind the hacking of the election against Hillary Clinton. DNI Clapper followed that up by releasing a "report" by the CIA, FBI and NSA that was meant to prove his case for Russian hacking. None of that is very weird, but what was weird was how many republicans were skeptical of the intelligence community claims and how many democrats unquestioningly embraced the intelligence community claims. 

I have read the report intelligence report, have you? Did you notice anything funny about the CIA report on Russian hacking into the election? Maybe I am crazy, but there is absolutely zero evidence in that report of Russian hacking or tampering in the election at all. Nothing. It is like the book reports I used to turn in in high school when I didn't read the book…which was always, because reading is for nerds. What would happen is that I wouldn't read the book and then I'd get the Cliff Notes, but I wouldn't even read those, just give them a half-assed skimming over the night before the report was due. Then I would just scratch a bunch of bullshit together in homeroom and hope to sneak by without anyone noticing I had no idea what I was talking about….sort of like what the Intelligence community just did with their hacking report. DNI Clapper turned in one hell of a whopper of a book report the other day and boy is he hoping no one actually reads it with a critical eye. What the Intelligence community did was make a bunch of assumptions, toss in some innuendo, and then played it off as some shocking new information of official Russian guilt and then let the media, and democrats, run with it. The media, of course, excitedly exclaimed that not only is this report proof that Russia hacked the election for Trump, but that Putin himself was the one who ran the whole operation…Dr. Evil style!! This entire episode is utter madness. Anyone who believes that evidence-free report needs to have their head examined. The intelligence community has been deceiving, propagandizing and fooling the populace for decades and yet the democrats cling to their every word because it means they didn't really lose the election!! 

Democrats jumped at the chance to take Clapper at his word without any evidence because it means they aren't as huge a train-wreck of a party as they fear they may be. See it wasn't their shitty candidate, or their shitty campaign, or their vacuous ideas, or their myopic political vision, no it was Putin and the mustache-twirling Russians fault that they lost. I warned democrats against embracing this Russia hacking story because it was too good to be true, and I stand by that. And if democrats would actually read the declassified report, they might not be so enamored with the intelligence community and their conclusions as to who is an enemy of the state. Let's go through the report quickly to see what I am talking about. 

First off, as I already stated, there is zero evidence presented. This report is simply a piece of paper that is meant to make "official" the leaks, which are nothing more than innuendo, that have been published across the media for weeks. The media are treating it like it is manna from heaven, but it is really regurgitated nonsense that contains nothing new. In addition to presenting zero evidence, the "sources" the document provides for their background information are embarrassingly absurd. The report uses an open source document from the internet to make their case that Russia had intent to hack the election. I am not kidding, go look at it.  The "Annex A" section (starting on Page 6, ironically enough) spends the majority of its time attacking the television channel RT (Russia Today) and blaming it for being such an effective propaganda tool for Putin to destroy American democracy. The majority of the report, in fact, is analysis of RT, which takes up 7 of the 25 pages of the report, in contrast to the actual meat of the report which takes up 5 pages.

RT is a lightning rod for the establishment as they often report on things the mainstream media would just as soon ignore. Anytime the mainstream media mention RT, they always describe it as "Kremlin controlled RT" or "Kremlin financed RT" or "Kremlin backed RT", which is pretty funny. I wonder why they don't describe the BBC as "Westminster financed or backed or controlled", or the US networks as "Washington financed, backed or controlled" or the cable channels as "Wall Street financed, backed or controlled"? Any time you hear a talking head describe RT as "Kremlin backed" immediately dismiss them as they are shoveling propaganda. Another sure fire sign of a propagandist is if they describe Putin as "former head of the KGB Putin". Yes, Putin was formerly the head of the KGB, but George HW Bush was formerly the head of the CIA, and yet no one describes him as "former head of the CIA George HW Bush", and they do not describe his son as "son of the former head of the CIA George HW Bush".  It is a simple propaganda ploy to trigger fear and distrust in the viewer and taint the story.

Getting back to the report…if democrats or liberals who are supporting it haven't read it yet,  they really should. The report gives a variety of examples of how RT attacked and undermined America's beloved democracy, the funny thing is though that many of those examples are from 2012, not 2016. Here are some of the more entertaining ones. The report states that in the lead up to the 2012 election RT introduced a new show, "Breaking the Set", hosted by Abby Martin, which "overwhelmingly focused on criticism of US and western governments". See you cannot criticize the US or western governments, that is an attack on America and democracy. Another way to look at it is that Abby Martin committed the crime of journalism. Shame on her! The hysterical part of this whole "Breaking the Set" thing being put in a report about Russian interference in the 2016 election is that "Breaking the Set" stopped airing two years before the 2016 election. Someone please buy James Clapper a calendar…and a TV Guide.

The next section of "Annex A" tells us that RT, in the lead up to the 2012 election, not the 2016 election, had the temerity to report on "alleged US election fraud and voting machine vulnerabilities". Can you believe the gall of a news agency reporting on the possibility of election fraud and voting machine vulnerabilities in the lead up to an election? RT is out of control!! You know who else reported on voting machine vulnerabilities, except unlike RT it wasn't in relation to the 2012 election, but the 2016 election? CBS and PBS just to name two. I wonder if they are Russian spies too? Probably…commie bastards!!

In the next part of Annex A, the report tells us that RT, in an effort to "highlight a lack of democracy in the United States" had "broadcast, hosted and advertised third party candidate debates". What monsters!! The lesson here is that when you are through the looking glass, more candidates, more debate and more democracy actually is an attack on democracy. According to the intel community, war is peace, slavery is freedom and ignorance is strength!!

Another section of Annex A will come as quite a shock to liberals and democrats…but in the lead up to the 2012, again, to be clear, this is not the 2016 election but the 2012 election, RT aired 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". Is there any rational and un-compromised human being on the planet who would describe the US political system any other way?

Some other parts of the Annex A section of the report say that RT "alleges widespread infringements of civil liberties, police brutality and drone use" in America. Another part says that RT is attacking the US by criticizing "alleged Wall street greed." Let that one sink in for a minute. I hope liberals and democrats are starting to understand how this report, and the intelligence community that prepared it, are not your friends, not by a long shot. Neither are they friends of Truth. 

And finally, the report claims that RT is attacking US democracy by "running anti-fracking programming, highlighting environmental issues and the impacts of public health." That is just outrageous!! How many liberals or democrats have seen Josh Fox's excellent documentary "Gasland"? Probably a lot of them. Well, they should realize that the intelligence community that they are so enamored with right now, thinks JOSH FOX IS JOSEF STALIN!! In essence, the intel community thinks Josh Fox will kill you and eat your children!! HBO is a tool of Putin!!

So, according to this report on election interference by the Russians in the 2016 election, the intelligence community writes a report that cites a russian news channel's reporting FROM 2012, that is basically in line with liberal or left leaning political positions. And democrats and the media are falling all over themselves to praise this report for its thoroughness and seriousness and attack anyone, even Glenn Greenwald, who questions in it the least. Rachel Maddow was nearly orgasmic when the report was released this week, and interestingly enough she said you should go read it, but she curiously told her viewers to only read the meat of it, which is 5 pages, and skip the "sources and methods" section, because that is longer and boring and confusing. Annex A is the sources and methods section where they only talk about RT. In other words, there are no sources, and there are no methods, there is only old speculation and assumptions. The Intel community, just like me in high school, didn't read the book or even skim the Cliff Notes, and yet the media are determined to make you not notice that. Do democrats and liberals not know this stuff? Have they not read the report? Maybe they should read it before embracing it. Dear liberals, please go read the report. Know what you are signing on to when you endorse this report. What you are signing onto to is the criminalization of your own beliefs and your own eventual demise.

It isn't only Rachel Maddow's coverage of the report and Clapper's testimony that has been both breathless and despicable.  On MSNBC the consistently deplorable Joy Ried, who is such a vacuous dimwit that she has quickly shot up that hapless network's ladder in record time, asked some bumpkin republican congressman from Nowheresville, USA whether he believed the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper or Julian Assange in regard to the Russian hacking allegations. It was an obvious "gotcha" type of moment that cable tv lives for…and watching this dope squirm was what was intended. There is just one problem with Ms. Reid's question and premise…and that is that any rational, sane human being would believe Julian Assange over DNI Clapper in a heartbeat, you know why? Because Julian Assange has never lied to them. Never. You may dislike what he has done, but he has never lied. Clapper? Clapper can't open his mouth without a swarm of lies flying out. Clapper lied to congress, which is a felony, just a few years ago in relation to the Snowden material. Has everyone lost their minds and memory all at once? Apparently the answer is yes. Assange has, at great personal expense, exposed US war crimes, Clapper, at great personal reward, has covered up his own and other war crimes. And I know it is in style at the moment to dismiss and demean Assange due to personal distaste for him, but those sex crimes charges against him reek of Intelligence community handy work.  If you think the US intel community wouldn't try and frame someone  by any means necessary, that they see as a mortal threat, you are incredibly naive.

And then there is the highest ranking democrat in the country, the loathsome Senator from New York, Chuck Schumer. Schumer went on Rachel Maddow's show last week and said that Trump better be careful because the intelligence community has "six ways to sunday to get back at you if you cross them." Think about that statement for a second. Democrats are holding up the intelligence community as the bastion of professionalism and patriotism and in the same breath are claiming the Intel community will circumvent the constitution and extra-judicially "get back" at their political enemies. If I said that same statement people would call me a conspiracy theorist and dismiss me out of hand. The ranking democrat in the country, Chuck Schumer, just said that the intelligence community will exact revenge on President Trump if he challenges them and no one bats an eye. Want to know two presidents who got on the wrong side of the intelligence community? Kennedy and Nixon. Remember how their presidency's ended? Kennedy's brains were splattered all over Jackie's nice pink suit in Dealey Plaza, and tricky Dick ignominiously gave us the "v" for victory sign and then flew off into historical oblivion after resigning. Both Kennedy's assassination and Nixon's impeachment had intelligence agency fingerprints all over them, and even some of the same intelligence operative fingerprints (I'm looking at you E. Howard Hunt). But of course thinking that, never mind saying it out loud, gets you labelled a "conspiracy theorist" and taken off the "serious person" list. But now we have the ranking Democrat directly saying it out loud on national television as a threat to the president-elect of the United States. I do not know how exactly this will play out, but I guarantee you that it will not end well. 

Speaking of repugnant Senators, John McCain and his common-law wife,  Senator Lindsay Graham aka The Southern Dandy, of course are banging the war drums claiming Russia's alleged hacking is an act of war. McCain and Graham are hawks who have never meet a war they didn't love. Democrats and liberals are empowering the war party by embracing this evidence-free report. You want a war with Russia, keep on taking the intel community at their word and I promise you will get one. It is what they want and they have convinced you that is what you want too.

Fake news has also been a major talking point of the media and even the intel community in the last week. As with the Russian hacking story, the fake news story is most bizarre. The mainstream media has claimed that fake news is what lead to Trump beating Clinton, as voters were misinformed as to the real facts and stories. The media have used a plethora of polls that say that Trump voters were terribly misinformed about the election, for instance overwhelming numbers of Trump voters believe he won the popular vote. As we know, this is not true, and so the media have used this point to say that fake news tainted the well so to speak. Of course, the media fail to mention their own part in misinforming the populace and how that is reflected in the media. For instance, there are polls that show how Clinton voters now believe that Russia actually hacked voting machines and changed votes in Trump's favor. This is untrue, even by the flimsy intel report standards, but the media would never blame themselves for this mis-information. 

In addition, the main generator of fake news, is the mainstream media. Just in the last few weeks the Washington Post has published the fakey-ist of fake news stories which much fanfare, but only after time and attention has passed have they sent out little noticed retractions. The WaPo stories were about the alleged fake news generated by Russian propaganda sources about the US election. The  PropOrNot Russian propaganda website lists made by an unnamed and unchecked source, which the Post published without questioning, is total nonsense. The other story was about Russian hacking as well, this time about how the Rooskies hacked into the Vermont power grid!! The story was absurd on its face but that didn't stop everyone from re-tweeting it and spreading it and shouting form the mountain tops about it. Of course, when the story turned out to be untrue, the Post didn't hype that fact, they sheepishly put a small disclaimer on top of it. The damage was done already…which is how fake news works. It is all about manufacturing consensus, consent and content…which is exactly why the Russia hacking the election story is fake news as well. The lack of evidence and proof don't matter to people because the story tells them what they want to hear, and the damage is done. Truth has no meaning in an empire of lies, and we are the ruling empire at the moment.

Speaking of truth, there has also been a great deal of talk about how with Donald Trump as president we now live in a post-truth world, where Truth or facts don't matter.  That may be true, but it isn't entirely Trump's doing…as the Washington Post keeps proving over and over again. Even the aforementioned Joy Reid, a vociferous attack dog against fake news and post-truth Trump, is guilty of spreading fake news and not correcting to fact. Ms. Reid, and the ludicrous "Russia" expert, the sleepy-eyed, charlatan Malcolm Nance, spread the lie pre-election that the DNC emails were proven to have been tampered with and altered. This is factually untrue, but Ms. Reid and Mr. Nance have never retracted those statements. Just like Trump, they have little regard for Truth.

The bottom line is this regarding the intel report, fake news and our post-truth world, if you take anything at face value you are a fool. Only a dupe or a dope, or both, would believe a word the intel community tells them. A brief look at recent and not-so recent history shows us that the American intelligence community are professional liars who will do anything and everything to obscure and destroy the Truth. Remember Clapper lying about surveillance? Remember the Iraq War? Remember the torture report and all the dirty tricks surrounding it? Remember the Gulf War? Remember Iran-Contra? Remember Nicaragua? El Salvador? Venezuela? Brazil? Argentina? Cuba? Iran and the Shah? Vietnam? Laos? Cambodia? I mean, c'mon, how dumb do you have to be to fall for the intel community bullshit again?

And in terms of Russia and Putin, it is most certainly possible that they hacked the election. I have no illusions about Putin being some saint, but regardless of that, what I demand in relation to any news or charges is evidence. I have yet to see compelling evidence that Russia shot down MH-17, or invaded Ukraine or committed war crimes in Syria or hacked the US election. That doesn't mean they definitely didn't do those things, only that I have not seen compelling evidence that they did. And until I see evidence I will not believe those claims, and neither should you. 

This past week is a wonderful launching pad for the chaos, disorder and madness to be unleashed in 2017. The media is abysmal, do not trust a word they say. The intel community are professional liars…never believe them…ever. Trump is incapable of telling any truth, ignore everything he utters. Trust nothing and no one. If someone makes a claim demand to actually SEE the evidence, not some report that is meant to appease people who will never read it and is void of any proof. Demand to see actual, tangible evidence, or consider it a lie.

And finally, if you are dismayed about the post-truth world we now inhabit, make it a practice to be loyal to the Truth above all else. Be loyal to the Truth above ideology, political party and even country. The Truth shall set you free, so stop being a slave to the lies and disinformation coming from "official sources". We are through the looking glass here people, we need to cast off wishful thinking and anchor ourselves to Truth or all will be lost. The road ahead is going to be very disorienting, I mean just last week Sarah Palin wrote an apology to Julian Assange and told people to go see Oliver Stone's Snowden… we are most definitely through the looking glass. Maybe if we can hold onto the Truth for dear life, we might just be able to make it through all of this madness.


A Monster Calls : A Review


Estimated Reading Time : 5 Minutes 47 Seconds

My Rating : 3 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation : SEE IT. I recommend you see this film either in the theatre if you are a Jungian devotee, or on Netflix or Cable as it is interesting and original enough to be worth watching.

A Monster Calls, directed by J.A. Bayona and written by Patrick Ness based upon his book of the same name, is the story of Conor, a lonely, young boy in a small English town whose mother has cancer. The film stars Lewis MacDougall as Conor, with supporting turns from Felicity Jones as Conor's mother, Sigourney Weaver as his grandmother and Liam Neeson as the voice of the Monster that comes to visit him one night.

I had not heard about A Monster Calls before seeing it and knew nothing of the story. Obviously, I had not read the book it is based upon as well. I had time to kill and there was nothing else playing that fit into my time schedule, so, like a young Native American at the time of his initiation, I made the leap. I am very glad that I did.  A Monster Calls is not a perfect film, or even a great one, but it is an interesting film of deep meaning and that is extremely refreshing in the cookie-cutter cinematic culture of today.

The story of A Monster Calls is simple enough, it is a coming of age story where young Conor must go from being a boy to being a man. Conor, like all of us, must be wrenched from his mother's warm bosom (and bed), and thrown into the cold and cruel world to fend for himself. That journey from boy to man is a difficult one under the best of circumstances, but with a cancer-stricken mother as his only ally in the world, Conor's passage becomes a treacherous and desperately lonely one. This is where the Monster is awakened and comes to guide Conor on his path into, and out of, the dark wood of life. 

The Monster is really Conor's psychological shadow. Like all of our shadows, the Monster holds all of the scary, repulsive and ugly things and knowledge that Conor does not want to recognize or admit to himself. In A Monster Calls, Conor's Monster is also the only true father figure or genuine male presence to guide and teach young Conor on his perilous trek into masculinity and out of his pre-adolescence. Conor's actual father makes a brief appearance but is a rather sad excuse for a man and is a pretty worthless father, so Conor is forced to get his lessons in manhood from his own Shadow.

What is so interesting about A Monster Calls is that, while it may at times veer into familiar coming-of-age Hollywood rhythms, it never lets go of its overall darker theme. Without a "shadow"of a doubt, this is a shadow movie. There are no simple answers, no short cuts, no soft landings for Conor here, only the complex, layered and unrelentingly cold, dark and realist life lessons taught by the Monster/shadow. This is not a sunshine, rainbows and singing puppy dogs, Disney/Pixar type of film, if it were it would fail to adaquetly impart the lessons it sets out to teach. This film is a meditation on death, the death of our former selves, the death of our beliefs, of our religion, of our understanding of the world, of our hopes and of our dreams. A Monster Calls is a Jungian exploration of the power of the Monster/shadow that is born of death (both literal and symbolic), that lives within us all and how to release that power by integrating our own personal shadow elements. A great way to enjoy A Monster Calls is to watch it not as a straight forward narrative but rather as a Jungian analyst would analyze one of their own dreams, as the film is, like life, a dream within a dream within a dream. 

That said, this film may not be for everyone. It is rated PG-13 and I think it is on an individual basis that parents should judge whether their children should see it. I think thirteen is a good cutoff to even consider seeing it as kids younger than that may be overwhelmed with the darker themes of the film and may find it very disturbing. In addition, adults may not like it either. As I said, this is really a complex, Jungian, shadow-fairy tale about physical, emotional, mental and spiritual death and that isn't going to be everyones cup of tea. I enjoyed it but I am self-aware enough to know that others may not feel the same way. 

One of the reasons I enjoyed the film is that I have dealt with much death and darkness in my life and I appreciate a film grappling with the deeper meaning of those experiences. I view the world through a Jungian lens and enjoy explorations of the shadow, so this film was right up my alley. Your alley may be much more brightly lit than mine and that is okay, so just be forewarned before you head into see this picture. If the subject matter is something that is unappealing to you, that is okay too, but one thing to consider is that while symbolic death and the shadow may be a "dark" topic, it is also something that we all share together. Each one of us dies a thousand deaths before our final one, and each one of our psyches are inhabited by a thousand shadow Monsters. Our Monsters are what bind us and links us together through the ages from generation to generation. If we couldn't share our Monsters, we wouldn't share anything.

As I previously said, A Monster Calls is not a flaw-less film, for instance the performances are good enough but not particularly noteworthy with the exception of Lewis MacDougall, and there are some elements of the narrative that fall flat. On the other hand, cinematically, the film is fascinating to look at, particularly the dream/storytelling sequences which are visually dynamic and compelling. To its great credit the film does avoid the trap of sentimentality that these types of films so routinely fall into. Instead of cliches, A Monster Calls has an intriguing message and story that could, emphasis on could, resonate with all sorts of people if they are in the right frame of mind to be able to hear it.  

If you are looking for a dark, unique and original modern-day shadow-fairy tale, A Monster Calls is for you. This film contains lessons that each of us need to learn, whether we want to or not. The pilgrimage from boy to man, or for adults, from dusk to dawn during our dark night of the soul, can be a grueling and perilous one, so guidance from our shadow monsters familiar with the terrain of the darkness will be of critical assistance for anyone trying to survive that transition. While most of us would prefer to spend the entirety of our lives in the familiar warmth of the light, we all, at one time or another, will be compelled to make that journey into the cold, foreboding abyss of the mythical dark wood. It would be wise for each of us to familiarize ourselves with our own personal shadow monsters before we make this imperative and unavoidable expedition. As Conor learns in A Monster Calls, and as we all learn when we are forced to make our own similar odyssey, no one ever comes out of those dark woods the way they went in, best to prepare for that journey now while you can. If you don't, you will most certainly regret it when the time comes.


Nocturnal Animals : A Review


Estimated Reading Time : 5 Minutes 08 Seconds

Rating: 1 out of 5 stars

Recommendation : Skip it. No need to see this film in the theatre or on cable/Netflix as it is an unmitigated mess that never lives up to its grandiose pretensions.

Nocturnal Animals, or as I keep mistakenly keep calling it, Nocturnal Emissions, is definitely not a wet dream, it is more like a bone-dry nightmare. If David Lynch sustained a traumatic brain injury and then got blind drunk and directed an Armani commercial, that would be Nocturnal Animals. Actually as I think about it more deeply, the severe head injury-drunken-David Lynch-Armani ad would be considerably better than the limp and lackluster Nocturnal Animals.

Nocturnal Animals, written and directed by fashion designer Tom Ford and starring Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal, is billed as a neo-noir, psychological thriller based on Austin Wright's 1993 novel Tony and Susan. Contrary to what the film thinks it is, Nocturnal Animals is not neo, not noir, not psychological nor is it a thriller, rather it is a steaming pile of stylized excrement.

The "story", and I use that term very loosely here, is about a chic, wealthy, Los Angeles art gallery owner, Susan Morrow (Amy Adams), who in the midst of her icy marriage to Hutton (Armie Hammer), receives a manuscript from her ex-husband, Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal). Edward, a long-time struggling writer, has finally written a novel and dedicated it to his estranged ex-wife Susan. Susan lays down in her impeccably stylish Los Angeles avant-garde mansion to read the book. The film then jumps between the "fictional" action in the novel and Susan's "real-life" reaction to it. And thus arrises the first of many major problems with Nocturnal Animals…the book Edward has written is the absolute worst sort of literary dreck imaginable. Edward's novel is so trite, insipid and derivative it makes Fifty Shades of Grey look like The Brothers Karamozov, but somehow, Susan, a gatekeeper of artistic snobbery, is enraptured by this appalling pile of garbage. 

The film jumps back and forth between this God-awful novel, which tells the story of a family of three, a husband and wife and their teenage daughter, who get harassed by a gang of local toughs on a highway in the dark of night in the barren wastelands of west Texas, and the perfectly polished Susan lounging on her silk sheeted bed in the Hollywood Hills reading said tedious novel. The film is terribly written, terribly directed and terribly acted.

Jake Gyllenhaal plays both Susan's real-life novelist ex-husband Edward and the fictional novel's lead character Tony Hastings, the father and husband of the family harassed by the local bad boys. Gyllenhaal can be an uneven actor on the best of days, sometimes he is great (Donnie Darko, Brokeback Mountain, Zodiac, Nightcrawler) sometimes…not so great (everything else). In Nocturnal Animals all of Gyllenhaal's most troubling artistic instincts come to the fore and he delivers an abysmally poor performance. Gyllenhaal vacillates between being a doe eyed, impotent moron and a raging, revenge-fueled maniac, but his performance is like watching an egregiously constipated man desperately struggling to evacuate his bowels, or an incontinent one trying to contain them.

Amy Adams is a fine actress, but she is so overwhelmed by the Ocean of Dullness that is Nocturnal Animals that she quickly gets pulled out by the currents of the vapid script to a sea of oblivion, never to be seen again. Adams is certainly a striking woman and she is as beautiful as ever in the hands of the fashion designer/director Tom Ford, but her performance flails about searching for meaning where none exist. The extent of Adam's character development seems to come from the decision to wear dark eye liner, not exactly the apex of artistic courage. 

Tom Ford directed 2009's A Single Man, which starred Colin Firth as a gay man on the last day of his life in 1962 Los Angeles. A Single Man was a tremendously ambitious and daring film that was a terrific achievement for the then first time director Ford. Sadly, Ford is out of his depth with Nocturnal Animals. The film is so structurally unsound it collapses under the weight of its own pretension. Neither the "real world" segments, nor the "fictional world" segments are fully developed enough to have any redeeming value whatsoever. And while Ford is trying to make the "fictional world" of the novel a metaphor for Susan and Edward's relationship, that story is so catastrophically dull and unimaginative, it leaves the entire enterprise insidiously mundane and predictable. 

The most pivotal scene in the film takes place through an incoherent maze of flashbacks as Susan reads Edward's novel. Susan has a flashback and recounts when she hurt Edward so deeply that he and their marriage could never recover, but the wound she inflicted spurred Edward to write the novel she now reads. If that sounds convoluted, it's because it is. This scene is the dramatic climax of the film and it completely lacks any storytelling context or cinematic impact. This scene is so flaccid that not even a splint made out of a handful of popsicle sticks and a roll of duck tape could render it dramatically erect, which is par for the course with Nocturnal Animals.

I understand what Tom Ford was trying to do with Nocturnal Animals, I truly do, but he fails miserably, and even his failure is spectacularly unremarkable. Nocturnal Animals is a desperately pedestrian film of little to no value whatsoever. Neither the "real" world nor the "fictional" one of Nocturnal Animals has the least bit of dramatic resonance to them. I highly recommend you skip Nocturnal Animals as it is not worth any of your time or hard earned money. I hope that one day soon, director Tom Ford can return to his 2009 form when he made the captivating A Single Man, and he leaves the disaster that is Nocturnal Animals in a dusty ditch by the side of the road in the barren wastelands of west Texas. 



Moonlight : A Review


My Rating : 3.75 out of 5 Stars

My Recommendation : SEE IT.


Moonlight, written and directed by Barry Jenkins, is the story of Chiron, a black child who is "different" from most of the other people living in the Liberty City section of Miami. The story is told in three acts, covering Chiron's life as a little boy, a teenager and a grown man. The script is based on the play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue by Tarell Alvin McCraney.

Moonlight is one of those glorious films that allows you a glimpse into a world that you otherwise would never get to see. Barry Jenkins directing is solid across the board. He draws quality performances from his entire cast and also from his cinematographer James Laxton. Moonlight has a lush and vibrant visual style to it that enhances the surreal contradiction of a story set in a ghetto that is in the shadow of paradise. Jenkins has only made one other feature film, which I have not seen, but Moonlight is a powerful directorial calling card to much bigger things for a filmmaker with a deft storytelling touch.

Alex Hibbert as Chiron

Alex Hibbert as Chiron

The entire cast does very notable, if unspectacular and understated work in Moonlight. The acting is subordinate to the story and that is a great compliment to the cast. The actors who play Chiron, Alex Hibbert (child), Ashton Sanders (teen) and Trevante Rhodes (adult) give seamless performances that perfectly capture the turmoil and tension living within Chiron. I found Hibbert to be especially great as he weaves his way from being a sullen and down trodden little boy to being full of life and vigor when someone understands him. Sanders does intricate work as teen Chiron who is a boiling cauldron of conflicting emotions. Sanders imbues teen Chiron with a vivid internal life that is magnetic on screen. There is never a wasted moment in Sanders performance, every moment is filled with a combustible, inner fury that is both unpredictable and heartbreaking. I thought Trevante Rhodes adult Chiron was, without question, the weakest of the three, but that isn't necessarily his fault as the third act is the weakest act of the film. To Trevante's credit, he does yeoman's work in the third act, but the script and the film fail him. 

The supporting cast, including Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris and Jannelle Monae all do very sturdy and subtle work that selflessly propels the narrative forward. The child and teen actors are all really good as well. No one stands out, but they all create a cohesive and believable backdrop for Chiron's story to be told. 

As previously stated, the third act of the film falls flat and the great dramatic anticipation created in the sublime first two acts is never fully realized. That is a shame as Moonlight was on track to be a really phenomenal film. It is still a good one, but it fails to deliver in the end and I found that to be disappointing. Part of the reason that the third act is so underwhelming is because the first two acts, which are an exquisite coming-of-age story, are so exceedingly well done, which is sort of a blessing and a curse for the film when taking the final act into consideration. 

Trevante Rhodes as Chiron

Trevante Rhodes as Chiron

The philosophical and psychological questions that were rattling through my head watching this film, but which were never directly addressed by it, revolved around the notion of black men in a hard-core, gangster culture who are on the "down low", in other words, secretly attracted to men. The idea that the uber-masculine black popular culture of today masks a gay impulse is one deserving of a more thorough dramatic and psychological investigation than Moonlight had time to explore. History shows us that Black men have been systematically emasculated in America from slavery onward, with literal castration during slavery to symbolic castration during Jim Crow and beyond, calling grown men "boy" for example. The hyper-masculinity in the current black culture may be a response to this systemic cultural emasculation wound passed down over generations. The hip-hop/gangster archetype, with its tough exterior and overt hyper-heterosexuality, may be the psychological shadow created by this emasculation wound. The compensation, or over-compenstation as the case may be, for the deep-seeded emasculation wound takes its form as the hip-hop/gangster archetype, a sort of uber-male who reclaims his stolen masculinity. This hip-hop/gangster uber-male archetype though brings with it its' own shadow, namely homosexual desire.

Mahershala Ali as Juan

Mahershala Ali as Juan

If you examine this idea even further it elevates the question of the cultural emasculation wound into some very interesting areas. Some of the questions that arise are, is this conscious attachment to the hyper-masculinity of the hip-hop/gangster archetype masking an unconscious attempt to heal a wound and fill a void created by centuries of systemic emasculation of black men? Is the hip-hop/gangster archetype's emasculation wound so generationally and psychologically ingrained that the archetype's sexuality embraces a shadow attraction to other men in order to fill itself with the male energy it unconsciously feels it lacks or was stolen from it? Is the hip-hop/gangster archetype a vehicle by which Black men unconsciously force themselves into an all-male environment, namely prison, where having sex with other men is an act of power and not an act of sexual expression, thus de-stigmatizing the homosexual act in their eyes and enabling them to heal their emasculation wound? These are the sort of questions that Moonlight raises, but only at the furthest of margins, and never fully engages. Maybe that is a story for another film entirely from Barry Jenkins, he certainly has the skill and career momentum to make it.

In conclusion, Moonlight is a flawed but very impressive piece of work. It is two-thirds of a great film, which is two-thirds better than most of the junk out there these days (I'm looking at you Nocturnal Animals!!). I recommend you see Moonlight in the theatre if for no other reason than to appreciate the visual artistry and dynamic color palette of cinematographer James Laxton. There are other reasons to see the film as well, namely the original and unique coming-of-age narrative which gives viewers a glimpse into an otherwise hidden world that is deserving of our focus for all of the human and dramatic gems it contains.

There is no doubt that Moonlight is a shoo-in for a bevy of Oscar nominations this year. The cynic in me knows that the Academy will embrace Moonlight for at least two reasons, the first is because it has an all black cast and they want to avoid the bad publicity of last years #OscarsSoWhite nonsense. The second is because it is a gay-themed film and the Academy generally likes films dealing with gay issues. While I think Moonlight is a good film, I think its flawed third act might make it a less-than Best Picture Oscar worthy film, but that is all relative and people of good faith can disagree on that and no doubt will. The best thing to do, and what I recommend, is that you go see Moonlight and decide for yourself.  Whether it is an Oscar-worthy film or not, it is definitely worthy of your hard earned dollars and your sparse free time.



Manchester by the Sea : A Review


Estimated Reading Time : 5 minutes 14 seconds

My Rating : 3 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation : See it on Netflix or Cable

Manchester by the Sea, written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan, is the the story of Lee Chandler, a janitor in Quincy, Massachusetts, who must return to his hometown of Manchester by the Sea, in order to take care of things after his older brother dies. The film stars Casey Affleck as Lee, with notable supporting turns from Michelle Williams and Lucas Hedges. 

Casey Affleck as Lee Chandler

Casey Affleck as Lee Chandler

At its heart, Manchester by the Sea is more a character study than a narrative driven film. As a character study it does well, but sadly as a compelling narrative it doesn't measure up. The best part of the film without question is the performances of Casey Affleck and Michele Williams. Affleck is an underrated actor who has turned in some remarkable performances in the past, most notably his exquisite portrayal of Robert Ford in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. Affleck's work in Manchester by the Sea is contained, genuine and confident. Affleck allows silences to work for him and never pushes to hard for a pre-ordained result. 

The problem with Affleck's performance, and with the film as a whole, is that the character Lee Chandler, is not a unique or original one. Chandler is yet another emotionally repressed and remote Boston guy with a quick wit who express himself exclusively with his fists and only after he's had a few beers. I think with Manchester by the Sea we have officially hit Peak Boston. In addition to last years Oscar winner Spotlight, we've also had Black Mass, The Town, The Fighter, Ted, Gone Baby Gone, The Departed, Shutter Island, Mystic River, and Good Will Hunting just to name a few. I enjoyed many of those films a great deal, but enough already. Lee Chandler is just an extension of a thousand other Boston movie tough guys with limited emotional intelligence but who have wicked shahp tongues, hahts of gold and fists of fury. Affleck brings this all too often seen character to life with great skill, but that doesn't make it any less predictable and tiresome.

My Funky Bunch will get you!!

My Funky Bunch will get you!!

Having spent a great deal of time in Boston I can tell you that I have never met a real-life Lee Chandler (or the thousand other Boston movie tough guys), he might as well be a unicorn who poops rainbows. This Boston tough guy unicorn has dominated much of popular culture for the last twenty years or so, but that doesn't make it true. While everyone in Boston may think of themselves as tough guys, they sure as hell aren't. Yes, there are most definitely some tough guys in Boston, without a doubt, but certainly not more than anywhere else, and at this point I think there are more movies about tough guys from Boston than there are actual tough guys in Boston. What I think Boston has more than anywhere else are insecure guys with inferiority complexes who wish they were tough, so they write tough guy characters as wish fulfillment. Matt Damon, Ben Affleck and Mark Wahlberg have made careers out of playing the Boston tough guy unicorn. Good for them, they have done it well. Sandy Duncan made a career out of playing Peter Pan, but that doesn't make him real either.  

Tough guy Brothers!! Wahlbergs in da house!!

Tough guy Brothers!! Wahlbergs in da house!!

Think of it this way, New Englanders fanatically love their sports teams, and there are lots of sports commentators and writers that hail from Boston, hell most of ESPN is from Boston. You know what doesn't come from Boston, or all of New England for that matter? Professional athletes. New England produces lots of people who talk and write about sports, but not many who excel at them. The statistics are pretty amazing. If you take the populations of Massachusetts, Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire and Rhode Island and add them together it comes to 11,136,698, which makes New England the 8th most populous "state" in the U.S. If you look at the number of professional athletes that come out of New England, the region terribly underperforms compared to its population rate. For instance, there are currently 11 NFL players from New England which ranks them 34th out of 46 states(46 instead of 50 since you combine the New England states into one) which is well below their population rank of 8. There are 6 NBA players from New England, which ranks 21st out of 46 states, again well below their population rank. And there are 13 MLB players which ranks 12th, much better comparatively, but still below their population rank. And you can't blame the lack of athletes on the cold weather either, as a state like Minnesota which has about half the population of New England, at 5.5 million, outperforms New England in two of the three major sports (NFL 20, NBA 7, MLB 6). Why am I rambling on about professional sports and New England in a review of Manchester by the Sea? Well, because the same thing holds true for tough guys…Boston produces a lot of guys who talk and write about being tough guys, but not a lot of actual tough guys. Which is why, after all my time in Boston, I have never met a Lee Chandler…or a Will Hunting, or a whatever tough guy little Marky Mark Wahlberg is pretending to be this week.

Michelle Williams as Randi

Michelle Williams as Randi

You know who I have met? A Randi, Lee Chandler's wife played by Michelle Williams. William's portrayal is so great that she gets completely lost within it. Her accent is spot on and never forced or mannered. Her character is so well done that you feel like you know her personally. Williams is one of the best actresses working today and her work in Manchester by the Sea is a testament to her glorious talent and sublime skill. Her Randi is so real and so human that it hurts to watch her even as she luminously lights up the screen. Williams allows Randi to hide in plain sight, making her a marvel to behold.

Lucas Hedges does a good job as well as Lee's 16 year old nephew. Hedges plays the awkward coolness of adolescence with a bravado and innocence that suits the character and the story very well. I am not very familiar with Hedge's work, but am looking forward to seeing what else he does after his solid performance in Manchester by the Sea

Sadly, the entirety of the other supporting actors, including Kyle Chandler, Gretchen Mol and Matthew Broderick, as well as the smaller roles, are really not good at all, in fact, they are distractingly bad. The supporting actors try to hit the Boston accent just right, but they either hit it too hard or they hit the wrong note with it. Look, the Boston accent is a difficult one for non-natives to master, even two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks has embarrassed himself on numerous occasions trying to do one, but that doesn't mean it isn't crucial to the film. Whenever you hear a bad accent it takes you out of the movie going experience. You are reminded once more that what you are watching is fake and your suspension of disbelief gets broken. Chandler and Mol are both very good actors, Chandler's work on Friday Night Lights and Mol's on Boardwalk Empire and in The Notorious Betty Page are monuments to that, but in Manchester by the Sea they are overwhelmed by the accent and are never able to ground their performances in any sort of truth. 

At the end of the day, Manchester but the Sea is a decent enough film, but not nearly as great as it thinks it is. The film has an air of art house hype and arrogance to it that it never lives up to. While Affleck's performance kept me captivated for two hours, and Michelle Williams kept me enthralled for the entirety of her brief screen time, the film itself lacks that sort of artistic charisma due to a shortage of originality. 

Casey Affleck and Luke Hedges

Casey Affleck and Luke Hedges

I recommend you see the film on Netflix or cable in order to witness firstly, Michelle Williams outstanding supporting acting and secondly Casey Affleck's layered lead performance. Another positive for the film is that it also has the scenery of the New England coastline as its background which is gorgeous to look at and is beautifully shot, and adds a picture post card setting to counter Affleck's inner demons, of that there is no doubt. While I didn't hate Manchester by the Sea, I also wasn't deeply moved or artistically impressed by it either. It is a middle of the road film buoyed by two strong performances. Unless you are itching for a night out, in my opinion you can wait for the film to show up on Netflix or cable before seeing it. 

And maybe, just maybe, since with Manchester by the Sea we have undoubtedly hit Peak Boston, the center of the cultural universe can now shift slightly further west to some other city with a deep seeded insecurity and inferiority complex…maybe to Philadelphia, although they had Rocky, or Baltimore, although they had The Wire, or Pittsburgh, or Cleveland or…Toledo…anywhere but Boston. Enough already with the Boston thing. With Manchester by the Sea we have officially reached market saturation of Boston-ness, it may have been fun while it lasted but I think it's time to move on. Goodbye Boston…hello Buffalo?


Election 2016 Aftermath : A Practical Handbook to Survive and Thrive in the Era of Trump

Estimated Reading Time : 15 minutes 37 seconds


A little over a month ago Donald Trump won the U.S. presidential election. I was in the minority as I was not one of those shocked by this outcome, but many people were and still are positively shocked and maybe even shell-shocked. Hillary supporters in particular were blindsided by the election and are very angry, hurt and upset about the result. Even though I am not a Democrat or a Clinton supporter (nor am I a Republican or Trump supporter), I truly understand how they feel and I even have empathy for them and their situation. That said, as I have witnessed Clinton supporters react to the election results over the last month on Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, in the media and elsewhere, I have been struck by how counter-productive their reactions have been. 

The biggest problem with the Clintonites reactions to the election are just that, they have been reactions and not responses. A reaction is emotion based and a response is reason based. That in a nutshell is not only what is wrong with the Clinton supporters post-election actions but also with the entire Clinton campaign. Emotionalism is the scourge of our time and the post election reaction by Clinton supporters proves this point almost as much as the emotionalist Trump campaign's victory. 



A great example of this Clintonite reaction was from a reader of my post-election piece who wrote in response to it that because I was a "straight, white male" my opinion wasn't worth anything and should be ignored. This reader is an unemployed, middle-aged, white woman and a vociferous Clinton supporter. I understand her frustration and frankly her embarrassment at having been so catastrophically wrong about the election in every single way, so her emotionalism is to be expected, but that doesn't make it any less useful as an example or any less harmful to her alleged long term political interests. Her reaction to my piece was to, unintentionally no doubt, prove the point of it, namely that identity politics was what painted Clinton and the democrats into a corner from which she could not escape. So she reduced my argument to being nothing more than my identity. She then said that she could explain to me why I was so wrong but that she wouldn't because I "just wouldn't get it." This is a wonderful rhetorical device, refuse to actually engage an argument by blaming it on the stupidity of your opponent rather than your inability to articulate it. 

Sadly, this ill-informed woman is a perfect example of the failure of the Clinton campaign, she feels entitled to not have to actually make an argument to persuade people to her side. This foolish woman refused to acknowledge the obvious in our situation, namely that I, regardless of my sexual preference, race or gender was right about the election and she was spectacularly wrong, because that would undermine her perceived intellectual and moral superiority, which is essential for her to maintain her self-delusional identity in the world. What struck me most about this exchange was that it foreshadows the strategic and tactical ineffectiveness to come from democrats as they wander in the political wilderness for the next two years which, with this lack of thoughtfulness, will most likely turn into 8 or more years. 


From what I have seen coming from democrats and Clinton supporters since the election, it is blatantly obvious that they have not only learned nothing from their failure, but they do not want to learn anything from it either. Hillary supporters have pointed their finger at the F.B.I., James Comey, Vladimir Putin, the Russians, fake news, the electoral college, racists, Nazis and misogynists in an attempt to cast blame on why they lost. This finger pointing and blaming is born out of an emotionalist arrogance and does nothing more than highlight and solidify the actual reason Clinton lost, her inability to be honest with herself and others and take responsibility. Clinton supporters can bemoan all sorts of external evils that conspired to take them down, but until they can muster the humility to actually look in the mirror and take full responsibility for their historical blindness, their lack of any coherent argument, their shocking tone-deafness, the atrocious campaign they ran and the dreadful candidate they put up, they will not learn anything and will not be able to mount a successful insurgency against Trump in the coming years.

This failure to learn anything or take any responsibility is not only bad news for democrats and Clinton supporters, but for our entire nation as well. If Clinton supporters truly believe Trump is as dangerous and tyrannical as they say he is, and he very well may be, then they would be most wise to stop thinking and acting emotionally and start thinking and acting strategically in order to stop him. Which is why I have written this little handbook on a strategic and tactical approach for the democrats to use in the coming years. 

I know, I know, why on earth would anyone want to read a handbook on how to get back into power written by the horrors of horrors…a straight, white male? Great question, sweetheart. (I'm kidding!!) The answer is that straight, white men, and some gay ones too, have conquered and ruled the planet for centuries. For good or for ill, and a whole hell of a lot of it has been for ill, that is the reality of the world in which we live. With that in mind, it might be a wise move to listen to a straight, white male when it comes to issues of power and conquest if you want to conquer and rule. If you want to sit on the throne, you might want to know how to think like the king. And it might be an even smarter move to listen to this straight, white male who just so happened to be right about the election when you were so fantastically and spectacularly  wrong. So, democrats and Clintonites, ignore this handbook at your own peril. Now onto the strategic and tactical guide.


Michael Corleone's point is critical to understand if you want to be successful in stopping the Trump agenda and his quest for a second term. The unemployed, middle-aged woman I referenced at the beginning of this piece was very heavily emotionally and psychologically invested in the Clinton campaign. This woman took the campaign, and Hillary's loss, very, very personally. I understand, I totally get it. Clinton was the first female candidate of a major political party and was thought to be a shoo-in for the presidency. Many women projected their struggles onto Hillary and took her success to be their success. This is a natural and normal thing to do especially when her opponent was such an obnoxious, misogynistic asshole. The problem though is that when Hillary supporters projected themselves onto her, it became all too easy for them to stop thinking logically and to start thinking emotionally. It is human nature when we take things personally to react emotionally, but reacting emotionally almost always makes things worse and not better. We have all been in the situation where we are pissed about something and we furiously write an email to the person who has angered us and then we send it and we escalate a situation that needn't be escalated and we create more drama and despair than we needed in our lives. The best course of action in cases like this is to wait 24 hours before sending the email. We all know this intellectually, but goodness knows we don't always act according to our intellect. Delaying the email gives us a chance to shift out of emotionalism and its myopic, limiting thought process and into rationalism which is much more cognitively expansive. It doesn't always work that way, as humans have the uncanny ability to stay pissed for a long time, or at least I do, but it usually works. Daybreak can bring with it a new perspective and a wiser decision that ceases our pain rather than exacerbates it. 




Unfortunately, due to taking the Clinton loss personally, and the emotionalism that comes with that, since the election there has been a spate of Facebook rants from Hillary supporters bemoaning the outcome and belittling the fools who voted for Trump. Some have even become so enamored with their diatribes that they have filmed themselves reading those same rants (and even though they wrote the rant, they chose not to memorize it, which is the height of laziness) and then posted that as well.  These rants usually involve calling all Trump voters racist, numerous mentions of the "KKK", charges of misogyny, xenophobia and stupidity along with the demand that anyone who voted for Trump or for a third party "unfriend" the ranter. Sadly, these breathless, yet heart felt rants, have the exact opposite effect of which the ranter intended, which is to strengthen their side and weaken the other side. I hate to be the one to tell these ranters, but what your rants actually do is strengthen your opponents and weaken you.

These ranter's opinions are as valid as anyone else's and they are entitled to them, but their arguments are vapid. These rants are not arguments at all so much as tantrums. They have all the intellectual heft and political sophistication of the backstage bitching at a child beauty pageant. These rants don't actually make any arguments, they only make accusations. And while these ranters obviously think they are brilliant and are exceedingly proud of their diatribes enough to film them and share those cringe-worthy bits of cinematic detritus, they are the equivalent of a toddler who throws their poop against the wall and is so proud of it because they think they have created art. Of course, it is only the poop throwing toddler alone who believes their mess is praiseworthy. While the poop wall may be vaguely reminiscent of a Pollock, it isn't going to hang in the Guggenheim, it will only be cleaned up and forgotten as quickly as possible. 

The truth is these rants aren't meant to change anyone's minds at all, only to buttress the beliefs of the like minded. There is nothing wrong with that except the problem is that these rants don't happen in a liberal vacuum, they are posted for the entire world to see. The world not only includes the potential allies of third party voters whom you want to "unfriend", but also includes those marginal Trump voters, all 77,000 of them in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan who flipped from voting Obama twice and now made the difference for Trump. 

While It is important to remember that there are an overwhelming majority of Trump voters who will never switch their allegiance, so trying to convince them is fruitless, it is equally important to remember there are a pivotal and key group of Trump supporters who can be convinced to change their allegiance. Those are the 77,000 voters that you need for victory in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan. By lumping those 77,000 in with the other more rabid Trump voters, you are alienating crucial potential allies. Your empty-headed, emotionalist vitriol is forcing people away from your point of view and your candidates and towards Trump. It is sort of like when Hillary won the nomination and her supporters, like those now ranting, decided it was still a good idea to keep attacking "Bernie Bros" and all of their "mansplainin'". How did that work out for you, Sugartits? (Again…I am kidding!!) In other words, these ranters are cutting off their nose to spite their face. I am sure their rant feels good now, but it won't feel so good at Trump's next election victory party in 2020.

Another serious issue with these arrogantly self-serving tirades is the call for "unfriending" of anyone who dared disagree with the pompous ranter. Epistemic closure and living in a bubble is exactly how democrats got themselves into this whole mess in the first place. To demand even more epistemic rigidity and isolation is so mind-numbingly moronic as to be amazing. I understand that these ranters are irritated by people who disagree with them, but you just lost an election because your arguments were so remarkably flaccid. Shutting out any contrarian opinions now will only lead to more severe political and intellectual impotence. Arguments need to be forged in fire and strengthened by opposition. If you cannot sharpen your arguments against your enemies or even mildly oppositional forces, your arguments will atrophy and wither in the delusional comfort of your epistemic bubble. Calls for immediate removal of all oppositional opinions is literally sticking your head up your own ass. What is desperately needed now is not a tighter bubble, but the humility to admit you were wrong and to sharpen your arguments against the rock of those who oppose you. I totally understand why these ranters want to only shout and not to engage, life seems easier that way, but that is a one way ticket into further political and intellectual oblivion. Being on the battlefield of ideas is scary, especially if, like these ranters, you are unarmed, so to those folks I say arm yourself and find some courage. And when I say arm yourself, I don't mean just regurgitate what you heard on Rachel Maddow or what you read on DailyKos, that is not strengthening your arguments or nurturing vibrant intellectual debate, that is just one more exercise in confirmation bias.


Both physically and psychologically, it is human instinct to become more rigid and resist when someone pushes you. This resistance instinct is a natural occurrence when someone calls you names, like racist or misogynist, and pretends to know what you feel deep in your heart. The form of resistance taken in the face of these charges is for those being called racists to simply join with those who are in opposition to their attacker. In recent weeks, things have ratcheted up to the point where there are even social media/video rants from Clintonites that demand that Trump voters PROVE to them that they aren't racist. This is just the most self-serving horseshit imaginable. These social media ranters build a straw man, that all Trump voters, including those who voted for Obama twice, are racists, and then demand that these voters PROVE to them that they aren't racist. These "prove it' challenges are absurd and are just the most self-righteous, self-satisfying and self-defeating tactic imaginable. The natural, normal, human response for any person exposed to a vapid challenge like that is to take the opposing position against those accusing you. This is what is happening when "Springsteen voters" see and hear these social media rants, they simply shake their heads and think they made the right decision not so much voting for Trump, but voting against Clinton and those holier-than-thou haranguing asshats.


In addition, these jeremiads play into every single stereotype that hardcore Trump voters have of liberals and democrats, namely that they are entitled, arrogant, selfish, whiny, know-it-alls. Seeing these rants gives these hardcore Trumpists a tremendous amount of joy, pleasure and satisfaction. These diatribes give aid and comfort to the people you want to defeat and also no shortage of ammunition to be used to keep those 77,000 Springsteen voters in the fold and Trump in power. With this in mind, these rants look less like rallying the base to action and more about a form of self-aggrandizing masturbation.

While these screeds may be a way for the individual ranters, especially the desperately thirsty, fame-whoring ones inhabiting Los Angeles, to try and raise their public profile and maybe even save their moribund careers by getting a job on a political tv show (The Daily Show...fingers crossed!! Better yet…Full Frontal with Samantha Bee!!! Girl Power!!!), they certainly aren't a way to strategically stop Trump and his minions from destroying all the things these ranters claim to hold dear. So stop with the selfish, transparent and desperate rants. Stop with the weak kneed emotionalism. Grow a pair of balls (and yes, I am a misogynist for saying that only people with testicles are tough, I am an evil minion of the patriarchy, you caught me Buttercup…again, just kidding!!), get up off the canvas, brush yourself off and get back in the ring. Except this time go into that ring thinking strategically, not emotionally, and maybe you won't get knocked on your ass again. Which brings us to...



Don Corleone said this to Sonny when he revealed to The Turk his surprise that the Tartaglias would guarantee the Corleone's investment in the drug trade. This seemingly minor error by Sonny led to the assassination attempt on Don Corleone, war amongst the five families, Sonny's death on the causeway, Michael's murder of the Turk and a police Captain, Michael's year in exile and the murder of his wife Appollonia, and eventually Michael settling all family business by killing all the family's enemies. In other words…if Sonny hadn't let someone outside the family know what he was thinking, then a whole lot of people wouldn't have been killed. The same applies to Clintonites and the election aftermath. 

As I stated previously, the social media rants against Trump voters may feel good when your doing them, but they are terribly counterproductive. Emotionalists want to feel good in the moment, strategists want to succeed in the long run. So stop with the rants already. That said…just because you shouldn't let anyone outside the family know what your thinking, doesn't mean you shouldn't think it. You can think every Trump voter is racist all you want, even though it is obviously not true. I am not telling you what to think, I am telling you what to do and how to succeed. I also don't give a flying fuck how you feel. If you want to get angry or be hurt or upset, or if you are afraid, go ahead, just don't let your enemies know that is how you feel. Tie your courage to to the sticking post. Be rational, be reasonable, be logical, and be calm in front of your enemies and then plot to eviscerate them when the time is right. 

In fact, I would tell you that instead of ranting on social media where everyone can see what you are thinking (or not-thinking as the case may be) or feeling and where you strengthen your enemies and weaken yourself…just set aside some time everyday to have a nice, private, little two minutes hate. If you have a friend with similar political leanings, call them once a day, or email them and only them, and rant for two minutes about how awful Trump or his voters are. Unleash all of your pent up hostility and rage during this two minutes. Spew forth all of the vitriol you can muster. That way you purge yourself of the emotionalism that cripples your arguments and you keep yourself sane and logical for the great fight ahead.



Another thing to strategically keep in mind regarding emotionalism is that emotion can be a valuable weapon in the hands of a master. The problem is that your opponent, Donald Trump, is a master of emotion. Trump is the archetypal trickster, and he can not only manipulate the emotions of his supporters to his benefit, but can manipulate his opponents emotions to his advantage as well. Trump masterfully plays democrats and the media to react the way he wants them to by pushing their emotional buttons. He tweets something outrageous in order to distract from a story he doesn't like (the flag burning nonsense), or he meets with Kanye West or something like that. Trump is constantly toying with democrats and the media like a cat with a mouse, and they become victims of their own emotionalism.

It is vitally important to remember this, in the battle for power, emotion is Trump's weapon, not yours. If you take Trump on, on emotional grounds, he will destroy you. You must take him on rationally, using unemotional language and arguments. Trump is a narcissist who desperately needs an emotional foil in order to maintain his self image. By not engaging him emotionally, and not reacting to his tweets or what he says, you neuter him. Without a foil, Trump flails about like a frantically drowning man. Trump needs an enemy to emotionally invigorate and engage him, if you do not give that to him, he spins out of control, then withers and dies. Emotionalism is Trump's power source, cold rationalism is his Kryptonite.


So in order to weaken Trump you must ignore his tweets…all of them, no matter how infuriating they may be. Ignore every single word he says as well, no matter what. Ignore his neo-Nuremberg rallies and his playing to the crowd with his loaded language. You must understand that Trump's words are meaningless and are meant to make you react and not respond. Do not let him control you so easily. Instead, only respond, not react, to the things he actually does, never what he says. For instance, if Trump nominates people you dislike for cabinet positions, quietly plot to undermine them. Do not talk about them publicly, but conspire to dig up dirt on them and make their confirmation a living hell. Let Trump react to what you do, not the other way around. And when Trump reacts to you, ignore his reaction and keep on calmly working to undermine and destroy him.


Also, Trump's great strength is in form and appearance as he is the penultimate improvisational showman, and his great weakness is detail, structure and function. So attack Trump's weakness, detail and function, with your strength, bureaucracy. What I mean by that is you must make Trump have to slog through the muck and mire, the monotonous and grueling process of actually governing. You can tie Trump up in knots over the process of writing minutely detailed and specific legislation and actually passing it. When you get outraged by his remarks, your distraction allows him to win on form instead of lose on function. If he says outrageous things, let them just float out there and let people make up their own minds. If the media asks a democrat what they think about the latest outrageous remark Trump has just made, they should respond, "I don't care what the President says, I care what he does." 

And, I understand how difficult this tactic can be, when you hear the things that Trump says it can be downright infuriating because he means to infuriate you, but it is vital that you remember that in order to stop Trump, you must make him fight you on your ground, not his. The media will be of little help in this endeavor as they proved in the campaign by covering Trump's every rally and every word. The media want Trump in the spotlight because he is outrageous and unpredictable and outrageousness and unpredictability means ratings. So my advice in order to stay sane and be effective in opposition to Trump, is to never read Trump's twitter feed, and to never watch any cable news. I know this is where many people get their news…but I have bad news…cable news isn't news, it is infotainment. So read the newspaper for your news…but do not read the editorials. And avoid cable news like the plague, because it is a plague. You literally get dumber every second you watch cable news, regardless of the channel. Those networks are meant to make you think emotionally, not rationally, so don't let them derail your opposition to Trump. If you simply cannot function without television news, watch the BBC…with the sound off.



As I stated earlier, it is a physical and psychological human instinct to resist when pushed. Many martial arts teach students to overcome this instinct in order to gain an advantage in combat. For example, Judo and Aikido teach that when pushed you should pull and when pulled you should push. The idea behind this technique is that when someone pushes you and you pull them towards you, you are using their force against them by adding a small amount of your strength to it and knocking you opponent off balance. An opponent who is off balance is one that is not an immediate threat to you and one that is also vulnerable to your attack.

Which brings us to another key strategy to derail Trump which may seem counter-intuitive, but it is to embrace Trump on any and all economic issues you even remotely agree with him on. Embracing Trump will knock him off balance and will also play to his vanity, for God knows flattery will get you somewhere with Trump. An example of what I am talking about would have been to embrace the Carrier deal Trump made to "save" American jobs. Yes, I know that the deal is a total charade, but in order to beat Trump long term you must embrace him short term. So, emphasize how great it is that those 800 people still have jobs due to this deal, but then emphasize how much better the deal could have been and go to great lengths to talk about the other workers who are now left behind because of this deal and how much they will suffer. This is crucial because it means you flatter Trump and do not alienate the people whose jobs he has "saved", but you also ally yourself with people he has screwed who will obviously be more open to vote against him. By embracing Trump on economics, it will force him to occasionally search for a different enemy and Trump's need to find a foil might land squarely on Paul Ryan and the republicans. Trump always desperately needs an enemy and if you can make Paul Ryan and the establishment wing of the republican party his enemy, you make them fight each other and they end up weaker and you get stronger. 

The union leader from Indiana who Trump attacked on twitter in the aftermath of the Carrier deal is a great example of how to handle Trump. This leader, Chuck Jones of the United Steelworkers, is a plain spoken, working class, midwestern guy…a Springsteen voter. When Trump personally attacked him on twitter he didn't get emotional, he just calmly stated his argument, which was correct by the way, and Trump was left with nothing to rage against. Trump backed down and shut up because Chuck Jones didn't get emotional, he got rational. This white working class guy gave an unintentional seminar on how to disarm and defeat Trump…I hope democrats were paying attention.

History and recent news have given us an example of how not embracing your enemies can be counterproductive. Last month Fidel Castro died in Havana. Whatever you think of Castro, it is pretty remarkable that he stayed in power for nearly sixty years while the greatest super power on the earth just 90 miles away actively tried to kill him. The reason Castro was able to stay in power was because he gained strength in resistance to the U.S. If they U.S. had been less adversarial with him, and had embraced him even a little bit, Castro would not have been able to maintain his grip on Cuba. Castro was strengthened by the unilateral opposition to him by the U.S. just like Trump will be strengthened by unilateral opposition by democrats.


Another strategy that is very Machiavellian but would be vital to eroding Trump's support, would be to embrace guns and the second amendment. I totally understand that most democrats dislike guns, I get it. But you need to think of two things in regards to guns and your political positions. The first is that Donald Trump, a man you fear and loathe, is President and has all the power of the federal government at his disposal. Many democrats and liberals are worried about people being rounded up and put in camps and all sorts of tyrannical things like that. Well, if you are afraid of President Trump and the unimaginable power he wields, it might be a good time to embrace the second amendment and arm yourself in case things get as scary as you imagine they might. If you look at it rationally, the second amendment was designed for people like you who fear the potential tyranny of President Trump. Secondly, as much as democrats dislike and oppose guns, the reality is that even after the atrocious massacre of children at Newtown/Sandy Hook, nothing has changed. Democrats have lost the argument and guns aren't going anywhere. The democrats would be wise to accept this fact and use it to their strategic advantage. 

What advantage would democrats gain by embracing guns? Well, those 77,000 Spingsteen voters are from rural, hunting states and they live in the gun culture. Guns are a wedge issue used to make Springsteen voters occasionally vote against their economic interests. If you remove the wedge issue of guns, you have taken a very valuable weapon out of the hands of your enemies. It would be very wise to do so in order to weaken your opponents and strengthen yourself. 


Attacking Trump would seemingly be an easy task as he is a target rich environment, but the opposite is actually true. Effectively attacking Trump, and that is the key, to effectively attack him rather than just attack him, will take great skill and patience. Here are some basics traps to avoid. First off, do not attack Trump by calling him stupid. Just as Hillary supporters took her loss personally, so will Trump supporters take attacks on him personally, specifically the ones calling him dumb. Even those marginal Springsteen voters will be roused by attacks on Trump's intelligence because they already feel that democrats speak down to them, whereas Trump speaks their language. Attacks on Trump that call him stupid will have the reverse effect that the attacker intends, as it will strengthen Trump and weaken the attacker. 

Another thing to consider is that attacking Trump as dumb is more about shadow projection by liberals than it is about his actual intellect. If you look at the last forty years or so a pattern emerges where the attacks by each political party take on a psychological consistency. Liberals called Reagan, George W. Bush, Sarah Palin and now Trump, stupid. For liberals, intelligence is a highly regarded value, and obviously the shadow of intelligence is stupidity. So for liberals the fear of their being perceived as dumb lurks in their shadow, and they project that negative/shadow attribute onto their opponents. Republicans/conservatives do the same thing with their own shadow projections. Republicans value purity and strength and so their shadow values/fears are impurity and weakness. Both Bill Clinton and Barrack Obama were believed to be "unworthy" and illegitimate presidents by republicans, the most glaring example being the birther nonsense. Obama and Bill Clinton were also thought of as "weak" by republicans. Shadow projections are ineffective weapons of attack because they only ring true for those doing the projecting and not those without the same hierarchical values and  beliefs. So while it seems like a great line of attack, it is really more a sign of weakness than strength and will only harm the attacker.

Along the same lines it is essential that democrats never attack Trump voters. Hillary's "deplorables" comment played well with Trump's base but it also greatly offended those marginal Springsteen voters which was a fatal error. Attacking Trump is tricky business, but attacking his supporters is down right political suicide. As I said previously, you can think what you want about these people, but just don't think it out loud.


Another trap to avoid is the sirens call of victimhood and using it as a weapon against Trump. Trump will offend a lot of people with the things he says and there will be no shortage of victims of his thoughtlessness and bullying. That said, it is important to understand the historical wave and time we live in. This is the time of the archetypal "strong man". Across the globe strong men and nationalists are taking power. In order to stop them one must understand the archetypes that resonate in the collective at this time and be able to manipulate them to your advantage. 

The collective is attracted to "strength" at the moment. This sort of "strength" is not a physical, spiritual or even moral strength, rather it is the outward appearance of strength which masks the inner toxic combination of blindness, paranoia and insecurity. It hasn't always been this way and it won't always be this way, but it is this way now…which is how we got Trump (and Putin, and Erdogan and Duterte etc.). According to social scientist Jonathon Haidt, liberals are usually motivated by the moral values of care/fairness, which is often translated into equality, diversity and protecting the weakest members of society. In recent years this has morphed into a sort of elevation of status for the victim in liberal circles. So as victimhood has become status, power has been translated into the negative archetype of the bully. Well, the world and the collective unconscious has changed and the status of victimhood no longer resonates across the broader population, only among liberals. In order to effectively attack Trump and win over marginal voters (Springsteen voters), it is vital to not embrace victimhood but to embrace "strength". Chuck Jones of the United Steelworkers embraced strength in his confrontation with Trump. Those calling Trump a racist, misogynist, sexist or xenophobe are unconsciously embracing the archetype of the victim and victimhood. And I am not arguing Trump isn't a racist, misogynist, sexist, xenophobe, what I am arguing is that calling him those things is an ineffective way to attack him according to the present historical wave and the archetypes currently resonating in the collective. As Bin Laden once said, if you show a person a strong horse and a weak one, they will choose the strong one…and so it is in our time. This is also why it is vital not to share your hurt or anger or fear to Trump or his supporters, because showing those things is a sign of weakness, not strength, and now is the time of strength. 


This leads us to the discussion about identity politics which has come to the forefront lately. After my post-election piece, Mark Lilla wrote a similar, much talked about piece in the New York Times arguing the same thing I did. The identity politics argument seems to have veered off into a strange cul-de-sac of misunderstanding and emotion that does neither side any good. What I mean by that is both sides seem to be arguing past each other and neither seems to be making any ground. 

The issue that I need to make clear which I may not have in my previous piece is this, that if you stop making arguments about identity and start making them about class, that does not mean that you have abandoned minorities. My argument is that identity politics has come to exclude white, working class people whereas class politics includes not only those white, working class people but minorities of all kinds who fall under the "identity" politics umbrella. Black, White, Latino, Asian, Native-American, gay, straight, transgender and every other identity imaginable falls into the poor and working class denomination. Focusing on economic issues and not identity issues doesn't reduce your potential base, it expands it. 

Another reason to focus on economics and class as opposed to identity is that identity politics very often falls into the trap of victimhood politics. I am not saying the minorities of all types aren't victimized, but being victimized and embracing victimhood are two very different things. Once you understand the historical wave we are on, it is easy to see that the best way to protect the victimized regardless of their identity, is to embrace the politics of economics and strength. The politics of identity (which can morph into victimhood), has been successful in the past, but will fail at this time because of the historical wave we are on and the inability of Trump to feel shame. To be effective today, identity (and victimhood) must be jettisoned and economic class and strength must be championed. So if Trump attacks someone or some group of people, the most effective way to counter that is not to call him racist or homophobic or hater or whatever term may very well apply, but to not reveal any upset at all and to stay strong and focus on Trump's actions, not his words. This will make him look weak, and make you look strong. Make the rational, unemotional argument based on facts against Trump, ignore what he says and he will back down. Make a plea based on victimhood or weakness and he will double down and he will rally potential democratic allies to his side. Calling someone a racist or misogynist or whatever is meant to shame them, but shaming Trump is impossible because he is shameless. So you may feel righteous in calling Trump those names, but your attacks will not only be ineffective as he is immune to shame, but will also boomerang back upon you, making you weaker.

A final note about identity politics. In an article in the New York Times recently Cornell Belcher argues that focusing on the dying demographic of white working class people is foolish. Belcher claims we should disregard white, working class voters and instead focus on the Obama coalition and getting those younger, non-white voters to the polls. It is not surprising that Belcher was so terribly and arrogantly wrong about the last election and he is just as wrong about the next one as well. The most important thing about the Obama coalition is not the coalition of young, Black and Latino voters, the most important thing about the Obama coalition is Barrack Obama. Obama is a once in a generation or maybe lifetime political talent. If you think his coalition is coming together for anyone else, you are very mistaken. And I have bad news for you, Barrack Obama is not walking through that door. Going forward you are going to have to deal with second rate political hacks like Hillary Clinton, and she didn't get the Obama coalition to rock the vote. Someone ought to buy Cornell Belcher a calendar for Christmas, since he fails to understand that while white working class voters are a dying breed, they ain't nearly dead yet. Their projected year of death is 2050…another 34 years from now. 34 years is a long time to sit around waiting for the demographics to change so you can get another shot at the throne. 

I think that the wisest course forward is to build a broad based political coalition based on economics and class. Democrats must turn their backs on Wall Street, corporate interests, free trade and globalization and turn their focus back to working class people and the poor. Trump won by using an old school, democratic, populist economic message. There is no doubt Trump will completely ignore that economic message as president, so democrats must be there with a genuine form of populism in order to remove Trump from power. If they fail to embrace this economic populism and class warfare, the democrats will be left in the dust.


One last thing that liberals must do going forward is both a defensive and an offensive move simultaneously, and that is to completely embrace the constitution. Rigidly embracing the constitution is a way to protect yourselves from the potential tyranny of a Trump presidency, and also a way to attack Trump and criminalize him and his actions. Embracing the constitution means that democrats must stop talking about fake news and ways to fix or stop it. Talk of shutting down conspiracy websites or fake news sites is detrimental to the long term strategy of stopping, or at least containing, Trump. Liberals need to embrace not only the first amendment without hesitation or qualifiers, but also Wikileaks, Edward Snowden, Chelsea/Bradley Manning and all of the other whistleblowers (and convince Obama to pardon them all including Snowden, Manning and Assange before he leaves office), for they will be pivotal weapons in the battle against Trump (a strong renunciation of Obama's war on whistleblowers is urgently needed now as well). The reality is that if you only want to embrace the first amendment some of the time, or when it is convenient to you, then it will not only be an ineffective tool against Trump but he will turn it around and use it as a weapon against you. As I already stated, embracing the second amendment is vital as well for not only self-protection but for political purposes. The constitution is all that stands between you and the darker instincts of President Donald Trump. The restraints the constitution can place on Trump will be the only thing that will stop him from exacting revenge on his domestic enemies…namely YOU...and he will most certainly try to do that. If you try and mess with any part of the constitution, whether it be the first, second, fourth, fifth, sixth, thirteenth, fourteenth, fifteenth or any other amendments, the rest of it will be useless in protecting you from Trump…including the twenty-second amendment which limits him to two terms in office. Ponder that for a moment.

The final point I will make to you is this...I know this story circulating lately about Russia interfering with the election in Trump's favor is tantalizing, but please do not embrace it. I am telling you, the more you want a story to be true the more skeptical you should be of it. This "Russia hacked our election" story, or the more recent version of it where Vladimir Putin himself is actually personally involved, is fools gold. These stories being breathlessly reported by the establishment media are all based on unnamed official sources. Please just wait until there is actual, tangible evidence put forth, and even then be very, very skeptical. This whole Russia hacking episode reeks of the wishful thinking that was going around (especially in establishment media circles) in the build up to the Iraq war.  There was no evidence then either, but people wanted those stories to be true so they gave them the benefit of the doubt. This Russia story is even less credible at the moment and even more dangerous. Russia is a nuclear power. The deep state and neo-cons are determined to have a war with Russia, we've actually been in a limited war (propaganda, economic, political war) with them for the last bunch of years. Do not fall for this Russia story trap. Don't do it, one way or another you will live to regret it. I promise you that. 

And thus concludes my not so brief handbook on how to survive the era of Trump. I realize that most of the people who already disliked me for my pre and post-election pieces will have already chalked this piece up to just one more bit of mansplainin' by a deplorable straight, white male, but these things happen. I do not expect the hapless democrats to follow my handbook at all, and they are off to a really shitty start with the re-election of Nancy Peolosi as leader of the house democrats. Pelosi's victory is a strong sign that democrats would rather double down on the same insanity, with insanity being defined as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, that got them here rather than learn anything and adapt going forward. But hey, just like with the election, you can't say I didn't warn you. 




Raping Truth : Brando, Butter and Last Tango in Paris


Contrary to what is going around the media lately, Marlon Brando did not rape Maria Schneider while filming director Bernardo Bertolucci's Last Tango in ParisFULL STOP.  In addition, Bertolucci DID NOT admit in an interview that he and Brando conspired to rape Schneider on the film. Also, Maria Schneider herself DID NOT ever claim to be raped by Marlon Brando during the filming.

Now that we got that out of the way…I guess I should start at the beginning. Many of you may be wondering what the hell I am talking about? Well, this past weekend all hell broke loose when Elle magazine published an article with the headline, "Bertolucci Admits He Conspired to Shoot a Non-Consentual Rape Scene in 'Last Tango in Paris'. In the article Elle mis-reports that in 2013, Last Tango in Paris director Bernardo Bertolucci said in an interview that Maria Schneider never consented to the film's famous, butter-fueled, anal-rape scene. In response to that headline, and the poorly written and terribly misleading article below it, numerous celebrities like Jessica Chastain, Anna Kendrick, Chris Evans and Jenna Fischer have all tweeted their outrage about Marlon Brando and Bernardo Bertolucci actually raping Maria Schneider. In turn, numerous media outlets, from The Hollywood Reporter and Variety to, of all places, USA Today , have posted articles with similarly misleading headlines and equally poorly written articles with the same confusing content, except this time with the added spice of celebrity tweets. Thus, with those tweets about the original Elle article, and then follow up articles from other outlets about those tweets about the original article, a circular firing squad was formed, with the truth dead center in the middle. 

This story is a perfect example of the idiocy and feeble mindedness of our media and the gullibility of our populace. First Elle Magazine takes Bertolucci's quote entirely out of context and misunderstands the point he is making, then Jessica Chastain misreads the article and fails to think critically about the claims, and then Chris Evans and Anna Kendrick add their own lack of critical thinking with a sprinkle of moral preening and virtue signaling. Then the rest of the media sees celebrity tweets and scurries to add them to the already rancid shitstorm and clusterfuck of an excuse for journalism. This story is the epitome of the post-truth culture we live in that is governed by the king of Post-Truth, President-Elect Trump. Truth doesn't matter anymore, the only thing that matters are feelings and agendas. If a story is in line with how we feel or what we want to be true, then whether it is actually true or not is of no consequence.

Here is what actually, really, truly happened in regards to the rape scene in Last Tango in Paris. The scene was not in the original script, but was added later when Marlon Brando came up with it, which was not an unusual occurrence when Brando worked on a film. The scene was scripted and Bertolucci, Brando and Schneider talked about it before shooting. The most notable thing about the scene is the use of butter as a lubricant for anal sex. The use of butter was the only thing about the scene not revealed to Maria Schneider prior to shooting. In the 2013 interview referenced by Elle, that is what Bertolucci is referencing when he says that he wanted to keep Maria unaware of that element in order to get a real and genuine reaction from her. It is vital to understand this next part…Marlon Brando did not have actual sex with Maria Schneider during this scene. Marlon Brando did not penetrate Maria Schneider's anus or vagina with his fingers, penis or butter during this scene. At no point during this scene did Marlon Brando ever touch Maria Schneider's anus or vagina. It is also important to point out that Maria Schneider did indeed know ahead of time that this was an anal sex/rape scene and consented to shoot the scene. Maria Schneider obviously never consented to rape or sex of any kind, and no rape or sex of any kind took place during the filming of the scene. People claiming that Marlon Brando literally and physically raped Maria Schneider in this scene are wrong. People claiming that Marlon Brando literally and physically sexually assaulted Maria Schneider are wrong. All of the sex in the rape scene, and the rest of the entire film for that matter, is completely simulated, including the application of butter to Maria Schneider's anus. While Maria Schneider is shown naked in other parts of the film, in the rape scene there is only a glimpse of the upper and side part of her buttocks. Marlon Brando did not expose his penis in the rape scene and did not put his penis against Maria Schneider's flesh during the scene. These are the facts. Anyone claiming otherwise is either mistaken or lying. This media whirlwind and the accompanying outrage are the result of a terrible misunderstanding and nothing more. (Just this morning Bernardo Bertolucci came out and said exactly that. )

Now, to be fair, Maria Schneider, who died in 2011, did say in an interview in regards to shooting the butter-rape scene in Last Tango in Paris that she "felt humiliated and to be honest, I felt a little raped, both by Marlon and by Bertolucci."  What Maria wasn't saying was that she was literally, physically raped by Marlon Brando, what she was saying was that she felt emotionally raped by the experience and by Bertolucci's directing style. Why do I say that is what she meant? Because Marlon Brando said the same thing about his experience making the film. Bertolucci stripped away all pretenses and defenses from his actors in order to get as true a performance from them as he could. You can argue in good faith that Bertolucci's approach is emotionally or artistically harmful, or damaging or counter-productive, but what you cannot do is say that anyone was literally or physically raped.


The articles about this story, across the board, are simply atrocious and abominable pieces of journalism, or non-journalism in this case. Read this Hollywood Reporter story, it is incomprehensible. Someone was actually paid money to write that article. Read the other articles, which are mostly made up of the tweet reaction to the original story. I felt like I was going mad as I read these stories because if you actually read the words and use logic, reason and intelligence, you can see what is happening and the misunderstanding taking place. Moral outrage supplants logic pretty quickly in situations like this. This story became a thing because it gave people what they wanted…a victim, a villain and a sense of moral superiority and a desecration of their delicate sensibilities. Just because a story has those elements, doesn't mean it is true…in fact, if a story has those elements it becomes even more important for journalists to dig and find the actual truth…not what the public wants to be true. ( As an example, read my Chris Kyle piece.)

An example of the sort of cognitive dissonance going on in the media around this story can be found in The Guardian newspaper, which had a news article about the claims in Elle magazine and used a similarly misleading headline, "Last Tango in Paris director suggests Maria Schneider 'butter-rape' scene not consensual", note the weasel word "suggests", yet in the article itself it clearly states that there was no sexual contact between Brando and Schneider during the infamous rape scene. That Guardian story also points out the fact that the scene was not sprung on Schneider, or improvised on set, but was scripted. While the scene wasn't in the ORIGINAL script, it was scripted and prepared ahead of time and Schneider had read it before shooting. The dissonance isn't only between The Guardian headlines and articles, but between news divisions and editorial, as columnists at the Guardian apparently don't read their own newspaper, as there were no less than three columnists who wrote about the Last Tango story as if an actual rape occurred, which is contradicted in the papers own reporting. All of the Guardian columnists used the Last Tango rape story to grind their own axes about things like "rape culture" or "male domination" or the "broken promise of the 70's sexual revolution". Those columns all ignored the actual facts of the story because those facts are inconvenient to the arguments they wanted to make.


Chris Evans, who is best known for his portrayal of Captain America, may very well be the dumbest person to have ever walked the earth. If he isn't the dumbest, he is certainly in the top ten….here is damning proof of that claim. Evan's tweet regarding the Last Tango controversy says "Wow. I will never look at this film, Bertolucci or Brando the same way again. This is beyond disgusting. I feel rage." If you close your eyes and sit still enough, you can hear with wind whistling through the empty caverns of Chris Evans skull. Chris then follows that tweet up by responding to Anna Kendrick's claims that this story is old news with, ""Had no idea. Would felt rage then too. They should be in jail." Poor Chris Evans. Besides this nitwit being completely erroneous regarding the facts of the situation, does anyone out there have the heart to break it to Chris Evans that Marlon Brando has been dead for well over a decade? Poor, stupid bastard. Reading his tweets make me think that Chris Evans was the kind of guy who ate a lot of paste in school. But at least he got to get his virtue signaling in and join the moral hysteria club.

In her tweet, Anna Kendrick gets to not only be morally superior but prophetically prescient because she knew about this scandal a long time ago and it was "dudes" who didn't believe her when she'd tell them. Here's the tweet, "Ms. Schneider stated this several years ago. I used to get eye-rolls when I brought it up to people (aka dudes)". Poor, dopey, little Anna, apparently she doesn't know that a prophet is not without honor except in his (or her) hometown. Hey Anna, maybe those "dudes" didn't believe your story because it was so idiotic and obviously not true. Maybe "dudes" wouldn't roll their eyes at you if you didn't tell them horseshit stories that even the most simple of simpletons could tell was nonsense. Please be careful removing your head from your ass…you might want to try butter to help with the transition.

Jenna Fischer tweeted, "All copies of this film should be destroyed immediately. It contains an actual rape and sexual assault." Jesus Fucking Christ, you raving ignoramus. We just hit DefCon 1 of Moral Panic!! Get a grip woman. Are you that easily taken in by the most base of ludicrous statements. Are you that unsophisticated that you cannot see a shocking headline and then actually gather information about the subject and discover the truth about it? Apparently you are as brainless as Mr. Evans and Ms. Kendrick, which means you are in very, very dopey company. 

Jessica Chastain is an undeniably terrific actress, the best of this sad bunch no doubt, but her reading comprehension and critical thinking abilities are woeful. Chastain's tweet shrieks, "To all the people that love this film - you're watching a 19 yr old get raped by a 48 yr old man. The director planned her attack. I feel sick." I feel sick too Jessica, although my sickness is because I am a great admirer of your work and yet have to come to terms with the fact that you are a reactionary imbecile. Does Jessica Chastain really believe that Maria Schneider is being raped in that scene? Really? Truly? Raped? Rape being define as "unlawful sexual intercourse or any other sexual penetration of the vagina, anus, or mouth of another person"?  Is Jessica Chastain that much of a dipshit or did she just really want to get into a moral frenzy about something and didn't want details to get in the way? With her tweet, Jessica Chastain proves she is, like her other misguided compatriots, either a fool, a liar or both.

I admit the last section was very unkind to Chastain, Evans, Kendrick and Fischer, but I only did that to try and hit home the point that a failure to think critically about any story in our media, be it about a rape forty years ago, or the case for war over a decade ago, or the claims of heroism by a Navy SEAL, is no longer just an error, but is an act of self-serving myopia and moral masturbation. It is imperative that people think critically about everything they are fed by media outlets, regardless of those outlets ideological proclivities. We must start thinking critically and stop thinking emotionally. This Last Tango rape story is powerful evidence of what happens when we think emotionally and react, instead of thinking critically and respond.

If history is any guide, one thing is for sure, none of these celebrities, or media outlets, are going to back down from this falsehood. They will most assuredly double down on the emotional thinking because that is human nature. Never admit error, only increase your cognitive dissonance to make those uncomfortable facts either go away or have no meaning. Even in the face of overwhelming contradictory evidence, Chastain, Evans, Kendrick and Fischer won't post apologies to Bertolucci or Brando. They won't say how foolish they were to believe such a rabid bit of foolhardy nonsense. No, these folks will prefer to rage against shadows dancing on the cave wall of their imaginations, or boogie men hiding under their beds. These people, Chastain, Evans, Kendrick, and Fischer and these media outlets, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, ElleUSA Today to name but a few, are only interested in satiating their desire for outrage, and have zero desire for the Truth. It is they, and not Bernardo Bertolucci or Marlon Brando who should be ashamed of themselves and their behavior.

Actual, horrific rapes happen all the time, over a quarter of a million women are raped every year in the United States. Thousands upon thousands of woman go through the brutal trauma of being sexually assaulted and raped every year, we don't need to make up stories about phantom rapes occurring forty years ago. This hysteria and frenzy from the media and celebrities about Last Tango in Paris does rape survivors no service. When something so obviously dishonest and demonstrably false as the rape claims and accompanying witch hunt against Marlon Brando and Bernardo Bertolucci about the filming of Last Tango in Paris are used by people to advance an agenda, that agenda isn't strengthened by those lies but weakened. Woman who are actually raped or sexually assaulted, will not find solace in the faux courage shown by these nincompoops railing against Bertolucci and Brando, instead they will wonder why these people aren't fighting against real evils, not made up ones.


If Chastain and co. are really interested in standing up against rape, why don't they speak out against Woody Allen? Or against Bryan Singer? Or stand up for Corey Feldman and encourage him to name names? Or encourage Thandie Newton to name her abuser? There is more actual evidence in those cases and against those men, including living people claiming to be their victims, than there is regarding the non-story of rape during filming of Last Tango in Paris. The reality is that Chastain et al won't make a stink about Allen or Singer or any other Hollywood heavy-hitter because it wouldn't be politically expedient or career enhancing to do so. Old man Bertolucci is irrelevant as a filmmaker now. Brando is long dead. They are innocent but they are easy targets for the mob of the indignant and uninformed. If you, Jessica Chastain, Chris Evans, Anna Kendrick or Jenna Fischer had any balls, you'd take a stand against people with real power who are hurting innocent people, some of them children, to this day. But we all know that would never happen. Courage is in short supply nowadays, no doubt replaced by the easy grace of public moral outrage.

Look at me, for instance. These famous actors are potential clients of mine, but I am calling them out on their bullshit because to me, Truth is more important than potentially advancing my career or padding my bank account. Do they have the same integrity as some lowly jackass like me? Maybe I am hopelessly naive, but I am hoping they do. As an act of good will I extend an offer to any of these actors, Jessica Chastain, Chris Evans, Anna Kendrick or Jenna Fischer, that if you publicly apologize to Bernardo Bertolucci and Marlon Brando, I will gladly give you two acting coaching sessions for free. That is a value of at least $250!! And that doesn't even include the cost of the butter!! I think that is a nice gesture on my part… a wee bit of goodwill toward the misguided. Now if only someone could read this article to Chris Evans, slowly, and explain the big words to him, we might be able to get the ball rolling on a magnificent working relationship. 


In all seriousness, the real crime here is not the non-existent rape of Maria Schneider, it is the fact that Last Tango in Paris is a tremendous film and that will now be lost on people with the hullabaloo surrounding this non-scandal. Marlon Brando is the Godfather of modern acting, no pun intended, and Last Tango in Paris is maybe his greatest performance. In Last Tango, Bertolucci was able to strip Marlon of all his surface performance and left him vulnerable, exposed, and authentic. Brando has never been as honest in a film as he was in Last Tango in Paris

Maria Schneider was an unknown before Last Tango and her performance is staggeringly good. Her artistic courage resonates through every scene she inhabits. It is a terrible shame that Schneider was unable to handle the scalding glare of fame when it came for her. It was fame that destroyed her, not Bertolucci. The same can be said of Brando as well. Fame is a beast, and it eventually ate both Brando and Schneider alive.

Hopefully, when this whole episode recedes into the background, people can return and watch Last Tango in Paris and see it for what it really is, a delicate, intimate and exquisite dance between two robust, voracious, yet fragile talents who have left this world much too soon…Maria Schneider and Marlon Brando.

For Marlon and Maria, who remained friends until Brando's death in 2004...