"Everything is as it should be."

                                                                                  - Benjamin Purcell Morris

 

 

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

Hereditary: Political Sub-Text

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

Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes 19 seconds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©2018

 

 

 

American Animals, Anthony Bourdain and Late Stage American Empire

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Estimated Reading Time: 7 minutes 59 seconds

THE FOUR HORSEMAN COMETH

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

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

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

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

AMERICAN ANIMALS

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

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

WARNING SIGNS FROM PROPHETS OF DOOM

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

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

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

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

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

"NO ONE WANTS TO BE ORDINARY"

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

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

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

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

NARCISSUS AND MORPHEUS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CYCLES OF HISTORY

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

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

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

GOING THROUGH HELL

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

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

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

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

Mr. Jones

Counting Crows

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

©2018

 

Hereditary: A Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©2018

 

American Animals: A Review

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

My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©2018  

Hearts Beat Loud: A Review

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

My Rating: 1.75 out of 5 stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©2018

Trump is Deadpool and We're All Doomed

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Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes 04 seconds

WARNING: This article contains spoilers for Deadpool 2 and Avengers: Infinity War.

Deadpool 2 is currently resonating with audiences to the tune of $600 million at the box office, which does not bode well for Democrats in the 2018 mid-term elections.

What does Deadpool 2 have to do with the elections this fall? Well, popular culture, most notably film and television, can be a leading indicator of the sub-conscious mood of the collective.

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For instance, in the summer of 2017, the female empowerment narrative of Wonder Woman deeply connected audiences, raking in $821 million at the box office. Wonder Woman's success, combined with the cultural cache of Hulu's series The Handmaid's Tale and its dark themes of misogyny and ritualized sexual abuse which premiered in April of 2017, foreshadowed the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements that erupted in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein revelations.

Similarly, in 2016, there were bright warnings signs in the form of numerous superhero movies that dominated the box office whose narratives foretold the coming of the paradigm-shifting Trumpacolypse that was headed our way.

Two of the cinematic indicators in 2016 were the films Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, which was released in March and grossed $873 million worldwide and Captain America: Civil War, which hit theaters in May and hauled in $1.1 billion worldwide. 

Both films arrived at the Cineplex with strikingly similar narratives. In Captain America: Civil War, the globalists wing of the Avengers, led by Iron Man, faces off against the nationalist faction, led by Captain America. In Dawn of Justice, Superman, the ultimate international "elitist" Superman, battles the localist vigilante Batman.

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The color schemes of both Civil War and Dawn of Justice fed into the red state-blue state divide of our election as well, with Iron Man's dominant color being red and Captain America wearing his signature blue, along with Superman’s vibrant red cape opposite Batman’s dark blue Bat-suit. These clashing colors were emphasized in the film’s posters and billboards, which littered the American landscape in the spring of 2016 and registered in America’s psyche.

These films presciently mirrored the internecine political battles of the party primaries and also the bitter divisions in the general election, but there was another film that actually revealed who would win the presidency. That film was Deadpool, starring Ryan Reynolds, which hit theaters in February of 2016 and went on to gross $783 million worldwide.

Deadpool, whose mutant superpower is that he cannot die, is an irreverent, foul-mouthed and morally ambiguous character. Sound familiar? It is pretty obvious that Trump is to politics what Deadpool is to superheroes. Trump too is maliciously irreverent, shamelessly foul-mouthed and at best morally ambiguous and with his signature (too long) red tie, Trump even shares a color scheme with the red-clad Deadpool.

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Like Deadpool, who can be shot, beaten and blown up and still survive, Trump cannot be destroyed. Trump's messy public life is a testament to his indestructibility, having survived two tabloid divorces, three weddings, six bankruptcies and that was before he ever even ran for president. As candidate and president, Trump's invincibility is remarkably Deadpoolian as he has survived a cavalcade of scandals that would have obliterated any other "normal" politician.

When Trump said he could shoot someone in the face on Fifth Avenue and still not lose any voters, I thought of Deadpool, who Trump could actually shoot in the face on Fifth Avenue, and neither of them would suffer any long-term physical or political damage.

Moviegoers loved Deadpool because it mocked the superhero genre's tropes and conventions, but also effectively used them to entertainingly propel the film’s narrative. Similarly, to the delight of his supporters, Trump took a sledgehammer to American political "norms" yet also masterfully used his opponent’s respectful adherence to those norms as a weapon against them.

Just as Deadpool charmed audiences by being the anti-superhero superhero, Trump, the billionaire plutocrat who ran as a populist for the workingman (shades of Batman/Bruce Wayne), won the adoration of his fans posing as the anti-politician politician.

Which brings us to Deadpool 2, whose box office success is an ominous omen for Democrats in the up coming mid-term elections.

The uncomfortable symmetry of another Deadpool film, once again accompanied by a Marvel blockbuster, Avengers: Infinity War, being in theaters during an election year is only heightened by Infinity War’s unsettling story.

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In Infinity War, super-villain Thanos, played by Josh Brolin who coincidentally and promiscuously enough also stars as Cable in Deadpool 2, is an outsider who defeats the superhero establishment in the form of the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy, and then executes half of all living beings in order to bring “balance” to the universe. This is the equivalent of Democrats and never-Trump Republicans joining forces and being completely decimated by Trump with extinction level consequences. 

People keep telling me to relax, that the Democratic juggernaut coming in November will take down the Republican congress, but Deadpool 2 has a specific storyline that bodes particularly ill for the Democratic dream of redemption in 2018.

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In the movie, an unstoppable mutant named, ironically enough, Juggernaut, breaks out of mutant prison and literally tears Deadpool in half. But in the film's climactic battle, the invincible Juggernaut is defeated, not by Deadpool, but by his associates, Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead, who stop Juggernaut by opportunistically shoving a live wire up his ass and then throwing him in a pool, where he flails away in agony. My fear is that the Democratic juggernaut will suffer the same fate on election day. Is Mitch McConnell Colossus? Is Paul Ryan or Mike Pence Negasonic Teenage Warhead?

And even if Trump does get torn in two by the Democratic juggernaut in November, he'll no doubt just emulate Deadpool and grow a new bottom half in time to win re-election in 2020.

Speaking of 2020, rumor has it that Deadpool’s next film will be X-Force, which has a tentative release date of…2020…just in time for Trump's re-election bid!

I'm telling you, the signs are all there, Trump is Deadpool. Let's just hope he isn't Thanos too.

A version of this article was originally published at CounterPunch.

©2018

Solo: A Star Wars Story - A Review

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

My Rating: 2.75 out of 5 stars           Popcorn Curve* Rating: 3.5 stars

My Recommendation: SEE IT. An enjoyable and well paced movie. Not Oscar material, but a good old fashioned bit of big budget entertainment. 

Solo: A Star Wars Story, written by Jonathan and Lawrence Kasdan and directed by Ron Howard*, is the origin story of that lovable and charming rogue, Han Solo, from the original Star Wars films. The movie stars Alden Ehrenreich as Solo with supporting turns from Emilia Clarke, Woody Harrelson and Donald Glover.

As I have stated many times before, I am more a Planet of the Apes devotee than a Star Wars guy, and so I would consider myself to be, at best, a marginal Star Wars fan. I do thoroughly enjoy the underlying mythology of the franchise but have often found the cinematic execution of that mythology to be a bit lacking at times. My moderation when it comes to all things Star Wars can be both a blessing and a curse, as it means I never get too excited over a new Star Wars movie, but I also never get too downtrodden if it fails to be transcendent. 

With all of that said, before I saw Solo my starting point was that I had very, very low expectations. Those low expectations were born out of the swamp of bad press the film has been receiving for well over a year now. The whispers of problems turned into a scream last June when Dear Leader Mickey Mouse fired the original directors, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, six months into shooting.

The Disney politburo then followed up this stunning move by bringing in the ultimate vanilla studio hack Ron Howard to do reshoots and finish production. Hollywood was abuzz over the beheading of Lord and Miller by Disney hatchet woman, Obergruppenfuhrer Kathleen Kennedy, and news of very costly re-shoots bloating the film's budget only fueled the spreading wildfire of bad buzz that can cripple a big budget movie. 

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That bad buzz came to fruition when on opening night, a good friend of mine, let's call him Doug, who is a stalwart Star Wars nerd, went to a 10 pm showing (in costume, of course) with his wife here in Los Angeles, and they were the only ones in the theater. Another friend of mine went to opening night in Minneapolis and suffered the same fate sans costume. 

Empty theaters on opening night for a Star Wars movie was a strong indicator that Darth Mickey had a big bust on his hands with Solo. The subsequent box office numbers were underwhelming, at least when compared to other Star Wars movies, and so the media narrative was now set in stone…Solo was a bomb. Headlines abounded on the internet questioning if Solo was the beginning of the end for the Star Wars franchise, some articles pondered if audiences stayed away because the film wasn't diverse enough (Good Lord!). 

It was in the midst of this negativity storm that out of a sense of duty to my vocation as a film critic, I snuck off to see Solo. I was so sure that Solo would be awful that I was trying to come up with a clever little spin on the old joke about the bad singer who is implored to "sing a solo…so-low we can't hear you". 

But then I ran into a problem…I went and saw Solo and lo and behold I ended up really enjoying it. Midway through the film I actually thought to myself, "you know what...this is an entertaining romp". Why I was using the term "romp" is a mystery to me as is makes me sound like some hackneyed reviewer like Rex Reed or something, but the truth is…Solo really is a fun romp!

As someone who loathes Ron Howard films, it is difficult for me to give him credit for Solo's success, so I will simply say it is to the credit of all three directors on the film, Lord, Miller and Howard, that the pacing of the movie is so well-done. There is virtually no wasted time or energy in Solo, and it never loses steam and moves at a very compelling clip. 

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Another reason why the film is so darn entertaining is the lead actor Alden Ehrenreich.  Ehrenreich is in a tough spot, recreating an iconic role, Han Solo, created by Harrison Ford, but having to devolve the character into an earlier iteration of itself. Ehrenreich tactically increases the swagger and the snark to near adolescent levels at times which ends up being quite effective. To his credit, Ehrenreich posesses the sheer charisma and charm to carry the entire Solo enterprise, which is a talent you simply cannot teach a young actor, they either have it or they don't. 

Being a movie star is a tough gig, as you must have the energy, stamina, force of will, ambition and dynamic magnetism to carry the weight of a major motion picture, all while being continuously beautiful and charming. When I first noticed Ehrenreich it was in the Warren Beatty directed film Rules Don't Apply. The film is abysmal and I only watched maybe a half hour of it on cable, but in that brief time Ehrenreich made me sit up in my seat and say "who is that?" For whatever reason he just jumped off the screen, and no doubt casting people had the same reaction as he made quite a leap going from Rules Don't Apply to the iconic title character in Solo. (as a side note the actress playing opposite Ehrenreich in Rules Don't Apply also jumped off the screen at me, she was beautiful and talented, her name is Lily Collins, and after looking into her I discovered she is famed pop star Phill Collin's daughter...keep and eye out for her)

Ehrenreich's skill is impressive in Solo as he never falls into the trap of caricature when playing Han Solo. His Solo is a real life human being, trying to make his way in the world and find out who he really is, or at least what identity he will adopt. This may be blasphemy to Star Wars fans, but I am telling you, Ehrenreich's Han Solo is a considerably more complex and better acting job that Harrison Ford's version ever was. 

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As for the rest of the cast, for the most part they all do solid and steady work. Emilia Clarke is her usual luminous self as Qi-ra. Clarke is both alluring and approachable and she imbues Qi-ra with an unspoken mysterious wound that makes the character very compelling.

Woody Harrelson continues his streak of doing quality work in big budget franchise films by playing Tobias Beckett in Solo, a sort of criminal mentor to the young Han Solo. Harrelson has really evolved into a superb actor, and while he doesn't have a hell of a lot to work with in Solo, he makes the very most of what he does have. 

Donald Glover plays the young Lando Calrissian, and while he often feels like he is simply doing a spot-on Billy Dee Williams impersonation, he does it with enough panache and style to make it enoyable. 

The one dour note on the acting is Paul Bettany as Dryden Vos. Vos is a big time crime lord and Bettany simply lacks the gravitas and menace to be able to pull off the character with any believability. I later learned that Michael K. Williams was originally cast in the role and shot the majority of it but when Howard was brought aboard to direct Williams was replaced by Bettany because his schedule conflicted with re-shoots. This is a shame as Williams is a far superior actor to Bettany, and in this role I can only imagine how fantastic he would've been. 

Besides Solo himself, the two best characters in the film are the droid L3 and Chewbacca. Both of these characters have very intriguing and poignant story lines that loaded rich with political and cultural meaning…so much so that I would love to see a stand alone film about either character or both. I doubt that will ever happen, but it SHOULD happen. 

Solo is still getting a lot of bad press and the box office is only going to continue to disappoint its voracious Disney overlords, but in my opinion it was an entertaining movie. It is more akin to Chinese food than Filet Mignon, as it ultimately doesn't stay with you long after you see it, but that doesn't mean it is an abject failure. Solo entertained me, and to me that makes it a success.

If you want to lose yourself for two hours of big budget Star Wars fun then Solo is the film for you..and if you have no one to go see it with you, then do what I did and see it solo!! (See what I did there? That is a play on words…the film is titled Solo and I said to see it solo…just one more bit of evidence proving how clever I am!!). If you want a transcendent cinematic experience that will give deeper meaning and purpose to your life…better to sit this one out. 

*The Popcorn Curve judges a film based on its entertainment merits as a franchise/blockbuster movie, as opposed to my regular rating system which judges a film solely on its cinematic and artistic merits.

©2018

First Reformed: A Review

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

My Rating: 3.75 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation: SEE IT. A serious art house meditation on religion and politics and the politics of religion. A flawed but worthwhile film for the religiously, spiritually and cinematically inclined.

First Reformed, written and directed by Paul Schrader, is the story of Toller, a protestant pastor and former military chaplain, struggling with his faith amidst environmental and personal concerns. The film stars Ethan Hawke as Toller, with supporting turns from Amanda Seyfried and Cedric Kyles. 

First Reformed is a fascinating film that, like Jacob with the angel, wrestles with complex issues of faith and politics (and a fusing of the two), with a deft and insightful passion. I can't tell you what a joy it is for me to see a film that takes seriously matters of faith and genuinely grapples with religious issues without falling into either a display of saccharine christianity or reflexive anti-religiosity. 

When Ethan Hawke's character Toller mentions iconic 20th century Catholic monk Thomas Merton, and later has a small debate with a fellow pastor over Merton's work, I knew this was no ordinary movie about religion, but rather a serious contemplation of complex spiritual issues. Spiritual questions, such as whether in the search for a vibrant religious life should one engage with the world (and its politics) or retreat from it into a monk-like existence, and the perils of both approaches, are at the forefront of First Reformed

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Writer/director Paul Schrader is best known for being the screenwriter of Martin Scorsese's masterpieces Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and The Last Temptation of Christ. While Schrader is an infinitely more talented writer than director, he did on one occasion make exquisite film, his 1997 examination of familial rage, Affliction. That film resonated so deeply with me that I frequently contemplate it even twenty years later. Affliction aside, Schrader's films usually suffer from his less polished direction. 

I think, in keeping with Schrader's history, First Reformed is infinitely better written than it is directed, but Schrader's direction is strong enough to put it in second place in his directorial cannon behind Affliction. There are certainly some pacing problems with the narrative, not that it goes too slow, but rather it makes dramatic leaps that the story hasn't quite yet earned, which left me feeling that the final third of the film was a bit dramatically rushed. In addition, the transition from the realism of the first two thirds of the film to the final third's deep dive into symbolism and the metaphorical, might be jarring to some, but I encourage you to make the leap as it is worth the effort to suspend your disbelief (which may very well be the brilliant sub-text of the entire film). 

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Schrader and cinematographer Alexander Dynan do paint an intriguing picture with First Reformed, particularly with their framing. There are some shots that are absolutely delicious, such as when Dynan turns a rather mundane shot of Toller's entrance into a church into a visual masterpiece by simply shooting from above (God's perspective) down onto a rug with the church's logo on it upside down. It is a dizzyingly glorious shot that, like all great pictures, speaks a thousand words. 

The religious and spiritual dimensions of the film are surprisingly nuanced and complex. Toller is representative of a traditionalist (old world) faith, his church is one of the oldest in America, but that faith is dying. His church is nicknamed "the souvenir shop" because people don't go to actually worship there, only to stop by for historical tours and to buy trinkets. 

Toller's "old religion" is contrasted with the new wave mega-church of Pastor Jeffers (Cedric Kyle). Toller deems Pastor Jeffers house of worship more akin to a corporation than a church but he still tries to off-load his counseling duties to its abundant staff. This religious clash between Toller and Jeffers in First Reformed is playing out in real time here in the U.S. as evangelical mega churches sell a corporatized, flag waving, prosperity gospel under the veneer of Christianity while more traditional churches get more and more marginalized in the culture and their pews are more and more empty. 

The Toller character is not only representative of the old church, but of God's green earth. Not only is Toller's faith and church dying, but so is the planet, and Toller's body comes to symbolize the earth. Toller fills his body with toxic trash and refuses to change his behavior even when doctors tell him he must in order to save himself. First Reformed makes the case that the same is true of corporate America (and the world), who constantly ignore existential environmental concerns in favor of myopic capitalist ones. 

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As the film plays out, Toller turns into a Christ-like figure, battling demons within and without and trying to save his soul in the process. Like Christ, Tollermust choose between a dizzying array of archetypes…is he a warrior, a martyr, a savior, a devil or all of the above? Is Toller an activist or a terrorist? An evangelist or a monk? As Toller's goes deeper and deeper into the rabbit's hole in search for the meaning and purpose of his life (and maybe all life), spiritual vertigo sets in, at which point viewers are asked to take some leaps that may be a bridge too far for some, but which I found to be challenging yet deeply rewarding. 

Ethan Hawke does some of his best work as Toller. Hawke's Toller has a world weary gravitas about him that fills the character with a troubled present, past and future. Hawke gives Toller a palpable cross to bear, and his skillful performance lures the viewer in to help him carry it. Toller's metamorphosis and awakening in the film is compelling and is a testament to Hawke's talent and mastery of craft. 

Amanda Seyfried plays Mary and is meant to be symbolic of hope and potential. While at times Seyfried performance feels a bit out of rhythm with the film, and feels unconscionably lightweight next to Hawke's burdened Toller, she does do enough to fulfill the character's dramatic purpose. Treating Seyfried's Mary as less a real-life character and more a totem of spiritual hope and redemption makes her performance much more digestible. 

Cedric Kyle, who is better known as Cedric the Entertainer, is unrecognizable from his comedic persona as Pastor Jeffers. I had no idea that is who the actor really was as Kyle looks the same but is energetically unrecognizable to Cedric the Entertainer. Kyle gives a seamless performance that is shocking because it is entirely without any artifice. 

In conclusion, First Reformed is a very interesting, if somewhat flawed film, that I found well worth worth my time and money. If you have minimal or no interest in matters of faith and religion, this film will be too much for you. And if you are allergic to the art house, then stay well clear of First Reformed. But if you are a cinephile, a religiously minded or faithful person, and can make the leap from taking the film literally to taking it figuratively, First Reformed is the film for you. It certainly won't give you any easy answers, but it will definitely ask you some very difficult and profound questions. 

©2018 

 

More Musings on A Quiet Place

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Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes 42 seconds

A few more thoughts on the movie A Quiet Place, which I have been thinking about quite a lot since I saw it a few weeks ago

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It is pretty striking that A Quiet Place came out almost exactly a year after Get Out. Get Out was a film about Black racial anxiety and A Quiet Place is about White racial anxiety. Even look at the film posters for each film, Get Out features a close up of a Black man crying in speechless horror/fear and A Quiet Place shows a White woman doing the exact same thing. The films are in many ways flip sides of the same coin. 

 

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One difference between the two films though is that at last years Oscars Get Out was nominated for best picture, best director, best actor and won for best screenplay…and it wasn't anywhere close to being worthy of any of those accolades, while A Quiet Place will probably get none of those accolades, and yet, in my opinion, is a vastly superior film in every conceivable way. 

I recently read a negative review of A Quiet Place in The Ringer by K. Austin Collins titled " A Quiet Place is a Horror Movie That is Sillier Than it Would Like To Admit", where he belittled the film and claimed it was a big joke. Collins, who is Black, was as vociferous a lover of Get Out as any critic I read last year. To Collins, if The Godfather and Citizen Kane had a socially conscious baby, it would be Get Out.

I had a very different view of the cinematic virtues of Get Out than Collins, and maybe that is because I am White and from my White perspective I thought the film as a whole and the portrayal of White characters in particular, was cartoonish at best. And maybe Collins' inability to see the social relevance in A Quiet Place is akin to my racial perspective regarding Get Out, and because he is Black he thinks the theme of White traditionalist fears of being silenced are absurd to the point of ridiculous. This is a discussion and debate worth having, but the problem is that Collins refuses to have that discussion in his review. Collins never even mentions A Quiet Place's politics, either feigning ignorance or actually being truly ignorant to them. Oddly, Collins does make his personal politics a part of his review as he makes a bizarre plea for abortion in his essay, so maybe he knew the film's politics but was intentionally not stating them, only surreptitiously taking shots at them. 

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If I were to appropriate the language of Identity liberals, I would say that Collins appears to have some "implicit bias" towards White traditionalists, and therefore he unconsciously refuses to accept A Quiet Place and its premise, and so he belittles it and refuses to acknowledge it instead of taking actually engaging it. Of course, the same argument could be made of me and Get Out or any other "Black" film I suppose…such is the mindless joy of implicit bias. My counter argument to that charge would be that I actually agreed with the sub-textual politics (but not the surface politics) of Get Out and its insightful evisceration of "woke" White liberals, but I found the film to be poorly written, acted and executed. 

What I find so interesting about the dynamic between Get Out and A Quiet Place is the respect given to Get Out because of its racial politics and the outright ignoring or loathing of A Quiet Place for its more subtle, unstated politics. 

By all metrics, A Quiet Place is nearly equal to or better than Get Out. In terms of box office, the film has made $312 million worldwide in just under two months of release, whereas Get Out made $255 million during its entire theatrical run. At Rotten Tomatoes, A Quiet Place has a critical score of 95 and an audience score of 84, compared to Get Out's critical score of 99 and audience score of 86. 

And yet, A Quiet Place is not celebrated as Get Out was, and, not surprisingly, does not receive the incessant Oscar buzz that Get Out did last year because it doesn't push the politically correct, culturally approved buttons. The reason A Quiet Place is ignored in Oscar conversations is the same reason that the film is resonating with audiences and with the collective unconscious….namely that Get Out was only considered an Oscar worthy film because it was "Black", and A Quiet Place is not because it is "White". That sort of double standard is the unconscious fuel that propels audiences connection to A Quiet Place

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I never read reviews before I see a film and rarely do after I see one, and in the case of A Quiet Place I read nothing about the film before or after seeing it. I then wrote my review and commentary and thought I was such a genius for observing the political and cultural underbelly of the movie, and then I stumbled across a review in The New Yorker by Richard Brody, who saw many of the same things I did but labelled the movie as "regressive", and gave it a bad review because of them. 

It is funny to me that I may disagree with some of the politics of A Quiet Place (and I think they are unintentional politics born out of the cultural unconscious and not the artists conscious mind) and yet am still able to appreciate it for all its cinematic brilliance. Richard Brody thinks little of A Quiet Place and calls it "a sign of viewers craving emptiness, of a yearning for some cinematic white noise to drown out troubling thoughts and observations with a potently simple and high-impact counter myth."

Brody's vapid and myopic take on A Quiet Place contrasted with his unabashed adoration of the extended sketch comedy of Get Out, says more about Brody than it does about either film, and is a glaring example of why A Quiet Place is such a poignant picture for our time.

Unlike Collins who beings ignorance of the film's politics, Brody openly despises the traditionalism at the heart of A Quiet Place, and loathes traditionalists who are anxious over our rapidly changing world. Brody is not reviewing A Quiet Place so much as preening about his moral superiority and admonishing anyone who dare think differently than he, just like he wasn't reviewing Get Out so much as virtue signaling his right thinking to his fellow liberal morally superior travelers, who unbeknownst to Brody, and ironically enough, were the ones Jordan Peele was condemning in Get Out. The thinking and behavior Brody displays in his review of A Quiet Place is EXACTLY how Trump became president.

Identity Democrats can blame racists or rednecks or whomever they want for Trump, but until they realize that it is the Richard Brody types, who hate churches, but ironically enough have made themselves Cardinals in the church of Establishment Neo-Liberalism, which just like the Christian churches has its own hierarchy, its in groups and out groups, its orthodoxy and its heretics, who have turned the working class (including the White working class) against their cause, resulting in election ineffectiveness for generations to come.

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Brody, with his impotent review of A Quiet Place and his comically myopic, liberal White-guilt inspired orgasmic response to Get Out, is a study in self-satire. He and his "woke" kind are the jet fuel that will either propel the rocket which will be the escape vehicle for traditionalists from his insipid, insidious and ultimately self-destructive world view, or will propel the missile that is launched to destroy them all. 

Richard Brody and his "woke" ilk are creatures who hungrily crave a cry in the dark so that they can hunt down the heretic and gorge themselves in rage on their heresy and moral wrongness. These people don't yearn for a quiet place, they yearn for a place filled with the cacophonous sound of their own voices, and of the voices of those who are wise and morally upstanding enough to incessantly and unquestioningly agree with them. 

The Richard Brody types tell you that "we need to have an honest discussion about race", but what they really mean is they want to pontificate and morally preen and have you agree with them or they will decry you as a racist. Brody and his kind are echo chamber adherents who reflexive lash out at anyone or anything that challenges their unthinking, emotionalist cosmology. 

Richard Brody's response to A Quiet Place is not remarkable, it is just a sign of the times. A Quiet Place is the story of our time because we live in an age where challenges to establishment liberal orthodoxy and identity dogma will not be tolerated, heretics are devoured and those who dare speak their mind are exiled or annihilated. 

©2018

Deadpool 2: A Review

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

My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars                 Popcorn Curve* Rating - 3.9 stars

My Recommendation: SEE IT. An entertaining anti-superhero movie superhero movie. 

Deadpool 2, directed by David Leitch and written by Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick and the film's star Ryan Reynolds, is the story of the foul-mouthed, snarky, former Special Forces soldier turned superhero immune from death, Deadpool. Ryan Reynolds stars as Deadpool with supporting turns from Josh Brolin, Morena Baccarin, Zazie Beetz, T.J. Miller and Julian Dennison. 

Deadpool 2 is the aptly titled sequel to 2016's surprise success Deadpool and is considered the eleventh film in the X-Men series but it really only has a very passing and peripheral connection to that cinematic universe. The first Deadpool came out of nowhere in 2016 to rake in $783 million at the box office.

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I have always liked Ryan Reynolds as an actor…well…not always…but I did used to like him. He looks and acts like my best friend who died twenty years ago, and so I always rooted for Reynolds to succeed. But then he churned out a cornucopia of shitty movies, with the apex, or nadir, being 2011's crap-tacular Green Lantern, which was so mind-numbingly awful as to be miraculous. 

Hollywood had been trying to turn the handsome, charming and affable Reynolds into a star for years and after repeated misfires he perpetually failed upwards. With Green Lantern, I finally washed my hands of the Ryan Reynolds experiment, and I thought Hollywood had done the same. Then in 2016 Deadpool came out with Reynolds in the lead and I thought, "what sort of compromising material does Reynolds have on studio big wigs that they keep giving him so many shots at the brass ring?" I had zero interest in seeing the film and so…I didn't. 

After a plethora of friends raved to me about Deadpool I still had no interest, and only ended up seeing it for free on cable. Seeing it was like witnessing the resurrection…of Ryan Reynolds moribund career. If ever there were a role perfectly suited for a specific actor, it was Deadpool and Ryan Reynolds. Reynolds' sharp wit and deadpan humor combined with his athletic physique made for the perfect match as Deadpool. 

The original Deadpool was a fantastic superhero movie for two reasons, the first is Reynolds and the second is that it had the perfect tone and original approach to the genre at exactly the right time. Deadpool was the antidote to the tsunami of Marvel and DC films over the preceding decade, and decades to come, that either took themselves too seriously or not seriously enough. 

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By breaking the fourth wall Deadpool broke conventions, and by winking at the audience Deadpool got to have his cake, making fun of superhero contrivances, and eat it too, using those same superhero contrivances to entertain. Deadpool was the most unique superhero film in recent memory and it succeeded both as an action movie and a comedy. 

Deadpool 2 is not as good as Deadpool, but how could it be? With the first film audiences had no expectations, but with the sequel expectations are definitely heightened. The weight of those expectations does drag down Deadpool 2 a bit as the comedy seems a little more forced and less free flowing than in the first film. But with that said, Deadpool 2 is still an excellent superhero movie and in parts is explosively funny. It even made me, someone who almost never laughs aloud at movies, actually laugh out loud, or as the young people say "LOL", multiple times. Even the post-credit scenes made me guffaw heartily.

In Deadpool 2 Reynolds is at his sarcastic best as Deadpool once again and carries the film from start to finish. A big key to Reynolds success in the role is that we usually see his face covered with a mask and if not, then it is scarred from the burns received during the characters origination. Reynolds detachment from his handsome boy face allows the actor to release a volcanic amount of energetic cynicism that makes Deadpool…well...Deadpool. Reynolds doesn't do any movie star preening, he just fully embodies the dynamic character and seems to be having a helluva lot of fun, which in the hands of a lesser talent would result in disaster, but here it becomes contagious with the audience. 

The supporting cast are good, and in the case of Josh Brolin's Cable, very good. Brolin does the impossible and never breaks while being on the opposing end on Reynolds relentless shenanigans. Brolin brings a palpable melancholy and gravitas to Cable along with a grounded physicality that translates well and is a worthy counterbalance to Deadpool.

Zazie Beetz is a revelation as Domino, whose super power is "luck". Beetz is a charming, magnetic and compelling actress who seems right at home on the big screen with Reynolds and Brolin. My guess is that Ms. Beetz has a very bright future ahead of her. 

Julian Dennison is the teenager "Firefist" and is definitely the weak link in the cast. Dennison's New Zealand accent leaves his speech a bit difficult to decipher and out of rhythm with the rest of the cast which undermines his performance. In addition he has the least fleshed out character and least interesting material with which to work. 

The action sequences in Deadpool 2 are pretty spectacular and never fail to deliver excitement and a lot of laughs. The "X-Force" sequence, from start to finish, is uproariously funny and boasts an A-list cameo for which to keep an eye out. 

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The Deadpool films are a breath of fresh air in the otherwise stiflingly homogenous superhero cinematic universe. Now that Deadpool has been unleashed in two films, the character will only bring diminishing returns as audiences become more and more accustomed to him and therefore more resistant to his charms. As the new car smell of Deadpool wanes, the danger Reynolds faces is that audience familiarity with his style will breed contempt. As the Deadpool films go forward, the bar gets ever higher for Reynolds to pull off the character with the same cheeky aplomb as he did in the original and first sequel, and that is no easy task. 

In conclusion, Deadpool 2 is a bit underwhelming in terms of the storytelling and coherent narrative, but in terms of pure entertainment value, it is definitely a success. If you want to be entertained for two hours, I recommend you go see Deadpool 2 in the theatre. If you enjoy comedy and superhero movies, this is the film for you. If you are lukewarm on superhero movies but want to laugh at them, this might also be the film for you. If you dislike raunchy humor, hate Ryan Reynolds and loathe superhero movies…then I recommend you go shove five Skittles down your dickhole and then play with yourself until you ejaculate a rainbow, because you are absolutely impossible to please. 

*The Popcorn Curve judges a film based on its entertainment merits as a franchise/blockbuster movie, as opposed to my regular rating which judges a film solely on its cinematic merits.

©2018

 

Songs of Experience in A Quiet Place

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Estimated Reading Time: 17 minutes 52 seconds 

"GET OUT OF YOUR OWN WAY" - Get Out of Your Own Way off of the album Songs of Experience by U2

"IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT GIVE YOU AWAY/ THE WORDS YOU CANNOT SAY/ YOUR BIG MOUTH IN THE WAY" - The Little Things That Give You Away off of Songs of Experience by U2

THE SYNCHRONICITY STORM

For the last few weeks a recurring theme has kept rearing its head in my reading and movie watching. As this thematic synchronicity storm gathered strength I realized I could ignore the topic no longer.The recurring theme in question is the stultifying tribalism and accompanying intolerance for opinions different from our own that is rampant in our culture.

The subject first came up when I went to see A Quiet Place and discovered the underlying metaphor at the heart of the film, that in our current cultural climate anyone with a traditionalist opinion that may differ from liberal establishment orthodoxy needs to keep quiet and keep their head down or they will be "devoured" by the PC mobs and elitist watchdogs online and in the media. 

The day after seeing A Quiet Place I read two pieces touching upon the same subject, the first by Michelle Goldberg in the New York Times and the second by Andrew Sullivan of New York magazine.

Goldberg's piece from May 11th, titled "How the Online Left Fuels the Right" and Sullivan's from the same day titled "Kanye West and the Question of Freedom", both discuss the problem of tribalism across the political spectrum but also the issue of liberal intolerance of differing viewpoints, which echoed the foundational metaphor I found so intriguing about A Quiet Place.

Then a day later on May 12th, I read an op-ed in the New York Times by Gerard Alexander titled, "Liberals, You're Not as Smart as You Think". In the piece Alexander, like Goldberg and Sullivan before him, mentions the Kanye West-Trump conversion story where Kanye's divergence from racial political dogma has caused a furor resulting in his sanity being questioned by liberals and African-Americans, to highlight liberal intolerance of diverse opinions.  

"BLESSED ARE THE ARROGANT, FOR THEIRS IS THE KINGDOM OF THEIR OWN COMPANY" Get Out of Your Own Way off of the album Songs of Experience by U2

These three articles, written by a Democrat (Goldberg), a liberal conservative (Sullivan) and a Republican (Alexander) all touch upon an issue that I have recognized for quite some time and tried to warn against, namely that establishment liberalism is quick becoming a suffocatingly vacuous and emotionalist echo chamber of political correctness and victim idolatry where serious thinking goes to die. (This is not to say that Republican conservatism is chock full of vibrant philosophy, it isn't, it is at best a mausoleum, at worst a rancid carnival of Reagan-era capitalism).

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The argument that Goldberg, Alexander and Sullivan make is that liberal intolerance of diverse opinion and use of shame instead of debate is a direct cause of Trump's electoral victory, and may lead to his re-election. I made this same argument right after the 2016 election (link, link) (and right before the election- link), where I said that liberal arguments had grown flaccid because Democrats had replaced debate with moral condemnation, shaming and exiling of anyone who disagreed with them. As I have written many times, liberals no longer engage in debate, they simply cry racism, misogyny or some other emotionally fueled charge rather than actually thinking through a topic, forming an argument, engaging in debate/discussion and thus attempting to convince others of the rightness of their viewpoint. This sort of lazy, entitled, and emotionally driven form of anti-intellectual politics is currently at epidemic levels across America. 

The emotionalism at the heart of this tribalism and demand for intellectual conformity is a potent force and I have seen its devastating effects up close and personal in the liberal circles of my own life.

Andrew Sullivan eloquently wrote of the powerful emotion driving tribal politics and its consequences, "That’s an intense emotion, and it’s that intensity, it seems to me, that is corroding the norms of liberal democracy. It has been made far, far worse by this president, a figure whose election was both a symptom and a cause of this collective emotional unraveling, where the frontal cortex is so flooded by tribal signals that compromise feels like treason, opponents feel like enemies, and demagogues feel like saviors. Instead of a willingness to disagree and tolerate, there is an impulse to loathe and expel. And this is especially true with people we associate with our own side. Friendly dissidents are no longer interesting or quirky; as the stakes appear to rise, they come to seem dangerous, even contagious. And before we even know it, we live in an atmosphere closer and closer to that of The Crucible, where politics merges into a new kind of religious warfare, dissent becomes heresy, and the response to a blasphemer among us is a righteous, metaphorical burning at the stake."

"LOVE HURTS, NOW YOU'RE THE GIRL WHOSE LEFT WITH NO WORDS/ YOUR HEARTS A BALLOON BUT THEN IT BURSTS/ IT DOESN'T TAKE A CANNON JUST A PIN/ YOUR SKIN'S NO COVERING…" - Get Out of Your Own Way off of the album Songs of Experience by U2

MARY FROM DELAWARE

I was, synchronistically enough, reminded of this "impulse to loathe and expel" when a friend jokingly sent me a recent article written by a woman who used to be friends with my wife. This woman, let's call her Delaware Mary, is a vociferous Clinton supporter and a self-described feminist, and when my wife posted a link to an article I had written right after the 2016 election titled, "2016 Election Post-Mortem", Mary, who had been friends with my wife for over twenty years, responded just as Sullivan describes as from that point on she refused to talk or communicate with my wife in any way, instead choosing to unfriend and expel my wife entirely from her life. 

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Mary's reaction to my wife simply linking to my article (which I encourage you to read to judge for yourself the level of my crime) seemed bizarre to me, but it was a sign of the times as in the midst of the collective nervous breakdown among liberals in the wake of Trump's victory and Hillary's defeat, Mary had company in her shunning ways. Two other female friends of my wife and I, let's call them Lola and Lana, both of whom are also self-described feminists and Clinton supporters, took the same action and expelled me and my wife entirely from their lives as well after I wrote my post-election analysis. It seems Mary, Lola and Lana were like the creatures in A Quiet Place, and when they heard me speak up they not only eliminated me, but also anyone close to me…namely my wife. 

"YOU MUST BE AN ACROBAT/ TO TALK LIKE THIS AND ACT LIKE THAT" - Acrobat off of the album Achtung Baby by U2

There are a few noteworthy things about this episode worth pointing out…the first is that it was confirmed by multiple third parties that the reason these women banished my wife and I was solely because of my writing and my post-election piece in particular. 

Second is that my wife is the least political (and least confrontational) person I know and rarely if ever talks politics with her friends or on Facebook. It is also important to emphasize that my wife didn't post the text of my article, just a link to it. In addition, my wife doesn't necessarily believe the same things that I do, she just made the egregious error of posting a link to my article saying "my husband wrote this". 

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And to put this further into context, these three feminist Clinton supporters have exiled my wife not because I am a MAGA hat wearing Trump guy, I certainly am not, but because I challenged their Clinton neo-liberalism from a position further to their left. I am one of the "friendly dissidents" Andrew Sullivan wrote about in the quote above who was deemed a heretic and banished…along with my entirely innocent wife.  

One final bit of context is that Delaware Mary, Lola and Lana were adamant during the election that Hillary Clinton should not be held to account for the things her husband did while in office. These women claimed it was "sexist" and "misogynistic" to tar Hillary for the misdeeds of Bill. And yet…they were very comfortable holding my wife accountable for my apparent sin…how progressively feminist of them. 

The fact that these three women couldn't just passively ignore my writing, which would have been very easy to do since I rarely if ever had direct contact with them (and also because to avoid my writing they could simply NOT CLICK ON A LINK), but had to actively punish my wife for it, speaks volumes about where we are as a culture and does not bode well for where we are headed as a nation.

The hypocritical behavior on the part of Delaware Mary, Lola and Lana also speaks volumes and does not bode well for the future of feminism and is also a testament to their lack of personal character and integrity.

"BLESSED ARE THE BULLIES, FOR ONE DAY THEY'LL HAVE TO STAND UP TO THEMSELVES" - American Soul off of the album Songs of Experience by U2

"HAVING A SCAPEGOAT MEANS NOT KNOWING THAT WE HAVE ONE" - RENE GIRARD

"UNINTELLIGENT PEOPLE ALWAYS LOOK FOR A SCAPEGOAT" - ERNEST BEVIN

When Mary, Lola and Lana made the conscious decision to exorcise my wife and I from their lives they were exercising the ancient psychological tool of scapegoating. As author/philosopher Rene Girard tells us, scapegoating is when negative feelings and emotions, such as anger, failure, frustration or guilt are projected onto an innocent person/object, and then that person is punished, which provides psychological release and catharsis for the scapegoater.

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In this particular case, my wife was entirely innocent and did nothing wrong to Mary, Lola and Lana, but they projected onto her all of their negative feelings that arose as a result of Hillary's ignominious defeat, feelings such as impotence, helplessness, embarrassment, humiliation, frustration, anger and rage, and then punished my wife by exiling her. In a desperate search for catharsis in order to alleviate themselves of these painful and negative emotions, they needed to punish my wife and not just me, because exiling me would not make me suffer, but it would definitely hurt my wife, which in turn would punish me.

The suffering my wife experienced at the hands of their punishment is what was needed for Mary, Lola and Lana to cathartically release their own toxically negative feelings. Making my wife (and me) the villain upon which they could project their negative emotions, also allowed Mary, Lola and Lana to be the "hero" and gain powerful positive feelings like moral superiority, piousness and self-righteousness. 

Of course, as these women no doubt found out, the catharsis felt after exiling my wife and releasing their negative feelings over Hillary's election loss and the gaining of positive feelings, was only temporary, as the root cause of the negative feelings still existed, so they would, like addicts, have to find other scapegoats in order to sustain the temporary euphoria of releasing negative emotions and gaining positive ones. 

Delaware Mary in particular has become quite the expert at finding scapegoats and at proving both Sullivan's and my own point about the personal toxicity of tribalism repeatedly throughout the election and post-election period, as she has banished from her life not just my wife, but a cornucopia of other women, including her own mother, best friend and other friends.  

"BLESSED ARE THE LIARS FOR THE TRUTH CAN BE AWKWARD" - American Soul off of the album Songs of Experience by U2

"A COW'S HEAVEN IS A FLOWER'S IDEA OF HELL" - OLIVER GASPIRTZ

 Delaware Mary's scapegoats were probably singled out due to their failure to rigorously comply with her self-serving belief system, which more resembles a faith-based religion (with her as deity at the center) than a fact-based political philosophy, which is ironic since Delaware Mary is a nouveau-athiest who claims to despise religion. 

An example of Mary's vapid, vacuous and insipid thinking can be found in the article she wrote. In the piece, Mary wrote of women...

"When we speak our truths—the truth—we are rarely believed. We are gaslit by progressive men who tell us they care about women and people of color and the LGTBQ community but then dismiss fighting for our rights and our lives as identity politics."

This quote from Mary's piece is a perfect encapsulation of all that is wrong with establishment liberal orthodoxy and the neo-feminism of our day. Mary is entirely incapable of grasping that her subjective truth is not the Truth. She is also incapable of understanding that since her "truth" is subjective, it must therefore be measured against other people's subjective truths in order to come to a better understanding of the actual Truth. 

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Her use of the term "gaslight", which means "to manipulate someone by psychological means into questioning their own sanity", is pretty insightful as well (and also a desperate way for a middle-aged woman to try and seem "hip" to the "young people"). According to Mary's assertion, to even question her (or any other woman's or minority's) subjective experience can only be interpreted as a form of psychological assault meant to mentally harm her rather than an attempt to discover the Truth or the objective reality of a situation. In Delaware Mary's eyes, the only experience/truth that matters is hers…or barring that, then the subjective experience of any other member of a victim group she exalts such as women, LGBTQ people, or other minorities, and their subjective experience must be left unquestioned and accepted as fact too. 

Does Mary realize that conflating her subjective truth with fact is exactly what Donald Trump does on a daily basis that drives her batshit crazy? Does Mary ever even remotely consider that her subjective truth is not indeed a fact, that it is, just like everyone else's, distorted with all sorts of psychological, personal and historical filters? And that maybe her desperate yearning for victimhood and her rage toward other individuals (like the countless people she has banished) is a function of scapegoating through psychological projection and substitution? And could Mary ever grasp that some people she considers heretics to the Delaware Mary dogma may desire the same ultimate outcome that she does, but they believe different strategies and tactics will make attaining that goal much more likely? I doubt it, since in our culture the self, and therefore subjective experience, always trumps objective reality…hence we get a plethora of people, like Delaware Mary and her cohorts, who encourage people to speak their truth and not to seek THE Truth

INTERMISSION

Since this is a long article, here is a short video intermission which perfectly sums up Delaware Mary, Lola and Lana's approach to life. Enjoy.

 

"WHEN ALL YOU'VE LEFT IS LEAVING/ AND ALL YOU'VE GOT IS GRIEVING/ AND ALL YOU KNOW IS NEEDING" - 13 (There is a Light) off of the album Songs of Experience by U2

THE VICTIM PYRAMID OF TRUTH

The problem with Mary's thinking is pretty obvious, namely that even among women and minority groups in the inverted 'victim pyramid' of truth through which Mary sees the world, subjective experience differs greatly. So is Mary "gaslighting" people of color when she disagrees with Black women like Nina Turner, a Bernie Sanders supporter, or Candace Owens, a Trump supporter? Why are Ms. Turner's and Ms. Owen's subjective experience any less valid than Delaware Mary's? 

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And when Delaware Mary divides people based on their race, gender, sexual orientation and ethnicity, in other words by their identity, or more accurately - by how SHE identifies them, and then ranks them according to how victimized she perceives them to be, she creates a situation that can only devolve into a circular firing squad. Evidence of this is seen in an article in The Guardian by Ruby Hamad titled "How White Women Use Strategic Tears to Silence Women of Colour", where Ms. Hamad bemoans how progressive White women use tears to avoid being held accountable. Does Ms. Hamad's subjective truth of White women being instinctively manipulative overrule Mary's subjective truth that she is "woke" (as an aside... is there anything more cringe-worthy than a middle aged white woman describing themselves as "woke")?

What about men of color…where on Delaware Mary's holy scale of minority subjective experience impeccability is their truth? Is Bill Cosby an awful rapist as per his female victims experience or does his African-American subjective truth that he is the victim of a lynching trump their claims? What about some less Manichean and more complex cases? Where does Mary's loyalty lie…is it with women? People of color? LGBTQ people? Because Mary has made it clear it certainly isn't with the Truth only with her subjective truth.

BECCA AND REBA'S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE

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Michael Harriot accurately described White women like Mary and Lola in his 2017 article in The Root titled, "The 5 Types of 'Becky'". Harriot writes of White women he calls varying forms of the derogatory name Becky. Mary and Lola fall into two of the Becky categories, the first is the Becca category, which Harriot describes thus…"Becca wants to help…as long as it is convenient and comfortable. Even though Becca isn't racist, her idea of Black people is of a downtrodden underclass that just needs a little help from benevolent white people. Becca is pure of heart and holds no animosity towards anyone. She is willing to "do the work…" but not really."

Delaware Mary and Lola are a Becca combined with a Reba, which Harriot describes thus…"Reba is "woke"…Reba believes in a women's right to choose and wore a pink pussy hat to the Women's March….Reba cares about winning. She believes that white women deserve the gold medal in the oppression Olympics, and if there is a chance she isn't on the podium, Reba thinks you're not being fair. Reba talks about white privilege, but Reba doesn't understand that she is white privilege." 

"FREEDOM, THE SLAVES ARE LOOKING FOR SOMEONE TO LEAD THEM/ THE MASTER'S LOOKING FOR SOMEONE TO NEED HIM/ THE PROMISED LAND IS THERE FOR THOSE WHO NEED IT MOST/ AND LINCOLN'S GHOST SAID/ GET OUT OF YOUR OWN WAY" -Get Out of Your Own Way off of the album Songs of Experience by U2

Delaware Mary's fanaticism for identity politics is part of why she was so desperate to scapegoat and exile my wife and I. For women like Mary, Lola and Lana, identity politics isn't just about race, religion, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation, it is actually about THEIR identity, meaning their ego/Self. 

According to iconic psychiatrist and founder of analytical psychology, C.G. Jung, there are countless types of archetypes that are available to us, from the Warrior to the Trickster to the Lover to the Actor and on and on. Jung's archetypes are all gender neutral so, for example, both men and women can be the Mother archetype or the Father archetype. The problem with Mary, Lola and Lana is that they are stuck in the archetypal cycle of Victim (Child) and Mother, with the Victim/Child archetype being the one who needs caring and the Mother archetype being the one who does the caring.

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Delaware Mary is so bloated with self-loathing she must justify it by embracing the Victim archetype, pawning her failures off on an "other" or "group of others" because it eases her psychological anguish to feel she has no agency and is a defenseless Victim. And then she projects Victimhood onto others she deems acceptable, like other women, people of color and other minorities, so that she can try to balance her psyche and alleviate her feelings of weakness, by infantilizing those she appoints as "Victims" (minorities)…thus ensuring that they stay disempowered Victims/Children in need of care and she takes on the archetype of Mother to care for them. This Mother role in this scenario is actually driven by an unconscious White supremacy and a desire to keep minorities in perpetual Victim/Child mode, thus stunting their growth so that Mother can remain empowered. 

Delaware Mary, Lola and Lana hated my post-election article and the ideas in it so much because it challenged their worldview, and to them, because their identity politics is their sole identity (Victim/Child-Mother archetypal cycle), a challenge to their worldview is a direct threat to their ego/Self, their psyche and thus to their entire existence. This is why Mary considers anyone questioning her subjective truth as "gaslight" assaulting her, it is because the entirety of her being is her ego, which is defined by her Victim/Mother identity. Without her identity politics belief system, Mary ceases to exist, as do Lola and Lana. If the world is not as they think it is, then their identities disintegrate and take the rest of their psyche with it. 

The existential threat of loss of identity and psychic annihilation is real and powerful, and can motivate people to do much worse things than just banish a friend of twenty years with whom you have suffered the slings and arrows of life including weddings, births, deaths and all the rest. Holding onto our identity/ego/Self is perceived by the psyche to be a matter of life and death, and it often forces us to react from our lizard brain rather than from the more rational parts of our mind.

"FIGHT BACK, DON'T TAKE IT LYING DOWN YOU'VE GOT TO BITE BACK/ THE FACE OF LIBERTY'S STARTING TO CRACK/ SHE HAD A PLAN UP UNTIL SHE GOT A SMACK IN THE MOUTH/ THEN IT ALL WENT SOUTH" - Get Out of Your Own Way off of the album Songs of Experience by U2

Another thing that I found striking regarding Delaware Mary and Co. banishing my wife and I was that none of these proud, self-described feminist, highly-edcuated women had the courage to challenge the things I wrote. None of these women have ever reached out to me at all regarding the entire situation, finding it easier to just "ghost" (as the kids say) my wife and I instead of engaging in a debate or discussion or even registering their dislike of my opinion. I can understand not wanting to engage with me in person, I have been told I am an intimidating presence, but to not at least reach out from the safety of email or the comment section seems to me an act of cowardice, and shunning my wife shows a stunning lack of intellectual integrity.  

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I am someone who does not have all the answers, hell, I don't even know most of the questions, so I consider myself open to persuasion. Maybe I am delusional, that could certainly be the case, but I try to be open to criticisms of my thinking and writing. For instance, I have received very insightful and thoughtful emails from readers who have vehemently disagreed with me and I have even gone so far as to post some of these emails in their entirety on my blog. For example, when I wrote a piece on "Whitewashing", a reader, Tiny Dancer, emailed me with her counter argument, and I posted an article containing that entire email. To me, this is how serious people and adults behave, and I wish these women had had the courage to reach out to me and at least tell me what pissed them off so much in that article so I could reexamine my opinion. 

Maybe these women thought I was not worth their time, and that my wife was for some reason tainted by her association with me, a case of the "contagion" Andrew Sullivan insightfully wrote about. But as Michelle Goldberg wrote in her New York Times piece, "Some might argue that respectfully debating ideas seen as racist or sexist legitimates them. There’s something to this, but refusing to debate carries a price as well — it conveys a message of weakness, a lack of faith in one’s own ideas. Ultimately, the side that’s frantically trying to shore up taboos is the side that’s losing. If there’s an Intellectual Dark Web, we should let the sun shine in."

Goldberg is correct in her strategic and tactical assessment. Delaware Mary and company feel entitled to not have their beliefs challenged, and so they frantically scapegoat all heretics and banish contrarians so that they never have to actually form an argument and strengthen it, but get to bask in the illusion of the unimpeachability of their subjective truth. This is an arrogant, fool-hardy and strategically inept approach to life and to politics as gorging yourself on a steady diet of mainstream neo-liberal identity theology will only lead to an intellectual constipation. It will also eventually leave you at the mercy of your opponents, who have hardened and honed their arguments in the fire of debate, and to the brutal and cruel force of objective reality. 

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By sealing their echo chamber ever tighter through the banishing of alternative and diverse opinions and anyone associated with them, Delaware Mary and Co. are creating a distorted version of reality where they encourage themselves and others to lose touch with objective reality in favor of a fever dream of subjective truth and moral superiority.

As Gerard Alexander writes in his Times piece, "Within just a few years, many liberals went from starting to talk about microaggressions to suggesting that it is racist even to question whether microaggressions are that important. “Gender identity disorder” was considered a form of mental illness until recently, but today anyone hesitant about transgender women using the ladies’ room is labeled a bigot. Liberals denounce “cultural appropriation” without, in many cases, doing the work of persuading people that there is anything wrong with, say, a teenager not of Chinese descent wearing a Chinese-style dress to prom or eating at a burrito cart run by two non-Latino women."

In Delaware Mary and Co.'s confirmation bias feedback loop where objective truth is scorned and subjective truth celebrated, the only way to maintain the illusion is to vigorously police the speech and actions of others. This is why it was imperative that I be exiled along with my Facebook linking accomplice wife, as we represented a potential shattering of the illusion within which these women exist. This controlling impulse is authoritarian in nature, and ironically enough, is exactly what Trump and other tyrants do to dissidents and heretics as well. 

As Alexander wrote in his Times essay, "Pressing a political view from the Oscar stage, declaring a conservative campus speaker unacceptable, flatly categorizing huge segments of the country as misguided — these reveal a tremendous intellectual and moral self-confidence that smacks of superiority. It’s one thing to police your own language and a very different one to police other people’s. The former can set an example. The latter is domineering." 

THE JOY OF COGNITIVE DISSONANCE

I wrote an article a few years back titled, "Truth, Justice and the Curious Case of Chris Kyle". In that widely read piece, I wrote of the psychological term cognitive dissonance, which means "psychological conflict resulting from incongruous beliefs and attitudes held simultaneously", in relation to the behavior of conservatives when the lies of Chris Kyle were brought to their attention. A brief glimpse at the comment section of that piece, which I wholly encourage you to go read in its entirety, proved my point more than anything I actually wrote in the article.

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Liberals suffer from cognitive dissonance too (as do all humans to varying degrees) and it has been epidemic in the last few years, Delaware Mary and Co. are living proof of that. When Mary, Lola and Lana were confronted with arguments and facts (like my being correct in predicting the election and the reasons why Trump would win) that were in opposition to their strongly held beliefs (their trust in conventional wisdom and institutions like the media, their perceived intellectual superiority and that Hillary would win) and suffered the ensuing psychological conflict, they did what most people suffering from cognitive dissonance do, they ignored the new information (and its carrier- me) and they removed it from their consciousness in order to maintain the sanctity of their previous held (faith-based) belief. 

A great example of liberals like Delaware Mary and company suffering from cognitive dissonance and behaving exactly the same as the conservatives they so loathe (and vice versa), came in recent months when MSNBC host Joy Reid was caught lying about some blog posts she had written a decade ago that some felt were homophobic. Instead of just owning up to the posts and apologizing as she had done in a similar situation a year ago, this time Reid doubled down and claimed to have been "hacked", and that the writing was not hers. Computer forensic experts investigated and found that she was full of it and that there was no hacking…but this did not stop Reid or her supporters one little bit. In a remarkable display of cognitive dissonance, Reid claimed she "didn't recognize herself as having written those things", and many liberals supported her and even wrote and tweeted things like "I don't care if she is lying…I SUPPORT JOY". The same exact type of thing was written by conservatives in the wake of my Chris Kyle piece, as many declared, "I don't care if he lied!" This is our political culture…whether it be liberal or conservative...Truth need not apply. 

"STATUES FALL/ DEMOCRACY IS FLAT ON ITS BACK, JACK/ WE HAD IT ALL, BUT WHAT WE HAD IS NOT COMING BACK, ZAC/ A BIG MOUTH, SAYS THE PEOPLE THEY DON'T WANT TO BE FREE FOR FREE/ THE BLACKOUT, IS THIS AN EXTINCTION EVENT WE SEE?" -The Blackout off of the album Songs of Experience by U2

A COMPLEX SIMPLICITY

Why is that? Why in the world do people just blindly support and put their faith in people like Chris Kyle or Joy Reid or Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton? And also why do people spend so much time and energy banishing dissenting opinions instead of using that time and energy to see what is in front of one's nose, which as Orwell teaches us, requires a constant struggle? The answer is a deep-seeded existential fear.

Delaware Mary and company are representative of our political culture in that they are consumed with fear. Fear is the driving and motivating force for their lives…and yet they are not even aware of it. What these people fear is not what they think they fear…some "other" (like me) out to destroy them and all that they hold dear. No, Delaware Mary and company's existential fear is not the "other", it is complexity, and the antidote to their fear of complexity is the simplicity for which they so desperately yearn. 

Simplicity is required because it maintains and enforces the status quo in people's psyche and also in the outer world. For individuals like Delaware Mary and friends, if they replace their simple black and white worldview where they have a scapegoated "other" upon which to project all negative attributes, and a sanctified Victim group (of which they are members), and replace that cosmology with a more nuanced and complex understanding of their world where their feelings are a useless guide to navigating the maze of modern life, then once again their Self/ego is threatened with obliteration. This is the existential threat to their identity/ego/Self that must be avoided by any means necessary.

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As Adam Curtis revealed in his brilliant documentary Hyper-Normalization, the same is true of our macro political culture, as our society is so complex that it is an unwieldy, uncontrollable beast, and thus the appearance of simplicity must always be maintained by the ruling class to keep the masses placid and compliant. Thus we get slogans and marketing campaigns to boil everything down to the most simplistic nugget…Make America Great Again, all Trump voters are racist, they hate us for our freedoms, freedom isn't free, Hillary lost because of racism!/misogyny! Saddam/Ghadaffi/Putin/Bin Laden/Kim Jong-Il is a pure evil madman etc. 

The establishment believes the facade of a simplistic Manichean status quo with its accompanying political order (where they are on top) must be maintained at all costs because the complexity that lies just underneath the surface of our civilization is a chaotic, barbaric and psychologically apocalyptic force that if unleashed could destroy their power structures.  

On a micro scale, Delaware Mary must not let the complexity of the world seep into her mind, she must not permit contrarian views to fester, because if she stops to actually think, instead of feel, about her subjective truth versus objective reality, and about the massive complexity hidden just beneath the surface or her own life, psyche and motivations, her ego/Self, which she has wrapped in the cloak of her identity in general and her Victim identity in particular, will be obliterated and she will cease to exist. That is terribly frightening for her, as it would be for anyone, and that is the fuel that propels the rocket of her spate of scapegoating and blindly vindictive behavior. 

"WALK THROUGH THE ROOM LIKE A BIRTHDAY CAKE/ WHEN I AM ALL LIT UP, CAN'T MAKE A MISTAKE/ AND THERE'S A LEVEL OF SHALLOW THAT YOU JUST CAN'T FAKE/ BUT YOU KNOW THAT I KNOW" - The Showman (Little More Better) off of the album Songs of Experience by U2

What needs to happen to Delaware Mary and company is what needs to happen to the wider culture as well, namely that they must, in a controlled and stable setting, ask themselves the question, "what if everything I know is wrong?" This question scares the hell out of people like Mary, and scares the establishment class even more, but it is vital if we want to survive as a functioning, relatively healthy human beings and as a civilization. 

Americans have been given lots of opportunities to ask this question of ourselves in recent years as they and the ruling establishment have been spectacularly wrong on so many things, such as the Iraq war, the financial collapse and Trump's election. Sadly, the ruling elite have repeatedly and effectively placated the masses in the face of these massive failures by conjuring a tantalizingly simple illusion which they use to distract from an ever more unruly and complex world. 

The same is true for Delaware Mary, who if she had the courage to actually do some introspection and self-reflection, might stop to notice that she perpetually kisses up and kicks down, and that she repeatedly only casts aside "friends" she cannot use to advance her career, which might lead her to realize that the life she leads which depresses her so, is a result of her own doing, and not because of the failings of others, or structural barriers restraining her. 

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What is so disheartening about this entire situation is that Delaware Mary, Lola and Lana think they are fighting for change and against the status quo, but they aren't, they are desperately and unconsciously struggling to maintain the status quo. Their feminism is a feminism which is built upon the Victim archetype and the foundational belief of female weakness and unworthiness. Ironically, the Victim archetype feminism these women adhere to not only requires but forces a Mother archetype to step forward to "care for" the Victim, and what steps into the Mother archetype are patriarchal males who want to protect the "weaker sex". In other words, Delaware Mary, Lola and Lana and their neo-feminist cohorts are unconsciously propping up the patriarchy they claim to so abhor. This along with their hypocritical behavior and vicious envy of other women speaks to Delaware Mary and friends as being fraudulent feminists. 

Their identity and racial politics too are built upon the Mother/Victim archetypal relationship, and carries with it their own unconscious belief in the inferiority of those groups of people for whom they claim to be fighting. This shows that Mary, Lola and Lana are symbolic of many mainstream liberals in that they claim to be #woke but are completely sound asleep #unconscious.

"IT IS WHAT IT IS BUT IT'S NOT WHAT IT SEEMS/ THIS SCREWED UP STUFF IS THE STUFF OF DREAMS/ I GOT JUST ENOUGH LOW SELF ESTEEM/ TO GET ME WHERE I WANT TO GO" - The Showman (Little More Better) off of the album Songs of Experience by U2

This begs the question...Why does any of this matter? Well the reason I was compelled to write on this subject in the first place is because it seems to represent the ever growing divide in American politics, where subjective truth rules the day and all politics is personal, that further exacerbates the issues that many people care about.

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I also think it matters as a warning about the infection gaining power and spreading throughout politics in general and liberal politics in particular. Delaware Mary is symbolic of this disease of identity and is a case study for the perils of embracing her type. For example, Delaware Mary has tried to resurrect her moribund writing career by rebranding and marketing herself as an activist writer for neo-feminist causes. As has been my experience, and the experience of the many women she has callously mistreated, Delaware Mary is a proven charlatan and fraud as a feminist, and by trying to make herself the voice or face of that movement, will guarantee that it ends in epic failure. Delaware Mary's noxiously malignant narcissism and intellectual vacuity is toxic to everyone and everything she touches.

If you care about any issue, it would wise to be on the look out for people like Delaware Mary. The signs of a Delaware Mary are that they are pied pipers without an original thought in their head, who only speak to their own side and only tell their audience what they want to hear, never what they need to hear.

Delaware Mary's are only interested in basking in the glory of their own voice. Their infatuation with the sound of their own voice is also why they never have a remotely original thought or idea, all they do is simply regurgitate mainstream neo-liberal pablum and think because they are the ones saying it, that it's now clever.

The Delaware Marys of the world are a danger to the people who are serious about finding actual solutions to difficult problems because they will exploit any and all issues to further their career, inflate their own ego and sense of self-worth, and then shit out their shadow emotions on all those they deem disposable because they no longer feed the narcissistic beast residing where their conscience used to be. 

"I'VE BEEN CRYING OUT/ HOW BAD CAN A GOOD TIME BE?/ SHOOTING OFF MY MOUTH/ THAT'S ANOTHER GREAT THING ABOUT ME" - You're the Best Thing About Me off of the album Songs of Experience by U2

Maybe I am wrong about all of this, it wouldn't be the first time. Just like Lola and Lana, I am certainly not perfect either, as I sure as hell have my own blind spots, confirmation and unconscious biases and suffer from my own cognitive dissonance. And the objective reality may be that I am just an incorrigible asshole and my wife is a vicious bitch and we have been rightfully punished by Delaware Mary, Lola and Lana. Maybe their anger towards me is righteous and their vengeance upon my wife deserved. Or maybe not. It is impossible to tell since for a year and a half none of these women have had the testicular fortitude to actually engage in a discussion about it. Maybe if they had summoned the gumption to do so they could have pointed out the errors in my thinking, and converted me to their faith/cosmology.

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Which brings us back to A Quiet Place and why the film resonated with me so much. The film dramatizes the struggle of our current age, which includes the battle over whether to allow people to speak freely even when they say something ugly or which offends you, and the authoritarian impulse to stifle that freedom of speech. While I and others have not been devoured by monsters or thrown in a gulag or concentration camp for reeducation…yet, we have been singled out, punished and ostracized for daring voice opinions that challenge conventional thinking and establishment orthodoxy. This belief that you have the right NOT to be offended combined with the compulsive need to surround yourself with only people that agree with you is ultimately a dangerous impulse that will only lead to further polarization that will fuel an ever hotter political conflagration between groups of extremists on both sides who refuse to see the humanity in the other.

I personally struggle to understand that sort of thinking, as I intentionally seek out writers who think differently than I do. My daily reading is an eclectic list that spans the political and philosophical spectrum. I actually enjoy reading writers with whom I disagree because it challenges me to think harder about what I actually do believe, and come up with a cogent defense of my opinions and a coherent counter-argument to those things with which I disagree. This seems to me to be a logical approach to life and learning and expanding one's knowledge base. 

For instance, just in this article alone I quote from Andrew Sullivan, Michelle Goldberg and Alexander, three people I vehemently disagree with from time to time. If I judged these writers only by what I perceive to be their errors, then I would stop reading them entirely and be disadvantaged because that would mean I'd stop learning from them as well. The same is true of Rene Girard and documentarian Adam Curtis whom I also reference, both are undeniably brilliant but not perfect. Should I cast all of their work away because I found some of it lacking or were offended by parts of it? That is foolishness and totally self-defeating. 

"I LIKE THE SOUND OF MY OWN VOICE/ I DIDN'T GIVE ANYONE ELSE A CHOICE" - All Because of You off of the album How to Dismantle and Atomic Bomb by U2

"I THOUGHT I HEARD THE CAPTAIN'S VOICE/ IT'S HARD TO LISTEN WHILE YOU PREACH" -Every Breaking Wave off of the Album Songs of Innocence by U2

The tactic of shaming those who dare to challenge our opinions, rather than debating them, or exorcising diversity of opinion instead of embracing it, will end in tragedy for those who fall under the spell of the echo chamber. Those that choose to be seduced by the warm song of the echo chamber will become like some perverse, masturbatorial version of Homer's Sirens, for they will be grounded upon the rocks by the hypnotically mesmerizing sound of their own voice. 

I think America is in the midst of a psychotic break and that liberals as a group have suffered a severe nervous breakdown after Trump won the election, and that Delaware Mary, Lola and Lana were swept up in that collective insanity. Obviously they won't ever read this because my writing/thinking is heresy to their neo-liberal dogma and for them to read it would result in eternal damnation, but I do hope that one day the collective insanity that has descended upon the American body politic subsides, and that people can actually engage in discussion once again. That said…I am not optimistic.

"DINOSAUR, WONDERS WHY IT STILL WALKS THE EARTH/ YEAH/ A METEOR, PROMISES IT'S NOT GONNA HURT, YEAH" - The Blackout off of the Album Songs of Experience by U2

"SOMETIMES/ THE END IS NOT COMING/ IT'S NOT COMING/ THE END IS HERE/ SOMETIMES" The Little Things That Give You Away off of Songs of Experience by U2

I think that Delaware Mary, Lola and Lana are symptoms of the disease of American culture. These women are poster children for the decadent, selfish, narcissistic, emotionalist, impulsive, vindictive and vacuous nation we have become. Unbeknownst to them, we are in the midst of a dramatic transition/transformation period in American and world history. Massive upheavals and changes are fast approaching…financial collapse, wars, civil wars, the fall of empires and a toppling of the world order. These women are symbolic of the collective in that, just like their willful blindness regarding Trump in the 2016 election, they prefer to keep their heads up their asses where they can enjoy the warm and dark embrace of the familiar no matter how much it stinks, rather than the cold hard reality of the world outside. Like smug dinosaurs before the meteor, they continue to bask in the arrogance of their ignorance, not knowing, and not wanting to know, the perilous fate that is hurtling towards them (and the rest of us) at breakneck speed.

"YOU'RE THE BEST THING ABOUT ME/ THE BEST THING THAT EVER HAPPENED A BOY/ YOU'RE THE BEST THING ABOUT ME/ I'M THE KIND OF TROUBLE THAT YOU ENJOY/ YOU'RE THE BEST THING ABOUT ME/ THE BEST THINGS ARE EASY TO DESTROY" - You're the Best Thing About Me off of the album Songs of Experience by U2

As for me, at the end of the day, all I can do and want to do is keep on trying to seek the Truth. I won't always succeed, and if history is any guide, I will fail considerably more than I succeed. But the attempt is an important one, especially in the kingdom of madness that is America. The best I can do now is to heed the advice of my good friend Bono, who told me the other night to go forth into this mad world with "Open eyes…open arms…open heart…and OPEN MIND". I wish Mary, Lola and Lana would take this sage advice as well, because then we might be able to mitigate the disaster that awaits us all by being the change we all desperately want to see in this insane world.

 

©2018

A Quiet Place: A Review

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

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation: SEE. IT. NOW.

A Quiet Place, written by Bryan Woods and Scott Beck and directed by John Krasinski, is a horror/thriller about a family that must live in silence in order to avoid being killed by creatures that hunt exclusively by sound. The film stars Emily Blunt and John Krasinski with supporting turns from Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe. 

As a general rule, I am not a fan of horror/thriller films, they just aren't my thing and since I have to be judicious with my limited movie going time, I rarely if ever go see them in the theatre, instead I'll wait to see them on cable or Netflix. But since I just got MoviePass, and since MoviePass is probably going out of business very soon, I decided I better use it before I lose it, so I made my virgin MoviePass journey to go see a film I otherwise never would have seen in the theatre...A Quiet Place. Boy am I ever glad that I did.

A Quiet Place is an absolutely phenomenal motion picture. It is a perfect combination of independent movie aesthetics with conventional Hollywood horror structure. The film is a riveting and engrossing piece of work by first time director John Krasinski (aka Jim from The Office), and is highlighted by a staggering performance from Emily Blunt. 

Krasinski's direction borders on Hitchcockian in its sheer brilliance and deft use of craft. The film is, at times, reminiscent of (and pays tribute to) such great films as Ridley Scott's Alien, Spielberg's Jaws and Shyamalan's Signs, but yet remains a very unique and original vision. 

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Krasinski skillfully trims all the fat from A Quiet Place and what is left is a tense, taut and harrowing thriller of sinewy cinematic muscle and dramatic bone that is at times unnerving to experience. Krasinski so expertly raises the tension throughout the 90 minute movie that when it ended I surprised myself when I audibly exhaled a breath of air I wasn't even consciously aware that I was holding.

Krasinski masterfully uses good old fashioned fundamental filmmaking - camera movement, framing, lighting, sound and music (things often overlooked in special effects laden films) to build and heighten tension and drama throughout the movie, and yet he also expertly deploys top-notch Hollywood CGI creatures to further enhance the story. 

John Krasisnki also stars in the film as the father of the family and does very solid, subtle and sturdy work. Krasinski's character in A Quiet Place is a long way from his lovable incarnation as Jim on The Office, and this character's gravitas and complexity is a testament to Krasinski's versatility as an actor.

Emily Blunt is absolutely stunning as the wife/mother of the vulnerable brood that are desperate to stay silent and therefore stay alive. There is a sequence, which I won't give away, where Blunt is so remarkable in expressing yet containing her pain, fear and anguish that it is sublime and artistically transcendent. Blunt's performance is further buttressed by Krasinski's exquisite direction which makes the most of her truly dynamic talents. 

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Millicent Simmonds plays the pre-teen daughter of the family and does excellent work in the film. Simmonds brings a palpable and visceral isolation to her character that is a cornerstone of the film. Simmonds character is extremely well-written, and she brings all of its complexity to life with a compelling awkwardness and discomfort.

Cinematographer Charlotte Brus Christensen does exquisite work in A Quiet Place and her use of red light, bare lightbulbs and distant fires creates a sparse but effective visual aesthetic that is cinematically and dramatically effective in propelling the narrative and fleshing out the sub-text of the film.

The sound design and sound editors do remarkable work on the movie as well, and without their magnificent contributions this film would not succeed. The same with the special effects team that created the creatures, which are as unique as you could ever hope and put the movie over the top.

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A Quiet Place is a film that excels on multiple levels, it is an entertaining and compelling horror/thriller that will have you squirming on the edge of your seat, but it is also a film of much deeper meaning with a political/cultural sub-text pulsating just beneath its surface. In order to avoid spoilers, I will avoid speaking of the metaphor at the heart of A Quiet Place, but will do so below. Needless to say, I found the sub-text to be absolutely fascinating and have been thinking about it and the film non-stop since I left the theatre.

One word of caution though, if you are a person who is uncomfortable with "children in peril" types of narratives in a film, I recommend you skip A Quiet Place, as it is basically 90 minutes of children in peril. I usually dislike the use of children in peril as a narrative device myself, but I thought A Quiet Place did it very effectively and not in a cheap way, but that being said, as a father it was very, very difficult to watch.

In conclusion, as someone who was reticent to see the film due to its genre, I must say A Quiet Place handily won me over and impressed the hell out of me. I highly recommend A Quiet Place to anyone who wants to see a well-crafted and original film that happens to be a horror/thriller, it is well worth your time and effort to go see it in the theatre. Just remember...don't buy popcorn, as your loud munching will break the hypnotic silence of the film...and also draw the attention of the creatures…like me! So…BE QUIET! The life you save could be your own!!

 

FILM COMMENTARY - WITH SPOILERS

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****WARNING- THIS SECTION CONTAINS SPOILERS!!****

****THIS IS YOUR FINAL WARNING - SPOILERS AHEAD!!****

There is a lot to get to in terms of the deeper meaning, metaphor and sub-text of A Quiet Place. As the film ended I was overwhelmed with thoughts and was frantically jotting down as many notes as I could in order to remember. Here are some of those thoughts...

1. A Quiet Place is a metaphor for our current politics and culture. In the film, a White "traditional" family, who live on a farm in rural upstate New York, must stay silent in order to stay alive. If they speak up, if they raise their voices, the creatures will come and devour them.

Obviously, this speaks to the current climate of suffocating tribalism, political correctness and lack of diversity of thought in our culture. The rural "traditional" White family in the film represent not only the White majority in America who feel "under siege" by "cultural elites" who despise, belittle and chastise them at every turn, but also anyone who dare speak up and out against their own tribe's rigid dogma.

As America changes, the traditionalist Whites (even liberal ones) feel they cannot speak up for themselves, their country, their religion or their ethnicity or they will be brandished as racist, xenophobic or worse by the ever vigilant PC police in the media and online that attack anyone who dare challenge liberal establishment orthodoxy. A Quiet Place gives voice to this anxiety about the pitfalls of speaking freely. 

An emphasis on racial, ethnic and sexual diversity is bringing change (some believe much needed change) to America, and A Quiet Place speaks to the discomfort of White traditionalists with that change.

Even the casting of A Quiet Place speaks to the changing face of American culture, as it is startling that there are only White actors in the film, "diversity" and "inclusivity riders" need not apply here, and it actually felt refreshing and oddly subversive that no one felt the need to do any token casting of minorities in order to elevate liberal establishment sensibilities above storytelling.

It is even more oddly subversive that the family in A Quiet Place actually prays. It is only one brief scene, and there are no other overt displays of religiosity, but it is striking that this brief scene is in the film because prayer and religion is so rare in cinema nowadays (except of course in those God-awful - pun intended - super Christian movies that are so sugary they cause an intellectual cavity). 

The film's metaphor seen through the eyes of Christians in America (or the west) gives voice to their anxiety over the decline of Christianity in the west, hostility in the public square towards Christianity and the perceived threat of expansionist Islam. Christianity's fears and feelings of persecution may seem unreasonable to nonbelievers, but it is a genuine sentiment among many in the pews, and A Quiet Place is an effective tool metaphor for expressing it. 

2. Rockets symbolically play a key role in the film. To open the film a young boy draws a rocket on the floor and says "this is how we will escape". Another little boy reaches precariously for a toy space shuttle on a shelf and nearly falls over making a loud noise (which would lead to death at the hands of the creatures)...but is saved by his sister. The older son is told to go do "rockets" which is code for shooting fireworks in order to distract the creatures when they are attacking the family farm. 

What does this rocket symbology mean? Well...rocketry and space exploration are from an earlier time in our history, a time when the the traditional White majority ruled unabashedly…post WWII 1950's and early 1960's. Kennedy's call to go to the moon, and America's successful journey there, were the height of human achievement, and the height of traditional "White" American accomplishment.

Pride in that accomplishment, and pride in White American heritage, gets the youngest son killed when he smuggles the toy space shuttle out of the store and turns it on during his walk home. The toy makes a noise...and draws the attention of the creature...who quickly runs and kills the boy. In other words, any display of pride in what America used to be, or pride in White achievement or heritage, will get you devoured by the creature/PC mob.

The Space Shuttle is symbolic of Reagan's vision of America…which is has now become diminished to just a small toy on a dusty shelf in a nearly vacant store. The little boy is attracted to Reagan's appeal to traditional White America…an 80's version of MAGA, a throwback to the glory days of post WWII 1950's and early 60's. The boy is destroyed by the PC watchdogs because he dares to be attracted to and celebrate the Reagan/traditional White American legacy of his forefathers. 

In terms of the older son launching rockets/fireworks to save his mother, the family(traditional White America), the father in particular, thinks strategically and studies all he can about the creatures and their strengths and weaknesses, and thus is smart enough to learn/know how to distract the creature/PC attack dogs in order to buy time for the next generation to be born safely, so that they can have a chance to stem the tide of the anti-traditional, anti-White "outsiders".

The rocket/fireworks...think of the tradition of the Fourth of July, a brazen celebration of America...is like red meat to the PC attack dogs in that it drives them crazy and makes them react instinctively. The fact that this leads to a fall, fight and near death in a silo (missile silo - rocket symbology again), is representative of the same thing...America's former post WWII might and 1950' and 60's missile/rocket development. This silo is filled with corn, symbolic of the farmland/heartland of America and the roots of America's beginning, and this is where a battle is fought and important lessons learned in how to defeat the creatures. The two children almost drown in traditional White America's abundance, symbolized by a tidal wave of corn, but are able to work together to stave off the pc attack dog. 

Anytime you see or hear rockets in the movie, think of it as a giant American flag and being symbolic of the height of traditional White American power back in post WWII 1950's and early 60's.

3. The father in the film is symbolic of the traditional White male in America. He is smart, resilient, reliable and handy. He sacrifices himself so that his children can live and maybe win the war against the barbarian hordes who literally eat their enemies, children included. Unbeknownst to him, he actually develops in his basement lab the technology to defeat these vicious "outsiders"/PC attack dogs. The traditional White American male saves his family, his race and his country through his ingenuity, skill, brains and sacrifice. 

He passes along his knowledge to his son…not his daughter, who is not allowed into his lab. He takes his son, not his daughter, on a fishing trip and teaches him about being able to yell…raise your voice and say what you want behind a wall of water (water being symbolic of the unconscious and transitions). 

It is his daughter, who is deaf, whom he tries to help literally to hear (the Truth), and in so doing she is able, along with her mother's shotgun, to defeat the invading beasts who threaten to devour them all. 

The father, in truly traditionalist form, is tasked with defending and protecting his family by his wife/mother to his children. He does so when he sacrifices himself, in front of his wife's eyes, thus making himself a sort of a martyr for the traditionalist cause. She, witnessing her husbands sacred sacrifice, is then transformed, and she is able to use his male energy and power after he dies, just like his daughter is able to use his hearing aid invention in order to defeat the monsters. In the end it is women who must step up in the absence of men and win the final victory. 

4. Considering all the above, there is an obvious parallel to immigration in America and traditional White America's anxiety over it. Also the stifling of dissent (particularly by establishment Democrats), which is at epic proportions over the last bunch of years, and has resulted in many negative thoughts and ideas being suppressed into the collective unconscious, and from this suppressed shadow place, these thoughts have grown and strengthened until they finally came out in spectacular fashion in the form of the beast Donald Trump. 

Trump is undoubtedly the American Shadow incarnate in all its vainglory.  

I hope to write more in the coming weeks about A Quiet Place as I think it is an extraordinarily important film in revealing the sentiments swirling around in our collective consciousness. 

©2018

Avengers: Infinity War - A Review

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

My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars                   Popcorn Curve* Rating: 3.9 stars

My Recommendation: SEE IT. If you love or are even lukewarm for super hero movies, then definitely see Infinity War in the theatre. 

Avengers: Infinity War, written by Christopher Markus and Stephen Feely and directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, is the story of the famed superhero cooperative The Avengers, as they try and stop super-villian Thanos from taking control of the universe. The film stars…well...just about everybody, including, Chris Evans, Chris Pratt, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Elizabeth Olsen, Don Cheadle, Chris Hemsworth, Benedict Cumberbatch, Chadwick Boseman, Tom Holland, Paul Bettany, Josh Brolin and Zoe Saldana, just to name a few. 

Like all red-blooded Americans, over the years I have paid my fare share of Disney taxes to our Mouse eared overlords presiding over us from their lair at the Happiest Place on Earth®. Just in the last year alone I have already paid hard earned cash to Mickey Mouse to see The Last JediSpider-Man: Homecoming, Black Panther and now Infinity War and will no doubt see Solo: A Star Wars Story when it comes out at the end of the month. I have usually been underwhelmed by Mickey's moviemaking prowess and at the end of the day have felt cheated by the Disney tax man. That trend was reversed with my journey to the theatre to see Infinity War.

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Infinity War is the nineteenth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the third of the Avenger films, and is the first of the bunch to not feel like a complete commercial for itself. Having sat through the majority, but not all, of the previous Marvel movies, I have to say that Infinity War is easily head and shoulders above all the rest, and is worlds better than the previous two Avenger films. 

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What I appreciated about Infinity War was that unlike all the other Marvel movies it had a villain, Thanos, who is a complex character that is not only worthy of The Avengers as an adversary, but of my attention. Thanos embodies an existential struggle that is much more complicated than just wanting the world to bend the knee to him, which is a refreshing change from previous Marvel ventures.

To the film's credit, Thanos may appear at first glance to be the embodiment of all evil, but upon closer inspection through the lens of Josh Brolin's CGI enhanced performance and the character's motivations, he is revealed to be less a villain of epic proportions than a misunderstood hero who has taken an unbearable burden upon his muscular shoulders out of noble if misguided intentions. 

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Unlike Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk, Thor, Spider-Man, Dr. Strange and the rest who reside in a Manichean world of black and white, Thanos must make hard decisions from the moral and ethical grey area in which our reality truly exists. Unlike his alleged "good" adversaries, Thanos does not get to cut corners or have happy endings, he is only left with the burden of his calling and the consequences of his choice which make him a multidimensional and pretty fascinating character. 

Infinity War also succeeds because it challenges our conditioning and embraces the notion that there are no easy Hollywood answers to be found, and I found that extremely refreshing after having sat through over a dozen predictable, world destroying, sense assaulting Marvel movies over the years. 

To be clear, I don't think Avengers: Infinity War is a great movie, but I do think it is a very good super hero movie. It, like all other super hero films, pales in comparison to Christopher Nolan's masterful Dark Knight Trilogy, but that is so high a bar I doubt anyone will ever reach it, never mind exceed it. 

The problems with Infinity War are less specific to this film than they are systemic to the genre, and they include too much cringe-worthy dialogue, too much snark, too much mindless destruction and in general…well…just too much.

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And yes, I know I am nitpicking here, but some of the performances in Infinity War are so bad as to be distracting. Mark Ruffalo may very well be the best actor in The Avenger movies but his performance in Infinity War is so abysmally wooden and out of sync as to be startling. I was actually embarrassed for Ruffalo watching him half ass his way through the movie, spewing out his dialogue with such vacuity he seemed more like an extra in a community theater production than an multiple Oscar nominee. 

Another issue I had with the film is an issue I have with all Marvel movies and that is that I find the cinematography to be pretty lackluster. These Marvel films all appear so flat and visually dull to me, and their failure to use of color or shadow to further propel the narrative or reinforce the sub-text is a cinema sin. Infinity War, like almost all big budget studio films, relies heavily upon CGI, which I feel is not quite where it needs to be in terms of visual quality and dramatic realism.

But besides Ruffalo, the hackneyed dialogue and my cinematography snobbery, Infinity War kept me captivated for the entire two hours and thirty minutes, which is no small accomplishment. It did so because the fight scenes were, for the most part, interesting, original and well-choreographed and the storyline was dramatically compelling due to a sense of the good guys being in genuine peril. 

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I also must say that even though the preceding Marvel movies were entirely underwhelming, you could not have made Infinity War without them. The rather boring, paint by numbers, eighteen pieces of manufactured Marvel cinematic junk preceding Infinity War did effectively introduce all of the relevant characters to the audience, and so since we know them, we have at least a minimal investment in them heading into Infinity War, which excels at dramatically exploiting our connection to its characters. 

It is no small achievement what Disney has pulled off with their Marvel money making machine. Infinity War has pulled in nearly a billion dollars in just its first week in theaters, which will add to the incredible $15 billion haul (on a $4 billion investment) thus far for the Marvel franchise films. For Disney to keep the franchise coherent, interwoven and so fantastically financially successful is an incredible Hollywood achievement (even if it may be killing the movie industry and cinema in the process…but that is a discussion for another day), especially when you compare it to the more mundane results of the DC Comics/Warner Brothers collaboration.

In conclusion, I was genuinely surprised how much I liked Infinity War, especially considering how much I disliked most of the previous Marvel movies. If you are even a lukewarm fan of super hero films, I recommend you definitely go see Infinity War in the theatre. If you despise super hero movies then it stands to reason that you'll despise Infinity War because it packs more super heroes per capita than any other movie of which I can think. 

One word of warning though for parents, I do not think Infinity War is suitable for kids. I would put the cutoff at maybe 12, but your mileage may vary. The reason being is that there are some pretty heavy themes presented and also there is some surprising cursing. As for adults who like acting like kids, go see Infinity War in the theatre, it is well worth the time and energy of super hero fans. 

*The Popcorn Curve judges a film based on its entertainment merits as a franchise/blockbuster movie, as opposed to my regular rating which judges a film solely on its cinematic merits.

FILM COMMENTARY

****WARNING: THIS SECTION CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS!!****

 

****THIS IS YOUR LAST WARNING…MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD!!****

 

In 2016 Captain America: Civil War came out and its themes and color palette made my take notice. The reason I was so intrigued by Civil War, was not because it was a good movie, I didn't really think it was, but because it was a remarkable piece of evidence in support of my Isaiah/McCaffrey Historical Wave Theory. 

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Civil War's poster was a vibrant battle of red versus blue, Iron Man versus Captain America. The theme of the film was that The Avengers were torn apart (due to an overseas misadventure) and divided into separate factions, globalists versus nationalists, and they went to war with one another. The film was obviously conceived, written and shot well before the 2016 election, but it was the perfect film to represent the struggle going on in America's, and the world's, collective consciousness. 

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Added to Civil War, was the fact that another big blockbuster superhero movie had similar themes and color palette…Batman V Superman. The posters for BvS were also a striking blue versus red, Batman (blue) versus Superman (red). While the words civil war were not in the title, civil war was the best way to describe the theme and sub-text of BvS

The third film of 2016 which resonated with the McCaffrey Wave Theory was X-Men: Apocalypse. That film also highlighted a civil war-esque level of infighting between different faction of mutants aka X-Men, although its poster and its box office made it much less relevant. 

When all three of these films came out in the same year as our very contentious presidential election, it was proof positive that the Isaiah/McCaffrey Wave Theory was an accurate way to measure the turmoil bubbling beneath the surface of the masses. (The Isaiah/McCaffrey Wave Theory accurately predicted in the face of much scorn Trump's and Brexit's victories in 2016). 

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The reason for this quick look back at super hero movies as they relate to my Wave Theory, is that watching Infinity War through the prism of my Wave Theory, was very unsettling. The themes present in the film are pretty obvious to any cinephile with the will to look, namely globalists, in the form of Iron Man and his crew, are able to convince the nationalists, Captain America and his crew, to fight an external enemy that is an existential threat to the status quo and the world order…Thanos. 

To see it another way is to see it as globalist capitalism (Avengers) versus a sort of nationalist post-capitalism (Thanos). Thanos wants to wipe out half the population of the universe because of dwindling resources, so that the other half can live and prosper in peace and harmony. Thanos is not choosing who lives or dies based on their race, creed, class, power or religion, it is totally random who is to be eliminated and who is to live. 

Iron Man and the rest of The Avengers see that as immoral, unethical and evil, and they fight with all they have to make sure that the status quo, where questions of resources, class and social power are never addressed, reign supreme. The sub-text of Infinity War is a sort of Sophie's Choice, with Thanos choosing and The Avengers refusing to choose, which ultimately is a moral and ethical conundrum due to the fact that, like iconic Canadian arena rockers Rush tell us, "if you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice". 

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Late stage gloablist capitalism is equivalent to a cancer upon the planet, devastating and exploiting natural resources and human populations as it spreads across our world. Like cancer, this form of capitalism can only survive if it is expanding, therefore stasis is death, and it must devour everything in its path, which eventually will include the planet we all live on. 

Iron Man is the face of multi-national corporate power (Stark Industries), and he must keep American capitalism alive at all costs, because if it dies, he dies. Captain America's nationalist impulses are very quickly co-opted and overridden in the face of a threat to the globalist capitalist order. Although it is never articulated that Iron Man and the globalists have defeated Captain America and the nationalists, it is very clear this is the case when Captain America and company come out of hiding to fight side by side with the globalists to defeat the establishment destroying power of Thanos. 

The fact that the "good guys" in a Disney film are fighting to save American "free market" capitalism is not the least bit shocking…especially when Disney is on the verge of acquiring 20th Century Fox which will give them a 40% market share of the domestic film market, which is astounding. Disney undoubtedly is the height of globalist corporate power in media, and in Infinity War they have recruited The Avengers to fight their ideological battle to the death. 

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Thanos on the other hand, may have a very bad solution indeed, mass exterminations, to the resource scarcity issue, but at least he is addressing it, which none of the The Avengers dare do. The Avengers only solution is for them to fight tooth and nail for the right to close their eyes and whistle past the graveyard, in other words to make sure that things stay the same, which is untenable and will eventually result in the death and destruction of the human race and the planet earth. When comparing those two solutions, Thanos versus The Avengers, as cruel as Thanos' solution is…the chilling reality is that it is the only one that is viable long term. And the even more complicated and unsettling thought is that as unconscionable as Thanos' solution is, it may be the most moral and ethical if the choices are do nothing and do something awful. 

Thanos is symbolic of the uncomfortable questions that America, and the world, desperately ignore, and they do so at their own peril. If Thanos were a presidential candidate, he certainly would not be a centrist Democrat or Republican (or in Euro terms, a Merkel or Macron) like Iron Man and Captain America, no, Thanos would not be part of the centrist establishment at all. Thanos would be a sort of "independent" (meaning he defines himself in opposition to the old establishment) authoritarian (for example- a sort of amalgam of Xi, Mao, Putin and Stalin), who would have harsh, cold-hearted and brutal answers to the questions of immigration, income inequality, global warming and empire that would come at a very high cost to humanity…but he would also bring a solution to the problem of terrorism, environmental degradation, resource scarcity and resource-fuled wars. 

In regards to the Wave Theory, Infinity War is what I consider a level 6 force on the Wave Scale because it is not as dynamic and distinctive visually in terms of color palette (for example, its poster is rather visually mundane without any dominant colors never mind something as obvious as red versus blue) as say Civil War or BvS (both level 9) and also because it not only has no other big budget film buttressing its theme as Civil War did with BvS, but DC's Justice League and Marvel's Black Panther have optimistic narratives that counter it a bit. That said, the reason Infinity War is intriguing is because it portends an ultimate end/destruction to the status quo, and that in and of itself is a staggering statement in a mainstream blockbuster, never mind the fact that so many iconic, archetypal characters vanish before our eyes in the film's final scenes.

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Much like The Empire Strikes Back, the best of the Star Wars films, hit theaters in 1980 and was a sign post for the rising American empire of the coming Reagan years whose laissez-faire, trickle down, Wall Street friendly economics has dominated the globe for the past 38 years, Infinity War is hinting at the end of that system, and the coming of a new one. What that system is, be it a Chinese style-authoritarian controlled capitalism, a neo-Marxism, an authoritarian nationalist socialism, or something else, I have no idea, but if history is any guide, it will be a fierce backlash to the greed fueled corporate globalism of the Reagan era (1981 to now). And if Infinity War, which is quickly eclipsing at the box office and in the cultural consciousness the thematic optimism of Black Panther (not to mention that Black Panther himself, and all he represents, is obliterated in Infinity War), is any guide, the transition to this new system will be tumultuous to say the least. 

Another similarity between Infinity War and The Empire Strikes Back is that main characters symbolizing "good" are "killed". In Infinity War there are a plethora of super heroes turned to dust, and in Empire, Han Solo is frozen. But just like Solo was unfrozen in the Return of the Jedi, I have no doubt that all of the now vaporized superheroes will return in the next Avengers movie (Disney ain't turning off the Marvel money machine just to maintain narrative integrity!). But just because the actions in Infinity War, just like those in Empire Strikes Back, are cinematically reversed, does not mean that they do not hold the secret to what lies ahead for our collective consciousness. The trying point genie is out of the bottle, and reviving a coterie of evaporated superheroes will not change that fact in the wider consciousness. 

Think of it this way…if, for example, there is another 2008 level meltdown in our economy, then the political and financial establishment are toast. Apres the unbridled corruption of Reagan era (Bush/Trump/Clinton etc.) American Capitalism, le deluge. The deluge is Thanos. Prepare accordingly while you can. 

©2018

The Farcical Fury Over the White House Correspondence Dinner

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Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes 04 seconds

****WARNING: THERE ARE MEAN-SPIRITED JOKES IN THIS ARTICLE. YOU MAY BE OFFENDED BY THE JOKES. PLEASE READ AT YOUR OWN RISK.****

There has been much ado made about the White House Correspondence Dinner this past Saturday night. The scuttlebutt is about comedian Michelle Wolf's performance, which some deemed excessive and over the top. I for one want to unequivocally condemn Ms. Wolf's unseemly, mean-spirited, crass and vulgar attacks upon the assembled media and Trump administration officials who were her targets. Ms. Wolf incivility has diminished the press, the first amendment and our democracy and she should be ashamed. 

Just kidding. 

I think, if anything, Michelle Wolf went far too easy on the collection of sycophants and psychopaths sunning themselves on the radiance of their own self-importance at the D.C. Hilton. The fact that so many in the political and media establishment have their panties so tightly in a bunch over her performance is testament to Ms. Wolf's comedic success. Here is her performance in its entirety. 

According to the internets, D.C.'s elite were horrified at Wolf's verbal assault on White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders in particular. Members of the Press Corps have said that they were shocked and appalled that Wolf had the temerity to make fun of Sanders to her face…which says less about the character of Michelle Wolf and more about the character of the Press Corps. 

The consensus among the narcissistically flaccid news folk was that Sanders is just a lady doing her job and it is in bad taste to aggressively roast her. I wholeheartedly agree…but then again I would as I am one of those people who also gets irritated because every single documentary or film about World War II always makes Hitler out to be the bad guy*. 

Sarah Sanders is a grown woman who took a job protecting and defending Trump out of blind ambition. The Washington Press Corps routinely tells us that Trump is an unstable, Russia-colluding traitor who is a dangerous threat to our democracy…so why is it out of bounds to assail Sanders who's job is to prop Trump up? If Sanders wants the job of Trump's press secretary, than the price she should pay for that is unending scorn from the public (and press) that think he is a danger to the Republic. 

 Hugh Hewitt - Creepy

Hugh Hewitt - Creepy

Hugh Hewitt, a man who looks like he compulsively sodomizes ventriloquist dummies, wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post today defending Sanders where he declared Wolf's performance "a fail", which sort of describes his every attempt to smile while not appearing to be a pedophile*. 

  LET'S PLAY THE DOPPELGANGER GAME: David Lee Roth  and…

LET'S PLAY THE DOPPELGANGER GAME: David Lee Roth and…

 

Andrea Mitchell of NBC News, tweeted in defense of Sanders, "Apology is owed to Press. Sec. and others grossly insulted by Michelle Wolf".  I also think Andrea Mitchell owes America an apology for being a mendacious shill for Israel who reeks of formaldehyde from fucking Alan Greenspan with "irrational exuberance", just like he fucked our economy. With all of that said, I must admit that I do deeply respect Andrea Mitchell as a news woman, most especially for Neil Armstrong's historic landing on her face*.

 …Andrea Mitchell (NBC News)!

…Andrea Mitchell (NBC News)!

 

 

Another nitwit to speak up in defense of Sanders was lifetime nepotism award winner Mika Brzezinski, co-host of the dreadful Morning Joe on MSNBC. Brzezisnki wrote "watching a wife and mother be humiliated on national television for her looks is deplorable". Why is that so deplorable yet making fun of Trump's appearance on national television is alright? So much for treating women as equals. And why is it so much worse because she is a wife and mother, would it be cool if she were a post-menopausal, filthy whore* like…I don't know…Andrea Mitchell…or Mika Brzezinski? The real kicker in regards to Mika is that Wolf did not even make fun of Sanders for her looks…which is quite a show of comedic restraint since Sanders is such a target rich environment. 

  DOPPELGANGERS:  Trent Lott and...

DOPPELGANGERS: Trent Lott and...

The problem, of course, is not making fun of Trump and Sanders, the problem is selective outrage from that collection of entitled buffoons of the fourth estate. Andrea Mitchell, Mika Brzezinski and Hugh Hewitt had no problem with Dubya joking about not finding WMD's, or Obama joking about drones, both of which caused the deaths of actual, living, breathing human beings, some of whom were even…gasp…wives and mothers!

Andrea Mitchell, Mika Brzezinski and Hugh Hewitt aren't up in arms that their colleagues at NBC, Brian Williams and Joy Reid, both exposed as bald-faced liars, Reid as recently as just last week, are still employed and in good standing at their "news" organization. 

 …Kathleen Hall Jamieson (Annenberg - UPenn)

…Kathleen Hall Jamieson (Annenberg - UPenn)

Andrea, Mika and Hugh have never called out NBC News for hiring Ken Dilanian to be their head national security reporter even though he was proven to be a stenographer for the intelligence community who, while working for the LA Times, routinely emailed his articles to the CIA for them to read, edit and approve. 

Andrea, Mika and Hugh also never cried foul over NBC's obfuscation and outright manipulation of the story surrounding Richard Engel's "kidnapping" in Syria. Engel lied about the details of that story in order to heighten the drama, and NBC blatantly lied about the actuals facts of that story. 

  DOPPELGANGERS:  John Kerry and...

DOPPELGANGERS: John Kerry and...

And of course, the holy trinity of idiocy, Andrea, Mika and Hugh never decried the flag waving moronity of NBC News that blindly regurgitated the Bush administration line on Iraq, including Saint Tim Russert, who years after the invasion lamented that no one called him during the run-up to the war to tell him that the WMD story was bullshit.

Andrea, Mika and Hugh are non-plussed that NBC hired Nicole Wallace, who worked as White Hosue Communications Director for the Bush administration that shamelessly lied to start a war in Iraq, and used rendition and torture. NBC also routinely uses pundits, such as Bill Kristol, who were pivotal in arguing for the illegal war in Iraq and the war crimes of rendition and torture. 

 …Karen Tumulty (Washington Post)

…Karen Tumulty (Washington Post)

This trio also never cried foul over GE CEO Jack Welch demanding the NBC News division declare Bush the winner of the 2000 election on election night when the result was still in doubt, which quickly set the narrative that Bush was the legitimate winner in the public's mind.

 

It is ironic that Michelle Wolf made a joke about her working at Bear Stearns in 2008, because Andrea, Mika and Hugh also haven't demanded that the vacuous Jim Cramer of CNBC's Mad Money, who assured his audience that Bear Stearns was totally fine on March 11, 2008, and told people to not pull their money from the company, be fired. A week later Bear Stearns went under…sadly it didn't take Jim Cramer's career with it. 

Engel, Dilanian, Williams and Reid are all currently employed by NBC News and have suffered no major consequences to their careers for being opportunistic liars and journalistic frauds…but it is Michelle Wolf who has sullied the good name of American journalism by telling off-color jokes.

To be clear, I think Michelle Wolf did fine the other night, but don't confuse that with me thinking she is actually funny. The reason I don't think she is funny is that it has been scientifically proven that women are incapable of being funny*. I do think she was insightful though, which is also remarkably rare for a woman*. 

The National Press Corps have failed at their job, and they are angry at Michelle Wolf for calling them out on it. Wolf ended her remarks by declaring that the press created Trump and they actually love to hate him, which is entirely correct.

The media is pissed at Wolf because they have no interest in the truth, only in a "certain kind of truth". They also have no interest in really protecting the First Amendment, as evidenced by their unbridled glee at RT (and Al Jazeera could be next) being forced to register as an agent of a foreign power. 

The public knows the press is full of shit and is growing more and more fed up with it. The posturing and phony virtue signaling surrounding Michelle Wolf's performance only add fuel to the fire of the growing hatred of the mainstream media in this country….and I do not speak of hate lightly.

The mainstream press better wake up and soon because the only thing that Americans can agree on is that our media is malignantly awful. When the shit hits the fan, the blades will cut the media first, of that I can assure you. 

My piece of advice for the press corps is this…learn to take a joke…either that or prepare to take a punch. 

In conclusion, here is my glorious dream scenario for the next White House Correspondence Dinner…where that masturbatorial clusterfuck is turned into a bonfire of the elites! 

*denotes a joke….the jokes, including the Doppelgänger Game, were meant to show how being uncivil really looks, and that in comparison Michelle Wolf's material was rather tepid and tame.

*Also…If people are offended by those joke then my defense is the same as Joy Reid's, I simply do not believe I wrote all the hateful things contained in this article..so I cannot be held responsible for them. My best guess is that Russian hackers did it. 

©2018

Kanye Tweets He Loves Trump, Civilization on Brink

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Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes 07 seconds

Sometimes a story comes along that perfectly encapsulates the flaming disaster area that is American culture and politics. This is that story.

“I don’t even listen to rap. My apartment is too nice to listen to rap in.” – Kanye West

I must confess that I am one of those strange people who likes my music to be made by musicians who can actually play instruments and/or sing, and who prefers the artistry of cinema to the banality of reality television, and admires the mastery of acting craft over the insipid vanity of celebrity. It is because of these feelings that I was so instinctively repulsed by a story that dominated the news this past week…and yet, to my great shame could not turn away from it.

The story in question came into being when the rancid concoction of a self-proclaimed rap messiah, his celebrity queen wife and a reality tv president, were all mixed together to create a supernova of self-promotion so powerfully vacuous and vapid that it may cause the universe to collapse in upon itself. 

The rap messiah is none other than Kanye West, also known as Yeezy, Yeezus, KanYeezy and Evel Kanyevel. The celebrity queen is his wife Kim Kardashian, and the reality tv President is Donald Trump.

“I told y’all I didn’t vote, right? But if I would’ve voted, I would’ve voted for Trump.” – Kanye West

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If you haven’t heard the story…and I am deeply envious of you if you haven’t…the details are thus…Kanye declared on twitter this week that he loves him some Donald Trump by posting a photo of an autographed Make America Great Again hat and another photo of him wearing said hat….THE HORROR!

Kanye’s Trump love was swiftly met by predictable liberal fury, as 10 million of his twitter followers jumped ship. Some in the media even went so far as to claim Kanye’s support of Trump was a sign that he is suffering from mental health issues.

Kanye’s wife, star of Keeping Up With the Kardashians, Kim Kardashian, came to her husband’s defense and tweeted,

“to the media trying to demonize my husband let me just say this…your commentary on Kanye being erratic and his tweets being disturbing is actually scary. So quick to label him as having mental health issues for just being himself when he has always been expressive is not fair”.

“I am Warhol. I am the Number One most impactful artist of our generation. I am Shakespeare in the flesh.”  - Kanye West

It seems clear that Yeezy’s admiration for Trump is more an exercise in self-serving sycophancy than in political expression. After all, how could Yeezus not be a Trump supporter? He and Trump are mirror images of one another, both narcissistic charlatans whose greatest talent is self-aggrandizement.

Kanye and Trump also both suffer from delusions of grandeur, as Kanye has favorably compared himself to Martin Luther King Jr., Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, William Shakespeare, Thomas Edison, Pablo Picasso and Jim Morrison while Trump has done the same with FDR, Lincoln, Reagan and Andrew Jackson.

“I’m living in the 21st century doin’ something mean to it/ Do it better than anybody you ever seen do it/ Screams from haters got a nice ring to it/ I guess every superhero need his theme music” –  Kanye West

That said, the outraged liberal response to Evel Kanyevel’s Trump admission is as mindless as it is hypocritical.

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Liberals have gone absolutely mad in the Trump era leaving them incapable of tolerating opinions that diverge from Democratic orthodoxy. The strictly enforced groupthink that permeates the establishment left in America is so intellectually stultifying and suffocating it resorts to shaming and exiling all independent thinkers.

Kanye’s public support of Trump wasn’t even the greatest challenge he made to the intellectual infrastructure of Democrats this week, that came in the form of his tweet in support of Candace Owens.

Owens is a conservative Black woman who criticizes the “victim mentality” of the modern African-American community and Black Lives Matter, among other controversial things. Owens said in response to Kanye’s support, “The left wants to strap Black people to this idea that they are victims…they don’t like to see Black people that are free thinkers and are independent…”. I would go Ms. Owens one step further and say that the establishment on both the left and the right are virulently opposed to free thinkers and independent thought.

“I’m like a fly Malcolm X/Buy any jeans necessary” – Kanye West

To be clear, it isn’t just Democrats who are failing to wrap themselves in glory with this Kanye story, Republicans are showing their true colors as well.

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If you will remember, in 2005 Kanye infamously said “President Bush doesn’t care about Black people” during a telethon for survivors of Hurricane Katrina. Bush later called Kanye’s statement “one of the most disgusting moments” of his presidency, which is further proof of the overwhelming power of Kanye as he tops 9-11, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, lying about WMD’s, Abu Ghraib, rendition, torture, Hurricane Katrina and the financial collapse of 2008 on Bush’s disgusting list…Kanye is very impressive!

Unsurprisingly, Democrats loved Kanye back when he bad-mouthed Bush, which only heightens their hypocrisy now. In that same vein, Republicans hated Kanye with a passion back when he assailed their man Dubya. They trotted out the usual idiotic attacks that they honed years earlier against the Dixie Chicks when that band failed to fall in line with Bush’s war in Iraq. “Shut up and sing” was the common refrain from conservatives who disliked it when musicians or other artists went public with their liberal political beliefs.

But now that Kanye wear’s a Make America Great Again hat, conservatives like Laura Ingraham, who actually wrote a book titled “Shut Up and Sing”, Tucker Carlson, and even Bill O’Reilly, who once called Kanye a “dopey little rapper” and said of him “we don’t care what he says”, are thrilled to hear him express his pro-Trump views and even defend him by calling liberals who denounce him “American Stalinists”.

“I feel like I am too busy writing history to read it.” – Kanye West

 This Kanye-Trump story is so striking because it is the quintessential American story revealing the decadent absurdity that is our culture and politics. This story revolves around a man who cannot play an instrument or sing but has made millions as a performer in the music business, who is married to a woman who built an empire as a tv star but who cannot act, who tweets support for a billionaire plutocrat who won the Presidency by posing as a populist fighting for the working man.

In addition, all three of these people, Kanye West, Kim Kardashian and Donald Trump, have made their fortunes the truly American Way…by being masterful self-promoters and cunning media manipulators.

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Obviously, I am not a fan of Kanye West, nor do I like Kim Kardashian or Donald Trump. But you know what I dislike even more? Shameless hypocrisy and the stifling of free thought. That is why I loathe both the Democrats for their gratuitous shunning of Kanye and Republicans for their unabashed embrace of him even more than I dislike Kanye himself.

 

And as much as I am loathe to admit it, when Kanye responded to liberals attacks on him by tweeting, “we have freedom of speech but not freedom of thought”, “self-victimization is a disease” and “You don’t have to agree with Trump…I don’t agree with everything anyone does. That’s what makes us individuals. And we have the right to independent thought”, he was absolutely, one hundred percent correct.

Americans have now devolved to the point where when we think, we only do so with a Manichean and binary point of view. The paradigm is ‘us against them’ and if you disagree or challenge orthodoxy, you are shouted down and cast out. This is not only unhealthy for people’s general wellbeing, but for American democracy in general.

 “I will go down as the voice of this generation, of this decade, I will be the loudest voice.” – Kanye West

 Kanye once claimed, to the amusement of many, he would run for president in 2020. He has since amended that declaration to set his sights on 2024.  To quote President Obama, Kanye is a “jackass”, which considering his predecessors, would make Kanye right at home in the Oval Office.  While I don’t think that Kanye deserves to be president, I do believe that we Americans, both sanctimonious Democrats and self-righteous Republicans alike, certainly deserve him as our president.

 Kanye’s great power is that, just like Trump, love him or loathe him, to our great detriment and shame we are unable to stop talking about him. At the end of the day, there are no winners in this bizarre and inane story…only losers, and considering the amount of time I spent this week following this story, I certainly count myself among the losers.

A version of this article was originally published at RT.

©2018

 

Morgan Freeman and the #MeToo Whispers

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Estimated Reading TIme: 3 minutes 11 seconds

"I HEAR A VERY GENTLE SOUND, VERY NEAR YET VERY FAR, VERY SOFT, YEAH, VERY CLEAR" - WHEN THE MUSIC'S OVER by THE DOORS

Since October of last year when the Harvey Weinstein sex abuse scandal hit the mainstream, the #MeToo movement has been dominating headlines as a cavalcade of famous men faced allegations of having sexually harassed or assaulted numerous people. Besides Weinstein, there was Bret Ratner, Matt Lauer, Kevin Spacey, Charlie Rose, James Toback, Dustin Hoffman, Jeremy Piven, Jeffrey Tambor, Al Franken, John Conyers and Roy Moore to name just a few. 

The #MeToo headlines have abated quite a bit in recent months, but while keeping my ear to the ground out here in Hollywood I have heard the whispers that there is a new target who is being lined up in the #MeToo crosshairs by some major news outlets. 

 Ironically, Morgan Freeman was awarded a Lifetime Achievement award at this years #MeToo themed SAG awards.

Ironically, Morgan Freeman was awarded a Lifetime Achievement award at this years #MeToo themed SAG awards.

According to my sources, the man who may be next up to the guillotine is none other than beloved Academy Award winning actor Morgan Freeman. I am not saying that Morgan Freeman has done anything wrong or is a sexual aggressor or anything of the sort, I have seen no proof of that and have only heard rumor and innuendo. What I am saying is that there are journalists actively investigating Morgan Freeman and claims of sexually inappropriate behavior on his part with co-workers and underlings. 

To be clear, I am not Woodward and Bernstein, nor am I Cindy Adams, I am just a guy who writes opinion pieces in a fruitless search for truth. That said, the rumblings out here in La La Land are loud enough that I was able to pick up on them, which means that something is afoot. 

While the media sharks are definitely in the water, that does not mean they will be able to conclusively verify any claims against Morgan Freeman. I have also heard that many women are hesitant to come forward for a variety of reasons, some of which include Freeman's respected standing in the industry, his "good guy" persona, and interestingly, his race. If the story about Freeman does indeed break, he would be the highest profile African-American man to have been named in the recent wave of #MeToo allegations, and would join Bill Cosby in infamy, which for some, complicates the situation.  

"I HEAR A VERY GENTLE SOUND, WITH YOUR EAR DOWN TO THE GROUND" - WHEN THE MUSIC'S OVER by THE DOORS

I have been contemplating writing about this topic for the last week, then synchronistically, today I woke up to an unrelated yet strange story about claims of an inappropriate sexual relationship in the past between Morgan Freeman and his step-grand daughter E'Dina Hines (by his first wife Jeannette Bradshaw).

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Ms. Hines was murdered in 2015 at the age of 33, allegedly by her boyfriend Lamar Davenport. Mr. Davenport's attorneys in his current murder trial have released a series of cryptic texts between Hines and Davenport that they say hint at a sexual relationship between Morgan Freeman and Ms. Hines that Davenport claims existed. When, where and Ms. Hines age when the relationship allegedly occurred are not revealed in the story. Freeman vehemently denies all allegations of a sexual relationship with Hines.

The Freeman-Hines relationship made news back in 2012 when some tabloids reported that Freeman was actually going to marry his then 27 year old step-granddaughter, with whom, they claimed, he had been in a relationship for a decade…meaning it began when she was 17 and he was 64.

I do wonder if this story of an alleged sexual relationship between Freeman and his step-granddaugther E'Dina Hines being back in the news will be the impetus for more women in Hollywood to come forward with claims Morgan Freeman harassed them, or will compel those already in contact with journalists to be more forth coming. 

Though I greatly admire Morgan Freeman as an actor and like him as a public entity, I do not know him nor have I ever met him. Hopefully I am misinformed about reporters digging into Freeman's sexual history in the workplace and the stories I've heard of his behavior are wildly overblown or entirely inaccurate, who knows? But from all I have been able to piece together so far, I have a sinking feeling that the whispers i am hearing combined with this bizarre step-granddaughter story I read this morning, are the tip of a very large iceberg, and Morgan Freeman's reputation/career is the Titanic heading straight for it. 

©2018

You Were Never Really Here: A Review

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

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation: SEE IT - A terrific film but be forewarned, it is marketed as a more conventional action-thriller but it is art house cinema to the core. If your tastes run to the more mainstream, you will probably hate this movie. 

You Were Never Really Here, written and directed by Lynne Ramsay (based on the book of the same name by Jonathan Ames), is the story of Joe, a former military and law enforcement man who rescues girls who are being trafficked in the sex trade. The film stars Joaquin Phoenix as Joe, with supporting performances from Ekaterina Samsonov and Judith Roberts.

If Taxi Driver and Blue Velvet went on a date, the movie they'd go see would be Lynne Ramsay's You Were Never Really Here. While not being quite the cinematic masterpieces that are those two films, You Were Never Really Here is still the best movie I've seen so far this year due to the originality and skill of its director, Lynne Ramsay, and the otherworldly talent of its lead actor, Joaquin Phoenix. 

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You Were Never Really Here is a wonderfully ambitious, hypnotically tense, taut and dark art house character study. Director Ramsay has created a mesmerizing impressionist PTSD fever dream that is both unsettling and enlightening.

The film is fueled by Joaquin Phoenix's staggering performance as Joe, a tortured soul struggling to navigate the world as he spirals downward through it. Phoenix is the greatest actor working on the planet right now, and his Joe is a testament to his talent, mastery of craft and artistic commitment. Seen in conjunction with his powerful work in The Master, Phoenix's performance in You Were Never Really Here puts him onto the Mount Rushmore of actors. 

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Phoenix seamlessly morphs into the muscular Joe, a husky vigilante who inflicts his righteous violence upon the wicked with a ball-peen hammer. Phoenix's Joe has a plodding and heavy gait accompanied by thunderous footsteps, aided by the sound department, that land with a resounding thud. Joe walks heavy on the earth because of the burdensome cross he has to bear. Like a giant, twisted oak tree swaying in the wind, Joe yearns to break free from this world of pain and fly off to the stars, but his sentence is to be welded firmly to the ground and to suffer the most heinous slings and arrows that life can conjure. 

Joe is undoubtedly a fallen angel, and even has the scars where wings used to be to prove it, but like some cross between Chiron, Sisyphus and a hammer wielding Thor, he has turned his punishment into penance, and tries to redeem himself by saving others. 

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Phoenix's performance is that of an open nerve simultaneously screaming out in agony and trying to kill itself to deaden the pain. Intense, magnetic and menacing, Phoenix uses strategic stillness and silence mixed with a ferociously vivid inner life and intentionality to create a Joe that is ominously compelling.

Lynne Ramsay has directed some intrigueing films in the past, the most notable being the stellar Ratcatcher and We Need To Talk About Kevin. Never a slave to convention, Ramsay turns the vigilante genre on its head in You Were Never Really Here by throwing the audience into the twisted psyche of her protagonist, Joe. With the brief, unexplained and impressionist glimpses into Joe's past, Ramsay relies on her audience to put the pieces together. More conventional audiences, weened on Spielberg films, will no doubt recoil at such demands from a director who bravely asks questions as opposed to gives answers, but those who dare accept the challenge receive the gift of exquisite cinema.

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Ramsay and cinematographer Thomas Townend use different camera and film styles to create intimacy and tension within viewers. Townend's use of light and shadow and his subdued color palette give the film a gritty yet surreal visual aesthetic that perfectly matches the subtext of the movie. 

Even though You Were Never Here is certainly a violent film, the decision by Ramsay to, unlike Taxi Driver, not show an orgy of violence is an interesting one. I understand the thinking that could go into making that decision, and while I disagree with that aesthetic choice, I respect Ramsay's stylistic commitment. By not explicitly showing the violence, Ramsay never allows the audience to feel cathartic relief from the torture inflicted upon Joe's soul.

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I also admired Ramsay's deft use of music, which is very reminiscent of Blue Velvet, as is the theme of revealing the insidious rot just beneath the veneer of normalcy in America. Ramsay's use of camera movement and the setting of New York would seem to be tributes to Scorsese's Taxi Driver, and that too is thematically appropriate, as Joe could be Travis Bickle's nephew. 

You Were Never Really Here is in many ways an unconventional film and viewers should be aware of that going in. If you watch the film as just a straight forward exercise in storytelling, and nit-pick inconsistencies and demand more realistic unfolding of events, then you will be both frustrated and disappointed and miss the gem hiding just beneath the movies surface. But if you watch the film as if it were a PTSD inspired dream/nightmare of Joe, with all of the improbabilities and inconsistencies that go along with that scenario, then You Were Never Really Here is both an invigorating and satisfying cinematic experience. My recommendation to anyone who goes to see the film is to suspend your disbelief and watch it less as a narrative adventure and more as a character study that dives into the mind of a tortured soul. 

Keeping that advice in mind, I highly recommend any viewers who enjoy art house cinema to go see You Were Never Really Here as fast as you can…because a film like this may actually leave theaters so fast it will feel like it was never really here. For cinephiles it would be a sin to miss this movie and Joaquin Phoenix's truly magnificent performance. For less adventurous movie-goers, You Were Never Really Here might be an art house bridge too far, as it asks a lot of its audience and some people may be reluctant to abandon their familiar approach to watching films, but that will truly be their loss.

©2018

 

A VERY BRIEF COMMENTARY WITH SPOILERS

****WARNING: THIS SECTION CONTAINS BIG SPOILERS****

****SPOILERS AHEAD - YOUVE BEEN WARNED!!!****

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There is a storyline in You Were Never Really There where a pedophile ring that services very powerful men is involved. I know that some viewers will roll their eyes at this storyline thinking it is an absurd and improbable "conspiracy". I would caution against that response. 

If any readers are interested in the subject, there are a plethora of materials out there to check out, and they are all very disturbing but informative. 

My advice would be to go read up on Jeffrey Epstein and his "Lolita Express" airplane and his connection to Donald Trump, Bill Clinton and other powerful men including Alan Dershowitz. Epstein got busted for soliciting an underage girl for prostitution but got the deal of the century from the D.A. and barely spent any time in prison. I wonder why?

I recommend readers go check out the documentary Who Took Johnny? on Netflix as well. This is a very disturbing look into the disappearance of Johnny Gosch, the first milk carton kid, and the unseemly world hiding just beneath the surface of America. 

If you can find it, which is no easy task, I also recommend watching the documentary The Franklin Affair and reading up on that topic as well. The Franklin Affair is tied into the Johnny Gosch story as well. Considering we are currently being inundated with stories about how wonderful George HW Bush is, it might be enlightening for readers to come to know more about the darker sides of the man and how the Franklin Affair story got scuttled.  

And one final thing to keep in mind when trying to process the idea of powerful people abusing children with impunity…remember the extent of the Catholic church scandal, where not only the church, but police and courts protected abusers for decades and allowed them to continue to rape children.

Also remember just this past year when decades of abuse by the likes of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, Kevin Spacey, Brett Ratner and on and on came to light. You think Corey Feldman is crazy because he talks about high powered people in Hollywood preying on children? Well…Corey Feldman might be crazy…but he isn't wrong. Some of the most prominent and powerful people in Hollywood are monsters who devour children and they are hiding in plain sight. 

Jeffrey Epstein, Johnny Gosch, The Franklin Affair, The Church Scandal…these are all just the tip of the iceberg. Sadly, the reality is that the pedophile club in You Were Never Really Here is not as far fetched as we'd like to believe and is much more common than we'd like to think. Go read up on the subject and learn the uncomfortable truth. 

©2018

 

 

Ready Player One: A Review

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

My Rating: 2.75 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation: SEE IT/SKIP IT. If you like Spielbergian action movies, see it in the theater. If you are lukewarm or want some deeper meaning, there is no reason to see this movie even for free on cable or Netflix.

Ready Player One, directed by Steven Spielberg and written by Zak Penn and Ernest Cline (based upon Cline's book of the same name), is the science-fiction adventure story of 17 year-old orphan Wade West, a skilled gamer living in the slums of Columbus, Ohio who takes on a powerful technology company in a virtual reality game titled The Oasis. The film stars Tye Sheridan as Wade along with Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, Mark Rylance and TJ Miller in supporting roles. 

I admit that I was less than enthused about going to see Ready Player One because I tend to find Steven Spielberg to be insufferable as a filmmaker. Spielberg's pedophiliac addiction to recreating child like wonder always feels contrived, formulaic and frankly, a bit creepy to me. It hasn't always been thus, as I think both Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind are utter masterpieces, but as the 1970's receded so did Spielberg's balls along with his artistic and aesthetic originality. 

It was in this rather negative frame of mind that I went to see Ready Player One. When the film opened with the iconic keyboard introduction to Van Halen's 1984 mega-hit "Jump" off of their aptly titled album 1984, I have to admit, it got me. You see, as a teenager in the 80's I was a huge fan of Van Halen (and to be clear I was a fan of Van Halen, NOT Van Hagar…so do NOT bring any of that weak-ass Van Hagar shit in here…DO.NOT.DO IT.), so much so that my best friend Keith would routinely play the opening notes on his keyboard, which was my cue to find the nearest chair, couch or table from which I would do my flying split jumps David Lee Roth style. While this usually happened in the midst of a Jack Daniels induced haze, foggy memories remain and they are among the fondest of my young adulthood. 

The signature sound of Eddie Van Halen's keyboards was a striking synchronicity for me that did not just recall good times though, but also something much more existentially unsettling. The darkness recalled was the fact that this month, April (April 17 to be exact), is the 21st anniversary that my "Jump" playing friend Keith was killed. And so when I heard the start of that classic Van Halen song at the opening of Ready Player One, the overwhelming feeling that surged through me wasn't the giddy pulse of nostalgia that Spielberg anticipated, but a profound melancholy and emotional fragility. 

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It is somewhat ironic that I should be triggered to recount the crippling grief of losing a loved one at the beginning of a film where life is entirely disposable and when it is over just get a to hit a button and start over. The existential questions that boil up to the surface when attempting to contemplate the incomprehensible are ultimately unanswerable, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't ask them. Great artists and great art exists to ask those questions, and to let the silence of the eternal void be their answer. Ready Player One mimes asking big questions, but all it really does is provide easy answers, which renders it a sort of philosophical and artistic fool's gold wrapped in the shallow glitz of pop culture.  

As "Jump" played on, Eddie Van Halen's keyboard is supplemented by David Lee Roth's Spielbergian lyric which perfectly captures the 1980's ethos and quickly becomes the perfect anthem for Wade West, the protaganist of Ready Player One,

"I get up, and nothing gets me down, you've got it tough? I've seen the toughest soul around. And I know, baby just how you feel, you've got to roll with the punches, to get to what's real"

Spielberg's camera follows Wade as he makes his way through "the stacks", a maze of mobile homes piled on top of each other to create a ghetto of makeshift apartment buildings. This opening sequence is not a particularly skilled piece of filmmaking, in fact, it is pretty standard moviemaking, but it does effectively set the stage for the story, the myth and the subtext that lies ahead. 

The choice of Van Halen's "Jump" is not coincidental, and it reminded me of a quote that Joseph Campbell often used to repeat and which I have often repeated throughout my life. 

A bit of advice, given to a young Native American, at the time of his initiation: "As you go the way of life, you will see a great chasm. Jump. It is not as wide as you think."

The story of Ready Player One is that of Wade West and his Oasis alter ego Parzifal (paging Joseph Campbell and the Holy Grail!), finding the courage to "Jump". Wade West is being initiated from boyhood into manhood and he must pass the tests presented to him…sort of like in a video game…and in the case of Ready Player One…exactly like a video game. 

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Ready Player One is also an unabashed tribute mostly to the pop culture of the 80's (although other decades get slight nods as well), hence the use of Van Halen's "Jump", which is the quintessential 80's anthem from the quintessential 80's band. The movie is populated by, and littered with, the pop cultural remnants from that shoulder padded decade that gave us such cinematic signposts as Back to the Future, Ghostbusters and a cornucopia of John Hughes movies. Ready Player One is also Steven Spielberg's tribute to himself, as he was as much a shaper and creator of the pop-culture of the 1980's and beyond as anyone living or dead. 

Of course, Spielberg sees Ready Player One as an homage, but I see it more as an indictment, or to be even darker, a cinematic eulogy. Spielberg's overall impact on popular culture has been detrimental in deeply cataclysmic ways. As Spielberg ushered in the blockbuster era of moviemaking in the 1980's, he struck a death knell for the artistic renaissance of the Easy Rider-Raging Bull era of the 60's and 70's where auteurs flourished and quality cinema thrived. 

Spielberg's corporatized moviemaking was meant to reinforce the establishment, not rebel against it, as fellow filmmakers of his generation were often trying to do. Spielberg turned from a potential 1970's revolutionary artist to an 1980's establishment Praetorian Guard who churned out pop culture meant to embolden the status quo, appease those in power, anesthetize the masses and fatten his bank account. Spielberg has been a malignant force shaping popular culture for the last forty years, and because of that he is as much to blame as anyone for the artistic, intellectual and cultural decay that is besieging the American soul and which comes to life on screen in Ready Player One. Seen through this perspective, Spielberg's Ready Player One feels like a film about lung cancer made by The Marlboro Man. 

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As evidenced by my reaction to "Jump", I found Ready Player One's 80's nostalgia to be very manipulative, but as someone who grew up in that era, I can attest that it is at times very effectively deployed. But again, it is the end to which that nostalgic means is used with which I have an issue. Much like Trump's Make America Great Again was a nostalgic clarion call for the antisepticism of the 1950's, Spielberg's Ready Player One's nostalgia yearns for a decade just as suffocatingly conformist as the 1950's but even more toxic, the 1980's. 

Ready Player One's mythology, like the mythology of Reagan, Oprah and Spielberg's Baby-Boomer Corporate America where all life is commodified solely for profit, is one that contorts the human heart and psyche in order to make avarice and narcissism virtues and not vices. The form of cheap pop culture grace found in Ready Player One is meant to obfuscate our true humanity and maintain our delusional, money and celebrity centered society. 

Interestingly, Spielberg plays Van Halen's "Jump" for its entirety throughout the film's opening, which is rather striking as he is not a filmmaker, like Scorsese, known for utilizing pop or rock music to great effect. Spielberg's use of pop and rock music in Ready Player One though is done very well, and like the recent spate of television shows mining the 80's for music that can manipulate middle aged and younger generations simultaneously, Spielberg is wise to do so. 

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As much as watching Ready Player One is like watching someone else play a video game, the cavalcade of pop culture and musical references make it a much more palatable and intriguing experience than I imagined it could be. That is not to say that there aren't downfalls to watching a video game movie, there are, such as the characters looking weird and un-relatable and the action being way over the top. 

Like all Spielberg films, there are certainly moments that are so contrived and hackneyed as to be cringe-worthy. Spielberg has always struggled dealing with grounded, genuine human emotion and interaction, and so it is in Ready Player One, but he is aided in that dilemma by two charismatic and compelling performances from his leading actors, Tye Sheridan and Olivia Cooke. Both Sheridan and Cooke make lemonade out of the lemon of a script they are given that in the hands of lesser actors would have been disastrous. 

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TJ Miller and Mark Rylance both give quirky and interesting performances that I thoroughly enjoyed. Miller is an acquitted taste as an actor but I confess I have acquired it. Rylance is his usual, odd, enigmatic and intriguing self as James Halliday, the creator of The Oasis, and the film is better for it. Both actors are able to elevate the rather mundane material they are given. 

On the down side, Ben Mendelsohn plays corporate bad guy Nolan Sorrento and he never quite musters the focused energy and gravitas needed to play such a pivotal villain. Lena Waithe, Phillip Zhao and Win Morisaki are all pretty underwhelming as well in supporting roles that feel terribly under written and reek of tokenism. 

Another issue I had was that there are some scenes that are "flashbacks" but they use the same actors to play themselves younger and it doesn't work at all. The actors all look like old people dressed differently and pretending to be younger. For a film that is so heavily invested in technology, the inability to perfect the age in flashbacks is embarrassing. I know it is a hard thing to do, but it isn't like Spielberg doesn't have the money to get it right, an example of getting it right being Robert Downey Jr. in the "flashback" sequence in Captain America: Civil War

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And one final issue I had with the movie was that Spielberg uses a Stanley Kubrick film as a narrative device (So as not to spoil it I won't name which one). This is not a crime in and of itself, but when Spielberg "Spielberg-izes" Kubrick's work, like he did with the irritatingly inept A.I., he always ruins it. Spielberg does the same thing to Kubrick in Ready Player One, where he takes a great idea, tinkers with it, turns it into a theme-park ride, and instead of Kubrickian filet mignon all we are left with is a very fragrant Spielbergian shit sandwich. I found this sequence to be so very frustrating because all of the pieces were in place for a stunning and extremely clever cinematic success if Spielberg hadn't screwed it all up. 

But with all that said, as someone who is generally less than enamored with Steven Spielberg as a filmmaker, to his credit, my very low expectations going in to Ready Player One were exceeded. Ready Player One is not a great movie but it held my attention and entertained me for two hours and twenty minutes, and that ain't nothing.

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In conclusion, even though I find the very deep seeded spiritual, political, psychological and mythological message that underlies this entire film (and the majority of Spielberg's work) to be equally vacuous, insidious, nefarious and mendacious, I very tentatively admit that I was mildly entertained by it all. I think if you grew up in the 80's and a vapid, nostalgia laced Spielberg action movie intrigues you, then you should go see Ready Player One in the theaters, as it should be experienced on the big screen.

But be forewarned, as I found out the hard way, a nostalgic "Jump" to the past doesn't just conjure up pleasant memories, but can open old wounds as well. Ready Player One inadvertently opened up an existential wound in me that the movie and its filmmaker, Steven Spielberg, were metaphysically incapable of comprehending, never mind healing. This is why, unlike master filmmakers like Kubrick, Malick, Scorsese, P.T. Anderson and Kurosawa, Spielberg can only ever aspire to be a creature of style over substance and a purveyor of pop culture, as he is wholly incapable of ever being a transcendent artist due to the fact that he makes movies that give easy answers, but that never dare to ask the real question. 

©2018

 

Hollywood's Malicious Propaganda Dehumanizes All Russians

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Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes 23 seconds

A closer inspection of America’s relentless Russo-phobic propaganda campaign reveals that it isn’t just the news media spreading hatred of Russia and Russians, but Hollywood as well.

America’s unrelenting propaganda assault on Russia began by demonizing Russian President Vladimir Putin. Putin is routinely blamed for every evil that occurs under the sun, and according to the establishment media, there is nothing too evil that the Bond super-villain Putin cannot accomplish.

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The U.S. likes to personalize their enemy into one caricature so that Americans have an effigy onto which they can project their fear and loathing. A brief glance at recent history shows this to be true as the U.S. used the same playbook with Bin Laden, Saddam Hussien, Muamar Gaddafi and Kim Jong-Il.

Sometimes, when an enemy lacks the requisite charismatically evil leader to fit the propaganda bill, the U.S. will demonize whole peoples, for example the Japanese in World War II. The dehumanizing of the Japanese is what convinced Americans to accept the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II and the use of nuclear weapons on Japan to end that war, this is in marked contrast to American’s attitudes towards German-Americans.

In the current propaganda war with Russia, the U.S. seems to be taking a unique hybrid approach. Putin is certainly held up as an icon of evil but Russians and people of Russian descent are also being demonized and in some very insidious and disturbing ways.

For instance, James Clapper, former Director of National Intelligence, recently told NBC in an interview, “…the Russians, who typically, are almost genetically driven to co-opt, penetrate, gain-favor, whatever...”

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Clapper’s statement maligns all Russians, even Russian-Americans, as genetically duplicitous and diabolical. Such repulsive xenophobia isn’t just good old-fashioned American Russia hating, it is fast becoming U.S. policy. 

For instance, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence probe into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election has deemed all people “of Russian descent or nationality” to be potential targets of their investigation. There are 3 million Russian-Americans in the U.S., and according to the Senate Intel Committee, they are now all suspect.

In the same vein, Senator Dianne Feinstein demanded that Facebook turn over to the Senate any data related to “Russia connected accounts”. Feinstein broadly defines Russia connected accounts as “a person or entity…that may be in some way connected to Russia, including by user language setting, user currency or other payment method.”

Feinstein and Clapper’s Russo-phobia and totalitarian instincts are chilling, and they will find little resistance from the American people who are being surreptitiously indoctrinated by Hollywood to believe that Russians are inherently devious miscreants.

It has been well established that Hollywood is the propaganda wing of the Pentagon and the intelligence community and has effectively indoctrinated Americans to whole-heartedly support America’s belligerent militarism and to see the U.S. as always the well-intentioned hero.

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So it is no surprise that Richard Stengel, former Managing Editor of Time magazine (2006-2013) and Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs under President Obama (2014-2016), saw the success of the Pentagon-Hollywood alliance in shaping public opinion and tried to emulate it. It was revealed in a trove of hacked Sony emails released by Wikileaks, that in 2014, while officially serving in the Obama administration, Stengel approached Hollywood studios asking for help in countering “Russian narratives”.

Stengel was wise to ask for Hollywood’s assistance, as entertainment is a much more insidious form of propaganda than “fake news”. It is designed to manipulate emotions and audiences have been conditioned to allow it to do so. Viewers willingly let their guard down and suspend their disbelief when they watch a film or television show, and therefore their critical thinking function is reduced and they become much more pliable and vulnerable to propaganda. 

It is in this state of vulnerability when their emotions are triggered and their conscious mind is bypassed, that the nefarious ideas of the propagandist are implanted in the viewer’s unconscious. This is why businesses pay so much money for “product placement” in films and why the Pentagon has embedded itself so deeply into the entertainment industry, because audiences are much more susceptible to subtle and unconscious propaganda messages when they watch entertainment. The Pentagon has long understood and benefitted from this and those who wish to foment anti-Russian sentiment understand it too and are currently using Hollywood to spread that vile message.

The extent to which Stengel’s conversations with Hollywood bigwigs convinced the studios to act is not yet fully known, but since he made his plea to the studios, Hollywood has churned out a steady stream of filmsthat has portrayed Russians as a deplorable people.

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Some of the most prominent of them were Child 44 (2015), the story about a Russian child killer starring Tom Hardy, Steven Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies (2015) starring Tim Hanks and Atomic Blonde (2017) starring Charlize Theron, both about nefarious Cold War Russian spies, and Bitter Harvest (2017), the story of famine induced by Josef Stalin upon Ukrainians in the 1930’s. These films, all set during the Cold War (except for Bitter Harvest), uniformly portray Russians as treacherous, vicious, malicious and merciless.

On television, there has been the recurring anti-Russian storyline on the hit Netflix show House of Cards, where a remorseless and repugnant Putin-esque Russian leader cynically destroys people’s lives.

Last month the newest batch of Russian themed films and television shows hit screens both big and small with the same theme of degrading and dehumanizing the Russian people as their propaganda predecessors.

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Red Sparrow is the story of a former ballerina turned Russian super spy trained in the sexual arts and stars the highest paid actress in the world, Jennifer Lawrence. The Death of Stalin is a dark comedy about the power struggle in the Soviet Union to fill the void after Stalin’s death. And the hit FX television show The Americans is about a couple living in Cold War America in the 1980’s who are actually deep undercover Soviet spies.

 

Red Sparrow is a prime example of Hollywood’s attempt to incite Americans to distrust and dislike the Russian people. The film is set in modern day Russia but feels decidedly Cold War in its depiction of the country as a bleak frozen tundra inhabited by the most paranoid and despicable of people.

Every Russian man in the film is a vicious murderer, pedophile, rapist or traitor…and in the case of the lead villain played by Matthias Schoenaerts, not coincidentally a Vladimir Putin look-a-like, all of the above.

Red Sparrow’s Russian women fare no better as they are all cold-blooded, conniving, manipulative whores who are only proficient at sex, ballet or both. Regardless of gender, all of the Russians in Red Sparrow are beasts never to be trusted.

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The Death of Stalin is a considerably better film than Red Sparrow, but that only means it is a more effective propaganda tool.

In the film, under a veneer of humor, all Russians are portrayed as deceitful, corrupt, unscrupulous monsters only interested in selling out their comrades, gaining power and then brutally abusing it.

In The Death of Stalin, as in Red Sparrow, the theme of Russian men as sexual degenerates, sadists, rapists or pedophiles, insidiously courses through the narrative.

The television show The Americans by its premise alone also ingrains in its audience the idea that Russians are not to be trusted because they are instinctively a deceptive and plotting people.

The trudging up of the Cold War is an easy propaganda device that triggers old anti-communist and anti-Soviet fears among Americans. It is striking to note that Hollywood is portraying Russians solely in terms of the Cold War but not in regards to World War II. That is because Russia’s role in defeating Hitler and ending the war in the Pacific is a heroic one and would undermine the foundation of Cold War enmity upon which the current Russo-phobic narrative is built.

As Hollywood and the news media indoctrinate Americans with an anti-Russian animus, U.S. audiences will become even more susceptible to stories, like the Skripal poisoning, that feed the anti-Russian narrative no matter how tenuous or divorced from the facts they may be.

The endgame of the current wave of anti-Russian propaganda is for Americans to be emotionally conditioned to believe that Russians are capable of anything, and thus, must be stopped by any means necessary.

The problem of Hollywood and America’s Russo-phobia will only get worse, and that is troubling for all of us, because in this current climate, a war with Russia seems not only possible, but likely, and that is a movie without a happy ending. 

A version of this article was originally published at RT.

©2018

Next Stop - Speculation Station: Syria and Scott Pruitt Edition

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Estimated Reading Time: 6 minutes 18 seconds

Warning: the following post contains rambling…SPECULATION (gasp!)so if speculation (gasp!) frightens or offends you, then your best bet is to stop reading now. If you have the courage to proceed, then for the sake of safety I highly recommend a tin foil hat and maybe even a dance belt.

Now that all that unpleasantness is out of the way...ALL ABOARD - NEXT STOP - SPECULATION STATION!

According to the establishment media, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons on his own people in the city of Douma last week, killing men, women and children. What struck me about the coverage of this incident was that all of the disturbing video and photos were of young children either dead or suffering the effects of the chemical attack. 

When I saw all of these children in distress or dead, red flags went up for me regarding the veracity of the reports I was seeing and hearing. Children are a favorite prop in the propagandists tool bag, and have been used many times to manipulate leaders or peoples into taking action.

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Just a year ago the same storyline played out in Syria and the Orange Toddler King reacted just as his handlers expected him to…the end result of which was American Seamen shooting a barrage of missiles on Syria which triggered MSNBC anchor Brian Williams to shoot a barrage of semen from his war-induced missile onto his American audience. Brian Williams getting a battle boner on live television and then ejaculating his American Empire/Establishment seed all over himself was a perfect representation for our morally and intellectually corrupt media and what is supposed to pass as journalism. 

In looking more closely at this most recent alleged chemical weapons attack, it seems rather obvious to me that it is a "false flag" attack orchestrated by either the Saudis, Israelis, U.S. intelligence or all three, and executed by their proxies in the Syrian "resistance". Anyone who looks at this situation and sees it any other way is either a dupe or a dope or both. 

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And yes, I do realize that using the term "false flag" will probably get the Conspiracy Police out in full force, but how else can you describe what just happened in Syria? And if you look closer at last year's chemical weapons attack and earlier alleged chemical weapons attacks in Syria during this civil war, including the infamous "red line" attack of 2013, it becomes more and more clear that things are not even remotely what they appear to be.

For a great example of the manufactured bullshit out of Syria that our media elevate to gospel, look at the story of NBC reporter Richard Engel who was allegedly kidnapped by vicious pro-Assad forces in 2012. Engel came up with a huge cock and bull story about heroism, dead bodies, people being shot, and his being saved by pro-western, anti-Assad "rebels", but it was all a bunch of bullshit. Of course, the media conveniently ignores that story, and Engel for his part, dutifully plays the brave journalist when asked by sycophants like Little Bill Maher to talk about his harrowing experience being "kidnapped". The reality is that the only thing that got killed when Richard Engel was kidnapped was the truth…and the truth in that case was that Engel's "kidnapping" was…you guessed it, a false flag event…but you'd never hear anyone int he mainstream media dare mention that fact...just like they refuse to even contemplate it in regards to the recent spate of chemical weapons attacks.

Speaking of media bullshit, a dead give away that this entire episode is a concocted false flag is that the Establishment media never debate the veracity of the chemical weapons claims, only in how aggressively to respond to them. The question is never…who did this? Who prospers from doing this? What is the evidence? Instead the question is…how many missiles should we launch? Should we invade? 

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The reason that the establishment never questions the veracity of these allegations is because by simply using cold hard logic it becomes pretty clear that the Assad government is not behind them. Assad has nothing to gain and everything to lose by using chemical weapons, especially now. But that is the key to this whole situation…LOGIC NEED NOT APPLY. The Media does not want reason, logic and rational thought to be used when assessing the alleged chemical weapons attack, they want blinding emotion to be the guide…this is why you see pictures of dead and dying little kids on your television screen, because that is a sure fire way to tap into the emotions of any human being. Showing suffering or dead children is a cold and calculating way to get people to be hot and emotional about something. 

Of course, the argument you often hear is that Assad is a monster, and that is why he does things like this. To me that sort of assessment could only come from a propaganda addled mind. Assad may in fact be a beast, but like all leaders he is only interested in self-preservation, and irrationally using chemical weapons to satiate some evil impulse within him would lead to his ultimate demise, the one thing he is trying to avoid at all costs.. 

Another reason to think this chemical weapons attack is a false flag is because last month the Russians warned the world that the U.S. was planning this sort of operation. Sure, you can claim that the Russians knew in advance that Assad would use chemical weapons and so they concocted this story to cover for him, but again, that would require such a gargantuan suspension of logic as to be absurd. You may think the Russians are pure evil and want to see people suffer, but they, like every other nation on earth, only act in their own interest, and drawing the U.S. into the Syrian civil war that Assad/Russia is winning, is not in their best interest. 

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The bigger picture of this entire chemical weapons scenario is very disheartening. I think that the Saudis, Israelis and Americans are desperate to maintain the current world order where they are on top, and fear the rise of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzebkistan, India and Pakistan), their ally Iran (and Shiite Muslims allied with Iran), and Syria is the canvas upon which that struggle is currently taking place.

In recent years the U.S. has been instrumental in setting the stage for a soft coup against a left-wing government in Brazil, which could lead to a less soft coup if things don't work out - also, with the rather fascinating and disturbing news out of Brazil recently, why hasn't John Oliver followed up on his Brazil piece…hmmm…I wonder. The U.S. has also aggressively tried to kneecap Russia on all fronts, from Ukraine and Georgia, to economics and propaganda including even in sport, and to a much lesser extent they have tried to maneuver against China. 

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The reason the U.S. and their allies in the current world order, Saudi Arabia and Israel, fear the BRICS/SCO and their allies the Iranians, is because they represent an alternative to U.S. dollar hegemony via the petro-dollar . The U.S. cannot tolerate any challenges to their financial dominance of the world through the use of the dollar as a reserve currency. Saudi Arabia and Israel do not want to see the U.S. taken down a notch because they have masterfully infiltrated the U.S. political system and control it, using the U.S. and its massive military to do their bidding. And as an aside, if you think Russia meddled in out election, they are pikers compared to the Israelis and Saudis when it comes to infiltrating and manipulating American politics. 

The BRICS/SCO are nowhere near the size, scope or scale of the U.S. financial and military machine and don't threaten to "overthrow" it per se, but only be an alternative to it, and in so doing they would expose the U.S., its economy and the Dollar for the house of cards and fraud that it is. Obviously, the U.S. cannot allow this to occur, and so we have the soft coup in Brazil, the coup in Ukraine, the civil war in Syria, the propaganda and economic war on Russia, the military maneuvering in regards to China, the South China Seas and North Korea, the failed uprisings in Iran which will no doubt be followed eventually by U.S. military action against Iran. This is the game, and it is life and death for the American Empire, which is why the cynical tactic of American proxies gassing some kids in Syria to maintain the current world order is not only possible but extremely likely. 

I also think that the recent "chemical weapons attack" in the U.K., also known as the Skripal poisoning, is also a false flag executed but a combination of the Saudis, Israelis and Americans and is just another volley in the war on Russia. A calm, rational inspection of the evidence and context of that case reveals that for all of the hype initially surrounding it, there is next to nothing backing up the claims of Theresa May and Boris Johnson laying the blame at Russia's door. (And even going back a little further, I think the odd sound wave attacks on U.S. embassy personal in Cuba were also false flag attacks - but that is a story for another day)

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The recent PR tour by Saudi Arabian leader Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, where he was fawned over by America's establishment media, including basically getting fellated by Thomas Friedman of the New York Times, was a prelude to this new phase in the war against the American Empire's enemies (and by extension, American Empire's owners and operators, the Saudis and Israelis). MBS is, along with Netanyahu in Israel, angling to have the U.S. take down the Iranian government. They do not care if, like in Iraq, chaos replaces the current government, they just want that government gone because they are an existential threat to Israel's dominance in the region and the survival of the Saudi royal family. 

Syria is a pivotal chess piece for both the Saudis and Israelis and by extension is therefore important for the U.S. Syria was a potential gateway for a Qatari (Sunni) gas pipeline into Europe that would've been a huge blow to Russia (and Iran) and their dominance of the gas market in Europe, but Assad decided to stick with the Russians. Russia being economically wounded by a Qatari pipeline would go a long way in thwarting the rise of the BRICS/SCO alternative, which is why Syria remains a pivotal piece in the war for American dominance. Assad's fall would also benefit the Israelis by knocking Iran down a peg and allowing Israel to continue to enjoy military supremacy in the region. 

There are forces, both inside and outside of the American establishment, working to manipulate not only the American people but our hapless and hopeless President into a war in Syria, Iran and by extension Russia. These establishmentarians who populate the halls of the mass media, intelligence community, the military industrial complex and the Saudi and Israeli lobby, have positioned Trump right where they want him. If he does nothing or next to nothing, he is soft on Russia and could face impeachment or worse. If he does commit to a wider war, he is trapped in a quagmire that he will only be able to escalate into a wider and ultimately more destructive war. Once again, if you think the Russians have Kompromat on Trump, it is nothing compared to the compromising information the Israelis and Saudis have on him. 

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The only thing regular people can do in the face of such a horrendous situation is to stay awake and to realize when you are being played. The media and our government (and that of Saudi Arabia and Israel as well) are playing their American audiences like virtuosos. Think of it this way…why is the establishment media so distraught over a bunch of dead Syrians…but doesn't even give the briefest of mentions about the slaughter of women and children in Yemen at the hands of the Saudis, or the butchery of Palestinians by the Israelis? The answer of course is that the atrocities in Yemen and Gaza are committed by MBS and Netanyahu, and they are America's puppet masters, and questioning them is an absolute non-starter in American media circles. 

And look, I am not arguing that Assad or Putin are some doe-eyed innocents and the Saudis, Israelis and Americans are mustache twirling villains. What I am saying is that anyone who thinks that America (Saudi Arabia/Israel) is the good guy and is incapable of doing the most heinous of things to maintain its power, is deluded. There are no good guys or bad guys…there is just a struggle for power and survival. We are no better than Russia, Syria, Iran, China or our allies the Israelis and Saudis. America holds no moral high ground, we are down in the pig sty with the rest of the world. All of these nations and their leaders are like worms in a pile of shit…blind and squirming in a desperate bid to stay alive no matter the cost. 

I certainly hope I completely wrong in all of my speculation and that peace breaks out soon and rainbows and puppy dogs rule the day, but that deafening cacophony I keep hearing emanating from cable news is the sound of the dogs of war barking. I pray they don't get the wider war for which they keep howling.

Update on Skripal and Syria: Some supplemental reading…on the Skripal case…LINK , LINKand False FlagsLINK

THE CABOOSE IS LOOSE

Finally, last Sunday I watched John Oliver's show Last Week Tonight. That show, and its host, are getting worse and worse by the minute, so I consider my watching it to be a form of penance for grievous sins in this and past lives. 

One thing that stood out to me on the show though was a story about EPA chief Scott Pruitt. The gist of the story is that Pruitt is a corrupt douchebag and is an awful human being. I knew that going in so none of it came as a surprise…except for one little tidbit. 

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Oliver told the story, and relentlessly mocked Pruitt over it, about Scott Pruitt being locked in a room in his D.C. rented home and his security detail trying to get in but being unable to. The story is a bit unclear but from what I understood, Pruitt didn't answer the door, and the security team had to break down that door, and then found him unconscious and unresponsive and called 9-11.

Paramedics were dispatched and Capitol Police were on the scene. What happened next is unclear but the Pruitt camp claims that it was all a hilarious misunderstanding as they say Pruitt was simply napping in the middle of the day and didn't hear all the commotion. No police report was filed and the incident, which occurred in 2017, went down the memory hole until last month when it became news due to the fact that it happened at a home he was renting from a lobbyist. 

What I found strange about Oliver's comedic take on the Pruitt nap is that he, for the most part, took the story at face value. The rest of the media  just described it as a "bizarre" incident, and Oliver maintained that approach. The whole Pruitt nap story sounds like complete bullshit to me, and since we are at Speculation Station, here is what I speculate.  

I think that Scott Pruitt is using opioids. I think his very erratic behavior while at the EPA is a strong indicator that he is not of sound mind. I believe that Pruitt overdosed on an opioid of some kind, and that is why he was unresponsive in the middle of the day when security officers were banging on his door and entered his room. 

I think that either the security officers, or the paramedics, gave Pruitt Naxolone/Narcan to revive him from his overdose. I think the security team and Pruitt's handlers convinced the Capitol police to keep this quiet and TO NOT WRITE A POLICE REPORT because Pruitt is the EPA chief and is a powerful guy.

The vital bit of information is that the Capitol police didn't write a police report, because if they did and lied on it, saying that Pruitt was napping and not overdosed, then they would be in legal jeopardy. But by not writing any report of the incident, they cover their ass in case the more nefarious story comes out, which it may since there were multiple people involved. 

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Now, you may think my speculation is absurd, that the idea of Scott Pruitt, the former Attorney General of Oklahoma and current Director of the EPA, using, never mind overdosing, on opioids ridiculous. Maybe you are right, but as someone with experience in dealing with opioid addicts, I can tell you that Pruitt's behavior in office, the various scandals from the travel issues to the rent story to giving his friends raises and all the rest, all signal to me a man in the throes of drug abuse. In the context of his erratic behavior as Director of the EPA, I think this "nap" story is more than just bizarre, it is, at least to me, obvious that it was an overdose event. 

Maybe I am wrong, it wouldn't be the first time. But ask yourself this, would you be shocked if Scott Pruitt resigns to "spend more time with his family" and then years later it comes out he went to rehab for opioid addiction? It wouldn't shock me…but maybe that is just because I am losing my mind waiting here for the next train out of Speculation Station!

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