"Everything is as it should be."

                                                                                  - Benjamin Purcell Morris

 

 

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

American Bloodlust: Projecting the Shadow and the Hunter Myth Cycle

ESTIMATED READING TIME : 7 minutes 14 seconds

In continuing to try to make sense of the senseless massacre at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida yesterday (February 14, 2018), I thought I would re-post portions of an article I originally wrote in September of 2016 titled Jason Bourne, Projecting the Shadow and the Technological Hunter: A Review and Commentary. That article was a review for the film Jason Bourne starring Matt Damon but after reviewing the film, I veered into the topic of our violent and bloodthirsty culture and the Hunter Myth Cycle. I am re-posting the article but have edited out the sections that death solely with reviewing the Bourne film. I believe the ideas expressed in this edited version are very salient to the discussion of violence in America in the wake of our most recent tragedy and speak to the cultural and archetypal forces at work in our violent nation. 

THE HUNTER MYTH CYCLE

Coincidentally enough, right after seeing Jason Bourne I read the book, Projecting the Shadow : The Cyborg Hero in American Film by Janice Hocker Rushing and Thomas S. Frentz. The book is wonderful and I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in cinema, myth and Jungian psychology. In the book, the authors examine from a Jungian perspective, six films and their relationship to the evolution of the archetypal hunter myth, from The Indian Hunter to The Frontier Hunter to The Technological Hunter as seen through the modernist, post-modernist and "trans-modernist" view. The six films they look at are JawsThe Deer HunterThe Manchurian CandidateBlade RunnerTerminator and Terminator 2. The book was published in 1995 so the Bourne films weren't "born" just yet, but I couldn't help but think of them in terms of the authors intriguing premise. 

According to Hocker and Frentz, there are three types of hunter myths, the Indian Hunter, the Frontier Hunter and the Technological Hunter. The Hunter Myth Cycle is seen as circular in that it evolves from one myth (I.E. Indian myth) to another myth (I.E. Frontier myth) to another myth (I.E. Technological myth) and then back to where it started (Indian myth). It is interesting to examine the character Jason Bourne in relation to this hunter myth cycle. The Bourne character is a weapon used by men in suits in offices back in the Pentagon and C.I.A., so he is a no different than a drone, or a smart bomb. He was created, much like the man/weapons of The Manchurian Candidate, to do the killing from which the post-modern man wants to consciously dissociate. The Bourne character is also similar to the Manchurian Candidate, in that he is a human but has had his true identity and memory, markers of his humanity, taken from him in order to make him a near perfect robotic killer.

Bourne's personal place on the archetypal Hunter Myth scale is that of The Frontier Hunter, yet he is also just a weapon of his C.I.A. overlords who are Technological Hunters, thus giving the film two myths in one. Rushing and Frentz describe the Frontier Hunter in part, "Since Indians as well as wild beasts occupy the land he wants, he slaughters both indiscriminately, gaining a decisive advantage over his human prey because of…his sophisticated weaponry, and his lack of spiritual restraint. Although his frontierism converts "savagery" to "civilization", the white hunter himself cannot reside in society without losing his individualistic heroic status and thus does not return from the hunt…". Things always get interesting in the Bourne films when Jason Bourne must fight against another one of the human weapons of the Technological Hunters in the C.I.A. in the form of an opposing Frontier Hunter. Two men/weapons with "sophisticated weaponry and lack of spiritual restraint" fighting each other is a key to the successful Bourne formula.

Rushing and Frentz describe the Technological Hunter Myth as follows, "…Because he is so good at making machines, he now uses his brains more than brawn, and he prefers to minimize his contact with nature, which can be uncomfortable and menacing. Thus he creates ever more complex tools to do his killing and other work for him. Having banished God as irrelevant to the task at hand, the hero decides he is God, and like the now obsolete power, creates beings 'in his own image'; this time, however, they are more perfect versions of himself - rational, strategic, and efficient. He may fashion his tools either by remaking a human being into a perfected machine or by making an artificial "human" from scratch. "

In cinematic terms the Bourne character falls somewhere between the dehumanized human weapons of The Manchurian Candidate, "remaking a human into a perfected machine", and the humanized robot-weapon "replicants" of Blade Runner, "making an artificial 'human' from scratch". The replicants in Blade Runner are tools and weapons for humans, just like Bourne, but they also yearn to be human, as does Bourne, who aches for a return to his long lost humanity while his Technological Hunter overlords yearn to make him ever more robotic, or more accurately, devoid of humanity. The problem with both the replicants and Bourne, is that their humanity, their need for love and connection, is their greatest weakness and their greatest strength.  Bourne and the Blade Runner replicants, yearn to Know Thyself, which is what drives them toward freedom from their makers and yet also makes them erratic and at times vulnerable weapons for the Technological Hunter. This inherent weakness of humanity, the need for love and connection, is removed entirely in the later films that Rushing and Frentz examine, Terminator and Terminator 2, where humans have created super weapons, cyborgs, that are completely inhuman, and of course as the story tells us, turn on their creators like Frankenstein's monster and try to hunt and torment mankind into oblivion.

In many ways, Bourne is the perfect post-modern hero in that he is so severely psychologically fragmented. He was intentionally made that way by the Technological Hunter Dr. Frankensteins at the C.I.A. because eliminating his humanity (past/memory/love and connection) is what makes him so effective as a weapon. Originally in the story, the people in power calling the shots back in Washington are using Bourne to clandestinely hunt their enemies. But now that Bourne is off the reservation and out on his own, he has become the archetypal Frontier hunter, searching for his soul/memory which was stolen by those D.C. Technological Hunters. This is the normal evolution in the hunter myth cycle…the weapon turns on its creator, as evidenced by both Blade Runner and the Terminator films, and now by the Bourne films.

LIVING IN THE AGE OF THE TECHNOLOGICAL HUNTER

What does this talk of post-modernism and the technological hunter have to do with anything? Well, in case you haven't noticed, we live in an age of the post-modern technological hunter. The films examined in Projecting the Shadow show us the road that may lay ahead for our culture. Our inherent weakness in being human, both physical and emotional, and our intellectual superiority has forced us to become technological hunters. From the first caveman to pick up an animal bone and use it to bash in another cave man's head (hat tip to Mr. Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey), to the drone pilot who sits in an air conditioned office in Nevada and kills people half a world away with the touch of a button, we have removed ourselves from the direct conscious responsibility for killing because it is too psychologically and emotionally traumatic for our fragile psyches. Or at least we think we have removed our psychological responsibility. Like consumers of meat who would rather not know where it comes from or how it is treated, we as a society have removed our direct conscious involvement in the killing done in our name by creating a cognitive dissonance (cognitive dissonance is defined as  a "psychological conflict resulting from incongruous beliefs and attitudes held simultaneously") and an emotional distance from it. Whether it be the drone pilot who goes home for lunch with his wife and kids after having killed dozens, or the politicians and citizens who cheer at the shock and awe of "smart bombs" and munitions dropped from miles overhead on defenseless human beings, we have become Technological Hunters all. Rushing and Frentz describe the Technological Hunter as one who…"prefers to minimize his contact with nature, which can be uncomfortable and menacing", that is us. The "nature" we want to minimize contact with is the killing we have done and our moral, ethical, psychological and spiritual responsibility for it. That is why we create "ever more complex tools to do our killing". We need those tools to give us an emotional, psychological, physical and spiritual distance from the the killing we do. 

The distance between thought, impulse and deed in regards to killing is shorter than ever for the technological hunter, it is just the push of a button away, but with our cognitive dissonance, we are able to consciously detach from the results of those actions and make them feel ever more remote. While they may feel consciously remote, the unconscious ramifications of those actions are felt deeply and personally in the psyche of the collective and the individual. The drone pilot may believe he is merely playing a realistic video game when he kills people half a world away, but his psyche and soul are being torn to shreds without his conscious knowledge of it, as is our collective psyche and national soul.

PROJECTING THE SHADOW

The U.S. soldiers and Marines, Frontier Hunters all, sent to the middle east to be the weapons of their Technological Hunter superiors in the Pentagon, continuously come back psychologically, spiritually and emotionally fragmented beyond recognition, perfect symbols of the post-modern age in which they fight. This psychological fragmentation brought about by the trauma of these wars leaves these soldiers and Marines wounded and maimed in invisible and intangible ways and often times leads to them killing themselves. The suicide rate of U.S. veterans of the Iraq and Afghan wars is that of 22 a day. This horrendous torment, and the desperate suicides attempting to get away from it, are the price paid for the cognitive dissonance we as a culture enable and embrace in regards to the killing of other people done in our name. Since we as a culture cannot embrace or acknowledge our killing, we stuff it into our collective shadow, or as I call it the "killing shadow", and force the less than 2% of the population who serve in our wars (and even fewer who kill in those wars) to carry our killing shadow for us. The psychological shadow in general and the killing shadow in particular, brings with it an enormous amount of powerful psychic energy, which is why it does such tremendous damage to those who bear its burden, and why it is imperative for us as a culture to reduce that burden on the soldiers and Marines carrying our killing shadow energy.

As our Technological Hunter culture evolves, in order to remove the psychological and emotional cost on the human beings sent to fight these wars, we won't decide to stop fighting future wars, but we will decide to stop using humans to fight them. No doubt at this very moment, somewhere in the Pentagon they are developing robotic, amoral, emotionless warriors who will do all our dirty work for us. The problem will arise of course, when that same amoral, emotionless warrior technology figures out that they are stronger, faster, bigger and better than us. And once they realize they can replicate themselves, we weak humans will become entirely unnecessary. This is the story told in the Terminator films. This will just be another form of our culture ignoring their killing shadow and projecting it onto another, in this case our cyborg weaponry. Except our shadow will not be ignored, and it will lash out at its deniers by any means necessary, in this case by using our technological weapons to strike out at us to force us to acknowledge our own killing shadow.

SHOCK AND AWE - MUST SEE TV

Until we can create these perfect, robotic killers though, we are left to wrestle with our own spiritual and psychological weaknesses, namely, our thirst to kill and our desire to not feel the emotional and spiritual turmoil that comes with killing. It is interesting to notice how in our time we fully embraces the technological hunter myth completely unconsciously. An example of this was the overwhelmingly giddy joy and exuberance shown for the first Gulf War in 1991 and its made-for-tv technological bombardment with smart bombs upon Iraq. Never before had war been brought into the living rooms of Americans as it was happening, and yet, here was the war in all its technicolor glory except without any conscious connection to our responsibility for the devastation and death that we were watching unfold.

The same occurred with the start of the second war in Iraq in 2003 when the U.S. unleashed the cleverly marketed "shock and awe" bombardment. The dizzying display of devastating munitions were a sight to behold, like the greatest fireworks display imaginable, but our conscious connection to the devastation being wrought was minimal. This is another example of our culture being unwittingly under the throes of the Technological Hunter Myth. In contrast, our cultural shock and visceral disgust with the terror attacks of 9-11, where barbarians used primitive box cutters to kill innocents and then turn our technology (airplanes) against us, were signs of our unconscious detachment from the Indian Hunter myth and more proof of our deep cultural connection to the Technological Hunter Myth.

Another example of our cultures post-modern Technological Hunter Myth is the fetish among the populace for Special Operations Forces (SEALs, Special Forces, Delta force, Army Rangers and Marine Force Recon). These Special Ops forces have become the favorite go to for any talking head on television or at the local bar or barbershop, to proclaim who we should get to handle any military issue. ISIS? Send in the SEALs!! Al Qaeda? Send in the Green Berets!! Not long ago I saw everyone's favorite tough guy Bill O'Reilly opining on his Fox news show that we should send in ten thousand Green Berets into Syria and Iraq to wipe out ISIS. I guess Bill isn't aware that there are only 11,000 Special Operators deployed around the globe at any moment in time, not to mention that most of those Special Operators are not Special Forces (Green Berets). This sort of thing happens all the time where people see a problem and say, 'well let's send in these Special Operations supermen to deal with it.' This is more proof of the Technological Hunter Myth in action, as Rushing and Frentz describe it, "...the hero (the technological hunter) decides he is God, and like the now obsolete power, creates beings "in his own image"; this time, however, they are more perfect versions of himself - rational, strategic, and efficient. He may fashion his tools...by remaking a human being into a perfected machine". We as a culture are Technological Hunters who have made these Special Operations forces in "our own image", but only better. The Special Operations forces are "more perfect versions" of ourselves, "rational, strategic, and efficient." We believe we have remade these ordinary men into "perfected machines" for killing, and then we have projected our killing shadow (our responsibility and hunger for killing) onto them.

In our current Technological Hunter Myth, these Special Operators are, like Jason Bourne, nothing more than extensions of ourselves in the form of weaponry, no different than the drone or smart bomb, or in the future the cyborg, and looked upon as just as mechanical. And we have no more genuine connection to them or their work or the massive psychological toll it will take for them to carry the burden of our shadow than we do that of the drone or the smart bomb or any other machines we created.

HERO OF THE DAY

When we examine our Technological Hunter Myth in the form of Special Operations forces, we can see why our culture is drawn to certain things and repulsed by others. For instance, the greatest hero and biggest symbol of our most recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the cultural militarism surrounding them has been Navy SEAL Chris Kyle. Kyle, who alleged to be the most lethal sniper in U.S. history, wrote a best selling book, "American Sniper" and the movie of the same name based on that book broke box office records. People went absolutely crazy for the story of Chris Kyle. In terms of the Hunter Myth Cycle, Chris Kyle was a weapon used by the Technological Hunter. And interestingly, he was a sniper, a man who kills his enemies from great distances. This is not to diminish the skill it takes to be a great sniper, or the utility of that skill, but it is to point out that a sniper being the heroic symbol of a post-modern war speaks volumes to where we are as a culture. The reason people could admire Chris Kyle is because on an unconscious level they could symbolically and mythologically relate to him. Chris Kyle, like the rest of the culture, killed people from a distance and removed the conscious emotional and psychological responsibility for those kills from himself and from the culture.

The act of looking through a scope mounted on a sniper rifle gives the shooter much needed psychological and emotional distance from his killing. In the case of the sniper, he is twice removed from his kill, once by the scope and once by the weapon itself. The psychological distance of the sniper with his scope is in some ways similar to the emotional distance and cognitive dissonance created when people sitting on their couches watching CNN see smart bomb after smart bomb eviscerate some Iraqi city. Whether it be the sniper scope or the television camera, seeing something through a lens or screen gives the viewer a detachment from what they see, and with that detachment comes the ability to maintain a cognitive dissonance from the horrors seen and any moral or psychological responsibility for them.

In thinking about our current age, and our evolution from the age of the Frontier Hunter Myth of World War II, where our soldiers fought the savagery of the Nazi's and the Imperial Japanese in order to preserve western civilization, to the post-modern, Technological Hunter Myth of today, it is easy to see why an accomplished sniper like Chris Kyle became such a celebrated symbol of the wars we are waging. In comparison to our current culture's example of "The Sniper", Chris Kyle, being the hero for the Iraq war, think of World War II and the hero and symbol of that war, Audie Murphy. Murphy became revered and beloved in his time just like Chris Kyle did in our time, and like Kyle, Murphy also had a successful film about his combat exploits. Murphy, though, fought and killed his enemies in close quarters, without the scope and distance of the sniper. Back then, Murphy was fighting under the predominant myth of the time, The Frontier Hunter Myth, while Chris Kyle fought under our current myth of the Technological Hunter Myth. This doesn't make Murphy better than Kyle or vice versa, it just shows how cultures unconsciously choose their hero's based on the myths they currently embrace.

Another point of note showing how we are currently under the spell of the Technological Hunter Myth, is that there are other warriors who could've become the cultural icons and symbols of our current wars, but didn't resonate quite as much with the public as much as sniper Chris Kyle did. The late Pat Tillman, the former NFL football player who became an Army Ranger, is one example of someone who easily could've become the iconic hero of the war on terror but didn't.  Marcus Luttrell, the Navy SEAL of the book and movie Lone Survivor fame is an even better example. Luttrell did became famous for his story, but, for some reason, he didn't resonate anywhere near as much with our culture as Chris Kyle did. I believe the reason for this is our cultural and collective unconscious attachment to the Technological Hunter Myth. Simply put, Luttrell and Tillman were just as worthy of adulation as Kyle, but they weren't snipers. The sniper is the perfect symbol of the emotional and psychological distance we as a culture like to keep from the people we are killing. The current cultural celebration of the sniper also enables us to maintain our cognitive dissonance with relative ease and keep any conscious psychological and emotional turmoil brought about by the killing we do at bay.

The need for psychological and emotional distance between the person wanting to kill and the actual killing is a signature of the Technological Hunter Myth. At the behest of his superiors in Washington, the drone pilot in Nevada pushes a button and kills dozens in Yemen or Pakistan. The drone pilot is, through his drone, twice removed from the actual killing, once by the button he pushes and once by the missile fired,  and is also detached from it by the screen he watches it on, thus giving him a conscious distance from the killing. His superior in Washington is thrice removed, once by his phone used to call the pilot, once by the pilot himself and once by the missile used. The B-2 pilot, who at the behest of those same Washington superiors drops his payload from a mile up, never sees the people he is obliterating, enjoys the same distance and assures himself of the same cognitive dissonance as the drone pilot. The Special Operations forces that are covertly sent to Pakistan to assassinate a terrorist leader under the dark of night and the cloak of secrecy are the closest yet to the actual killing, but even they are twice removed from their kill because of the weapon they shoot, and the night vision goggles they see through, creating that technological hunter myth distance for which western man yearns. The conscious distance from the killing through the use of technology is vital in creating and maintaining our cognitive dissonance and the illusion of conscious emotional and psychological well being.

In contrast, think of the terrorists in ISIS who behead their captives. They kill directly, no distance between them and their victims. The act of beheading, like the atrocity of 9-11, gives us in the west a visceral, guttural reaction, one of pure revulsion. There is something utterly barbaric, savage and repulsive about cutting a defenseless persons head off. Yet if innocents are decapitated by drone strikes or smart bombs we somehow aren't quite as repulsed by that. What this speaks to is our current enchantment with the Technological Hunter Myth. For in western culture, we have created technology which gives us a safe distance from the barbarity of the acts done in our name. Decapitation by smart bomb feels much less barbaric to us because our technology gives us a moral, emotional and psychological distance from that barbarity and aids us in maintaining our cognitive dissonance. 

I HAVE BECOME COMFORTABLY NUMB

In American foreign policy killing has become something other people, or things, do, and anyone who directly kills, like ISIS, are reprehensible savages. In our post-modern age and the Technological Hunter Myth which has come with it, the extensions of man are his weaponry in the form of machines (drones/smart bombs) and human machines (special operations forces). Either way, whether with a manufactured machine or a human one, our culture is able to consciously detach and distance itself from the violence it perpetrates, regardless of the righteousness of that violence, and this is a recipe for a cultural and psychological disaster as we numb ourselves to the damage we do others and our selves.

In bringing this back to Jason Bourne, the Bourne films have resonated with our culture to such a great extent because Bourne is the perfect human weapon in the age of the Technological Hunter Myth. Like we imagine our Special Operations Forces, Bourne is " made in our own image", but is a 'more perfect version of ourselves - rational, strategic, and efficient."

We can watch Bourne kick-ass in a world that is just like ours thanks to the franchise's trademark hyper-realism, and so we are able to project ourselves onto him and live vicariously through him. The Bourne character gives us one more lens, like the snipers scope, or the camera, or the television screen, through which we can see the horror of our world, that lens is the mind's eye…our imagination. This added lens of imagination means we can watch actual, real-life civil unrest in Athens on our television and not only detach ourselves from our responsibility for that unrest, but also create even more distance by imagining the drama going on underneath the surface of that unrest, and imagining how we would, like our "perfect version of ourselves" Bourne, thrive under those circumstances. This is the final stage of the Technological Hunter Myth, where the technological hunter is so far removed from the actual killing that he/she is forced to use their own imagination in order to envision how they themselves would really behave if they were actually in the scenario where the killing took place. The end stage of this type of evolution, or devolution as the case may be, would be The Matrix trilogy, where humanity is reduced to being prisoners of their own imagination and being used as little more than captive batteries to their shadow, the Technology they once created to fight for them. Once that Technology became self aware and understood that humans were intellectually and physically inferior, it simply conquered and enslaved humanity for its own benefit. 

CONCLUSION

In conclusion, at the current stage of the Technological Hunter Myth we find ourselves in, we have been so far removed from our primal instincts and detached from our collective psychological shadow, that the tide may turn and we may eventually begin to yearn for an acknowledgment of our most ancient and primitive psychological drives. The need not just to eat an animal, but to kill it, courses through the deepest trenches of our psyche. The need not just for our enemies to die, but for us to feel their last breath on our faces, is alive and well and living in our killing shadow. As counter-intuitive as it may seem, these type of instincts are the gateway to a return to a respect for the earth, respect for life, respect for our enemies and respect for killing in general.

Killing and war will never cease to be, they are eternally part of the human condition, but one can only hope that the anti-septic form of war/killing currently enjoyed by the west, where we shove our darker impulses and our unequivocal guilt and responsibility into our shadow, where it festers and grows as we ignore it, will be transformed back into the more simple, if equally brutal form of killing of the Indian Hunter Myth, where respect for prey, enemy and the act of killing return. What I am saying is that if we are to kill we must do it consciously, take full responsibility and be fully aware of what we have done. If we continue to psychologically fragment and cognitively dissociate from the killing we do, that impulse will become our killing shadow, unconscious and angry. When those impulses are cast into the shadow they do not disintegrate, they only disappear from consciousness and grow more and more powerful until they simply refuse to be ignored. When the killing impulse is ignored and forced into the shadow, it eventually will strike out with a vengeance, often destroying the fragmented and cognitively dissociated psyche which ignores it. Twenty-two veteran suicides a day is the damning proof of the consequences of our cognitive dissonance from the killing we do and our moral and ethical responsibility for it. 

Our only hope for the healing of our fragmented psyches, and the reclamation of our humanity is to make our killing impulses and acts conscious.  We must take full mental, emotional, psychological and spiritual responsibility for the killing that we do.  Sadly, with our culture thoroughly numbed through technology and medication, this seems terribly unlikely. The more likely scenario? Go watch the Terminator and Matrix films to see what happens when humanity is unable to carry and acknowledge its killing shadow. And if you really want to spend your time wisely, I highly recommend you go read Projecting the Shadow : The Cyborg Hero in American Film.

©2016

A Second Look - The Way of the Gun: Meditations on America and Guns

*** ESTIMATED READING TIME : 12 MINUTES***

In light of the horrific massacre at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida yesterday (February 14, 2018), I thought I would re-post this article The Way of the Gun: Meditations on America and Guns, which I wrote in December of 2015 in response to a previous mass shootings. I believe the thoughts, theories and opinions expressed in this article continue to speak directly to the forces in our culture and collective unconscious that are only increasing in power and will continue to unconsciously motivate more acts of senseless murder.

After the recent terror attack in San Bernadino, a friend of mine, a prominent financial writer who I will call The Dragon, emailed me a graph showing the U.S. gun ownership rate compared to other countries. In the email The Dragon wrote, "We are a gun-crazy country, yet I see this as more correlation than causation. I don’t know about Yemen, but there are lots of guns in Switzerland and Finland (though roughly half the number per capita as the US), and they don’t have anything remotely resembling the mass shooting problem we do in the US. Is there something in the water? There is definitely something wrong with our culture." 

Even though The Dragon and I are on opposite sides of the gun argument, I am a staunch second amendment supporter and he favors much stricter gun controls, I thought his question and comment on culture was a very interesting one and it got me to thinking…why is America so much more prone to gun violence than other countries? What makes the U.S. so unique in this regard?

After deep mediation and contemplation on the issue I have come up with a few theories about America's unique relationship with the gun. These theories range from the mythological to the musical, and everywhere in between. In no particular order, here are some of my thoughts on the topic.

EVERY MAN A KING

America : The First Culture/Nation of the New Post-Monarchist Age

For thousands of years, mankind lived within the culture of Monarchy. Kings or Emperors ruled the day for millennia. The King/Emperor was not just a ruler and head of state, but also a religious and sacred figure. Kings/Emperors were representatives of God on earth, mediators between the people and the divine. The "Divine Right of Kings", which states that the king derives their rule directly from the will of God and is not subject to any earthly authority, has been the overarching belief of cultures across the globe, from ancient Egypt and China to Rome and the British throne and everywhere in between.

While nations, such as the United Kingdom for example, changed their governmental and legal structures to diminish or disavow the ruling power of the monarch, the mythological power of the King, and the deference and reverence that came with it, still dominates the unconscious of the culture. The psyche of monarchist cultures remain imbued with respect for the sacred power and myth of the monarch even when the governing structures of the nation neuter their ruling power. This occurs even in countries/cultures where the monarchy is replaced with a seemingly polar opposite form of rule, take Russia post-monarchy which was ruled by singular heads of the communist party like Stalin, or even post-communist Russia with Vladimir Putin. China is another example, which over time replaced the leadership of an Emperor with that of Chairman Mao. In both the Russian and Chinese examples, the trappings of government and its ideology changed but the psychological dynamics of the culture did not.

Just like in Russia, China, or France, the country of the United States of America was born in rebellion against the King (of England), but unlike those nations, the culture of the United States of America was born in direct opposition to the cultural myth of the King. In American culture the Divine Right of Kings held no place, but every U.S. citizen was "endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights".  This is the birth of the new post-monarchist age, where Kings lose their divine right, and ordinary citizens gain theirs. In American culture, the first of its kind, there is no one king, but rather there is a nation full of kings. Everyman as his own king, with his own God given rights, was a brilliant idea upon which to build a nation, but a difficult one upon which to build a culture because it brings with it a dark side, namely, when everyman is a King there are considerably more opportunities for individual tyrants to raise their ugly head. 

Which brings us to the gun discussion. In this post-monarchist cultural myth, a person with a gun can be a benevolent king or a despotic one. The benevolent, gun carrying citizen-king keeps governmental tyranny from thriving, while the gun-toting, despot citizen-king imposes his tyranny upon those he perceives as weaker or not deferential enough to his divine right to rule what he believes should be his ever expanding kingdom.

Individuals swimming in the collective unconscious of the American culture can go adrift in seas of chaos without the moorings of the monarchist cultural myth and the psychological structures that accompany it. The monarchist cultural myth, while depriving the ordinary person of their rights by placing all of the power in one individual or royal family, brings with it an order and structure and even a connection with the divine that is totally lacking in the post-monarchist new age American culture. For those weak of mind or spirit, the evolution of this new age can go from 'everyman a king' to 'everyman a god', in the blink of a blood shot eye. The American culture brings with it no connection to the divine in the form of a ruler, only a deeper love of the self, and with that self love and belief in one's own 'divine right' comes with it the urge and instinct to get others to revere you as you revere yourself. In this new post monarchist culture and the mythological psychology that goes with it, the gun becomes a mystical tool that bestows to those that wield it the godly power to take lives with just the slightest movement of their finger.

In the United States of America, the first post-monarchist culture, the gun gives individuals the divine right of Kings, the power to make life and death decisions, once reserved for the lone ruler on the throne. This power, like all power, can be corrupting and disorientating. It is all too easy to be intoxicated with the power of the gun and kill when one sees the divine nowhere but in oneself. It is also all too easy under the spell of the power of the gun to forget that the 'other' is not an inferior to be ruled, but a person to be respected because they are divine in their own right.

There is a scene in Clint Eastwoood's western masterpiece, Unforgiven, where the character, English Bob, played by the inimitable Richard Harris, speaks of the point I am making about the difference between the monarchist culture and the post monarchist culture. In the scene, English Bob perfectly states the point about America being adrift without the stability and divinity of a King…or Queen. I'll leave it to the divine Richard Harris...

The best example of monarchist and post-monarchist cultures placed side by side would be to look at the difference between the culture of the United States and that of Canada. The U.S. grew out of rebellion to the King in a post-monarchist culture, and Canada grew in communion with the King in a monarchist culture. Canada is a much more demur, peaceful and less violent country and culture than the United States.

BLOOD BEGETS BLOOD

CULTURAL DNA, THE COLLECTIVE UNCONSCIOUS AND THE SINS OF THE NATION

Unknown-4.jpeg

Every nation is born of violence. One group defeats and destroys another group and comes to power. This is how nations and cultures across across the planet have come to be. The United States is no different. America was created with the brutal genocide of Native Americans and on the backs of African slaves. The United States of America is soaked in the blood of its formation, and the current American culture reflects the sins of its birth. The violence of today is a direct reflection of the violence that accompanied the founding of this nation.

But if every country is born of violence, why is the United States the only nation where gun violence seems to be so rampant? One main difference between the United States and its sins, and the sins of other nations, is time. Other nations are built upon cultures established thousands of years ago, so just like in regards to the monarchist culture issue, those nations may have changed governing structure, but they didn't change their underlying culture or their cultural psyche. As previously stated, China has been ruled by the communist party for the last sixty five years, but it's overarching culture (a monarchist one in the form of an Emperor) extends back for nearly five thousand years. The same can be said of France, England, Russia and countless other countries and cultures. The same cannot be said of the American nation or culture. Our soil is still soaked with the blood tribute of the unfortunates sacrificed at America's founding, and it seeps into our everyday existence through the collective unconscious of the American culture.

Older cultures have had the benefit of vast amounts of time passing between their present situation and the sins of their founding. Time, the best salve of all, allows for incremental catharsis and the healing of the foundational wounds and horrors that inhabit the collective psyche of cultures across the globe.

Another difference between America and other cultures is that America was the first culture born at the end of a gun. Guns didn't exist at the formation of British, French, Russian, Chinese or Japanese culture, or any other culture for that matter. America was born by the gun, with the gun and of the gun. For good or for ill, the gun is the symbol of how America came to be and what it is now.

The gun was a crucial object in the ritual blood sacrifice of millions, in the form of Indians and slaves, to the Gods of America's founding upon the altar of the United States, and was vital in bringing the country to full term and fruition. Due to the guns integral part in conjuring the country into being, American culture worships the gun as a sacred talisman, instrumental for the nation's and the cultures birth, survival and continued success.  The mythic American Archetype is that of the cowboy with his six shooter...watch Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven for a fantastic mediation on American gunslinger archetype, guns and violence. Other nations have mythic archetypes as well, the Japanese and the Samurai with his sword, or the English with their knights in armor. The archetype of the gun-slinging cowboy lies at the heart of the American cultural psyche because he is the high priest of American individualism who wields the mystical gun in order to conjure up a new nation.

Through this prism of mythological cultural psychology, the scourge of gun violence which horrifies the people of America today can be seen as penance for the violent sins of our forefathers. The United States has flowered into one of the most wealthy and powerful countries to have ever existed in the history of mankind, but until we can fully come to terms with, and become conscious of, the innocent blood we spilled in order to fertilize the ground upon which this country has grown, we will never be able to escape the violence that continually haunts us. 

LOTTO CULTURE AND THE DENIGRATION OF SKILL

THE CURSE OF THE KARDASHIANS AND KANYE

Modern American culture has no respect for skill and craft. Take a look around at popular culture and you see little to no reverence for skill and craft. Arguably the biggest stars on the American scene are the Kardashians, a collection of half-wits with no discernible skill whatsoever besides self promotion. It hasn't always been this way. Prior to the curse of reality television, actors, who had mastered their craft through years of training and work in the theatre, were admired for their artistry in film and on television. Ordinary people could admire the expertise attained by great actors after years of dedication and hard work. Now with reality tv, from Real Housewives and Honey Boo-Boo to Ice Road Truckers and The Deadliest Catch, everyone can envision themselves as being worthy of having their own television show just by being themselves. The thinking goes like this, "Me, Marla and our friends are so zany working down at the nail salon, they should make a tv show about us and call it Tough as Nails!!" No hard work is required, no skill or craft need be obtained. Just turn on the cameras and be outrageous and you can be a cultural phenomenon. 

The same is the case with popular music. In this era, hip-hop rules the day and dominates American culture over every other musical form. What makes hip-hop so quintessentially American is that it is the first musical form to require no musical skill or craft whatsoever. The biggest stars in hip-hop, Jay-Z and Kanye West as prime examples, play no instruments and are unable to sing a single note. What difference does that make? Well, in terms of artistry, it makes a lot of difference. It used to be that musicians would spend years and years arduously honing their skills and mastering their craft, be it an instrument, their voice, or both. With the discipline required to reach a certain level of musical proficiency, comes a certain amount of artistic integrity, and respect for the art and the artist. With hip-hop, one need not spend years and years alone in their room learning how to play an instrument, one only need to master the art of self aggrandizement and marketing. With true musicianship, the artist masters their craft first, then uses that skill to create and then goes about selling their creation, with hip-hop, one creates the image first and foremost and then sells from there.  Hip Hop is less a musical art form, and more a symptom of the broader cultural disease of malignant narcissism, delusion and psychosis.

It is important to note here that I am not saying that hip-hop is culturally irrelevant. Hip-hop is extremely culturally relevant and has been for decades. What I am saying is that hip-hop is musically and artistically lazy and inferior. That is part of why it is has become so culturally relevant, because the broader American culture glorifies the cheap and easy path (the path of hip-hop and reality tv), and denigrates the hard path, namely that of acquired musicianship, artistry and skill. Think of it this way, if you take a Van Gogh painting and a Matisse painting and make a collage of them, it doesn't make you Van Gogh or Matisse, or even a painter, it only makes you a maker of collage. You may be great at making collage, but that doesn't mean you are an artist, it only means you excel at a fringe craft requiring little or no skill. You may call yourself an artist and may think of yourself as an artist and you may demand others call you an artist, but you are no artist. You don't have the skills of the artist, you don't have the discipline of the artist, you don't have the vision of the artist and you don't have the soul of the artist. You have the soul of the snake oil salesman and the carnival barker. 

It is also important to note here that hip-hop culture should not be conflated with black culture. While hip-hop was certainly born out of black culture, it is nowhere near the entirety of black culture. So by pointing out that hip-hop culture is artistically lazy and antithetical and disrespectful to skill and craft I am not calling black culture lazy and antithetical and disrespectful to skill and craft, but I am calling the overarching American culture lazy and antithetical and disrespectful to skill and craft. Quite to the contrary, black culture has created some of the most seminal music and musical forms (Jazz and the Blues to name just two of many) humanity has ever known. It has also given us some of the greatest and most influential musicians to have ever walked the earth. Jimi Hendrix, John Coltrane, Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Ray Charles, Thelonious Monk, Charles Mingus, Billie Holiday, B.B. King, Miles Davis, Sam Cooke, Art Tatum, Albert King, Freddie King, Prince, Michael Jackson and even Jay-Z's wife Beyonce, are just a small sample of the impeccable musicians who have worked their asses off to master their craft and hone their skills. These artists have won a hard-earned and well deserved respect with their dedication to craft and commitment to artistic mastery.

Whether it be reality tv or hip-hop culture, what is really being sold is not the old way of masterful artistry and the artist, but rather the new way, which I call the "Lotto Culture", which is that the watcher and listener can project themselves onto the tv or hip-hop star and envision themselves becoming rich and famous with minimal effort. The dream being sold is that one need not have talent or discipline or hard work or years of training, because it only takes the creation of an image and sheer force of will to succeed in hip-hop or reality tv. In terms of the "Lotto Culture", one must only sit back, buy a ticket and be lucky, and unimaginable wealth will be all yours. There is also a conflation in our culture between success in reality tv and hip-hop and the success of real actors and musicians. For instance, you can turn on your television and see Meryl Streep, and you can turn on your tv and see Kim Kardashian, but that does not mean that Kim Kardashian is the equal of Meryl Streep, even though our culture pushes that idea. In the same vein, Kanye West is on the radio but is not the equal of Same Cooke, or Jimi Hendrix, or Prince or…any other real musician. Kanye West, being both a hip-hop star and a Kardashian by marriage, is the perfect poster boy for this "Lotto Culture", and he behaves accordingly. 

So what in the world does reality television, hip-hop and the "Lotto Culture" have to do with gun violence? It all has to do with the disrespect and disregard of skill and discipline. To hurt or kill someone with your bare hands, or even with a knife, usually requires a certain amount of skill and frankly, courage. Martial artists study and train for years and decades in order to master their art and sharpen their skills. These years of training instill discipline, and with that discipline comes respect, both for yourself and for others. This discipline and respect is the key to unlocking the wisdom of when it is appropriate for the martial artist to unleash his skills. In opposition to this, the gun requires no discipline, no skill acquisition, no respect and no wisdom. The shooter may have great skill, but it certainly isn't a requirement nor is it necessary in order to kill someone. It is also worth mentioning that you can get into a fist fight and lose and not die or even have serious damage done to you. But losing a gun fight usually ends with someone in grave medical condition, and most-often dead.

A gun user also does not need courage. To kill someone with your hands or with a knife means you must get close to them in order to hurt them, that means they are close enough to you to hurt you. In a fight things happen. You can be the greatest trained fighter in the world but if you break your hand on a guys skull, or you blow out your knee, or the guys friends jump in, or he maces you or something like that, then all bets are off. A fist fight brings with it inherent risk for both fighters. The same is said for using a knife. Knowing where to attack on the body with a knife, and when, takes years of hard work and training to fully grasp. Killing with a knife also means you have to get right next to your opponent/victim, and when that happens things can go wrong. Your opponent may be unarmed, but when you are that close to them, they could disarm you and now you are the one who is at the disadvantage. In contrast, no courage is needed to kill with a gun.  You can kill someone with a gun and not even be within ear shot of them. You can shoot someone without even trying to hit them, which is not something you can do with a knife or your fists. Guns, like hip-hop and reality tv, provide a short cut to power. This "Lotto Culture" short cut is a form of cheap grace, which eliminates the development of discipline and the nurturing of respect for oneself and for others that come with it.

THE ONLY THING WE HAVE TO FEAR ISEVERYTHING!!

Fear is epidemic in America. It is ironic that we sing about ourselves by saying we are the "Home of the Brave" and yet we act completely the opposite of that. We are afraid of everything. We have been trained by politicians and the media to be afraid of everything. We used to be told to fear the God-less communists conspiring to get us and infiltrating our nation. Now we are told to fear the God fanatic terrorists who are conspiring to get us and are infiltrating our nation. Blacks are told to fear whites, and whites to fear blacks. Everyone is told to fear immigrants and immigrants are told to fear everyone. We are taught to fear the known and the unknown. Fear your neighbor, fear a stranger, fear the criminal, fear the cop, fear the rich, fear the poor. We are perpetually fed a steady and hearty diet of high fructose fear syrup.

We are so inundated and overwhelmed with fear that we become fatigued, and as any fighter will tell you, fatigue makes cowards of us all. Fear forces us to think emotionally and not rationally. Our fear and emotion leaves us paralyzed and cowering under our beds until we can take it no more and frantically scream for politicians to do SOMETHING to protect us and "our way of life" from whatever we are told is menacing us. That 'something' usually involves taking a chainsaw to the constitution and writing gigantic checks to the military industrial complex. The empty tough talk of these politicians manipulates us into not only accepting, but demanding, the reduction of our liberties, all in the name of security, or more accurately, the illusion of security.

It used to be that we weren't so afraid. "Our way of life" is something that you hear a lot in regards to security and the war on terror. "Our way of life" is actually a transient thing of little value. It means going to the mall, eating junk and watching football and Dancing with the Stars. People have not fought and died for this country in order to save "Our way of life". They fought and died to defend our constitution and the rights that constitution tells us were bestowed upon us by our Creator. When politicians say "Our way of life" it is code for the "Lotto Culture", meaning we don't have to actually do anything in order to maintain our creature comforts. It is why they told us we should all go shopping after 9/11, so that we would all go back to being fat, happy and asleep, while those in power gutted the constitution. It is why the powerful, from both parties, take the easy road of slashing our constitutional rights rather than asking us to change "Our way of life". We used to be the type of people who wouldn't sacrifice our liberties for "Our way of life", but rather sacrifice "Our way of life" for our liberties. That time is long gone. We are now a nation of frightened children, led around by our noses by those that use fear to manipulate and control us. They keep us fat, stupid and scared and keep the "Lotto Culture" of short cuts and cheap grace alive and well by promising us security in exchange for liberty. As Ben Franklin said, "He who would trade liberty for some temporary security deserves neither liberty nor security." So it is with the "War on Terror" and so it is with the Second Amendment and the "Gun Debate".

CONCLUSION

In conclusion, from the founding of American culture in a post-monarchist and gun centric age, to the modern era and it's denigration of skill in the form of vapid reality television and vacuous hip-hop music, combined with the incessant trumpeting of fear to the masses, we have created a perfect storm where gun violence prospers. As a nation we are so thoroughly manipulated and controlled by fear that we as a people have become emasculated and are forced to rely on the gun as both a mythic totem and a phallic symbol to desperately try and regain and reinvigorate our withered masculine energy. 

Far, far too many people have died in mass shootings here in America these past few years. I know I am not alone in hoping that we never see the horror of another mass shooting here again. But I also know that regardless of whatever legal or political maneuvers are undertaken to curb gun ownership and violence, the symbology, mythology and psychology of our unique American culture will insure that America will continue to be doomed to remain under the bloody spell of the Way of the Gun.

© 2015

Call Me by Your Name: A Review

Call-Me-By-Your-Name-Film-Poster-2017.jpg

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

My Rating: 1 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation: SKIP IT. There is no need to ever see this mess of an art house poseur. 

Call Me by Your Name, written by James Ivory (based on the book by Andre Aciman) and directed by Luca Guadagnino, is the story of 17 year old Elio as he comes of age in a northern Italian town in 1983 and deals with his attraction to Oliver, an American Grad student. The film stars Timothee Chalamet as Elio and Armie Hammer as Oliver and has garnered Academy Award nominations for Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Actor (Chalamet).

There are times when film critics, in a conscious or unconscious bit of virtue signaling, confirm their bias by endorsing a movie for what it represents culturally or politically rather than for what is actually there on the screen. Such is the case with Call Me by Your Name where many critics desperately yearn for the film to be an artistically poignant, deeply romantic, gay coming-of-age story and therefore declare it to be so (the film has a 96% Critical Rating on Rotten Tomatoes)…when the stark reality is that Call Me by Your Name is a mannered and pretentious art house charlatan that instead of being romantic is stultifyingly pedantic. It is also a breathtakingly dull, overly long, flaccid, trite and abysmal cinematic affair that fails on every single level. This film is only remarkable for being completely devoid of drama, substance or craft.

Unknown-1.jpeg

In a story that should be chock full of external obstacles for the star-crossed lovers to overcome, all obstacles have been removed and with them go any hope for drama. An example of a missing obstacle is that there is absolutely no prejudice on display towards the gay lovers, only overflowing and unquestioned acceptance by everyone on-screen. The film should have opened with Mr. Roarke and Tattoo dressed all in white, welcoming Elio and Oliver to Fantasy Island, at least that would've made the fact that there are no threats from the old-school Italian town folk or from protective parents or jealous girlfriends at least somewhat believable.

What these obstacles would have provided the film were higher dramatic stakes. If the love between these two men is forbidden or dangerous, then every look, every gesture, every-thing between them requires more and more courage and every slight detail takes on greater and greater significance. With the removal of all obstacles between the two lovers, all we are left with is two guys pondering whether they should sleep together or not. The film attempts to make this back and forth sexual questioning a slow, sensual burn, but it ends up feeling more like a botched execution where everyone is wincing waiting for the condemned to stop twitching and hurry up and die already. 

A logical issue that arises with the absence of obstacles is why set the film in 1983 in the first place? The context back then was that the AIDS epidemic was starting to take off and coming out as gay was a bold, Herculean task of courage and being exposed as gay a perilous threat? If the filmmakers are just making a "hey...should we fuck?" movie about two gay men, why not just set it in 2013 instead of 1983 where those threats are greatly reduced to the point of being dramatically insubstantial just as they are in the film? 

Unknown-4.jpeg

In terms of the story having no conventional drama due to a lack of external obstacles, I can be all in on an unconventional narrative or dramatic structure like that, for proof look at my reviews of Terrence Malick's films…but the difference between a Malick film and Call Me by Your Name is that Malick's films are exquisitely crafted and overtly carry a much deeper metaphorical and archetypal meaning than just the libidinous and romantic yearnings of a horny 17 year-old. Call Me by Your Name has no deeper meaning and is cinematically rather listlessly and shoddily patched together.

For instance, visually the film is as tepid and flaccid as the storytelling. Never has the northern Italian countryside looked so flat, muted and devoid of texture…which to the film's unintended credit, does match the drab drama and characters inhabiting the plot. Add the dismal cinematography to the cloying and insipid soundtrack and you have a rather unpleasant cinematic experience churned out by director Luca Guadagnino. 

images-4.jpeg

As for the acting, Timothee Chalamet plays Elio and does…fine. I didn't find his performance to be earth shaking or even very remotely noteworthy never mind Oscar nomination-worthy, but it certainly isn't terrible. Chalamet is comfortable on-screen and to his credit doesn't shy away from the sexual situations presented him in the film. The problem with Chalamet though is he is not exactly a commanding and powerful on-screen presence, and his lack of magnetism and dynamism makes him a tough sell to carry a movie with a run time of over two hours. In some ways Chalamet's Elio feels like the boy who wasn't there, like a ghost wandering through a movie set, which isn't actually a knock against him as an actor, only one against him as a leading dramatic figure who has to carry an entire film. To be fair, Chalamet is young and certainly holds the potential to grow into a more powerful and dynamic actor in the years ahead.

Armie Hammer plays the older grad student Oliver and never quite captures the essence of the role. Hammer's Hollywood history is interesting, at first they tried to make him into a movie star with The Lone Ranger and The Man From UNCLE…that failed miserably. Now they are trying to make him an "actor" with The Birth of a Nation and now Call Me by Your Name…and that is failing too. Hammer is certainly a movie-star handsome guy, but his biggest issue is that he either suffers from a charisma deficiency or he underwent a quadruple charisma bypass, either way…he has less charisma than a Cigar Store Wooden Indian. Hammer just never feels entirely at home on-screen in his films and that continues with Call Me by Your Name

Hammer has no doubt gotten numerous opportunities in the film business due to his family connection and his passing visual similarity to another blond haired idol, Robert Redford, but what Hammer desperately lacks is Redford's command and mastery of craft. Hammer is at a crossroads of his career, and if his performance in Call Me by Your Name is any indication, he has a long and bumpy road ahead of him. 

images-5.jpeg

Since I found the film to be so monotonous and dull, my mind wandered throughout the viewing. At one point I stopped to consider that in our current #MeToo moment with all of the accompanying sexual politics that go along with it, would this film be so well received by critics and Hollywood if Elio was a 17 year old girl having sex with Oliver the older man? I couldn't help but think there is some weird double standard in play here where a film celebrates what basically amounts to statutory rape of a teen boy just because it is a homosexual relationship. The fact that no characters in the film, or critics or people in Hollywood, felt that there was something at the very least morally questionable, if not downright disturbing, about a man who looks to be at least ten years older, having sex with a 17 year old, which in some jurisdictions is Statutory Rape, is pretty alarming. I can't help but think that if this story were between an older man and a 17 year old girl than it would have been attacked and shunned.

In conclusion, Call Me by Your Name is a film that suffers from comparisons to other gay-themed films like Brokeback Mountain and last years Academy Award Best Picture winner Moonlight. Both Brokeback Mountain and Moonlight are such vastly superior films it is ridiculous to even think of Call Me by Your Name in the same category, but the subject matter lends itself to comparisons. If you want to see extremely well-made films about homosexual love and desire, please skip Call Me by Your Name and go watch the masterful Brokeback Mountain or the flawed but compelling Moonlight.

And no matter what any other spineless, virtue signaling film critic says, trust me when I tell you that not liking Call Me by Your Name does not make you a homophobe, it makes you an honest connoisseur of film with impeccable taste. Call Me by Your Name is critical fools gold, and is a total waste of any true cinephile's time, money and energy. Not only should you skip this lethargic, lackluster, lifeless, listless and languid sack of apricot shit in the theatre, you should skip it on Netflix or cable as well. To Call Me by Your Name and the critics who adore it I simply say…"Later".

©2017

The Florida Project: A Review

The-Florida-Project-poster.jpg

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

My Rating: NO RATING

My Recommendation: Sorry...I have no recommendation on this one. 

The Florida Project, written and directed by Sean Baker, is the story six-year old Moonee who lives in debilitating poverty with her young mother Halley in the shadow of The Happiest Place on Earth®, Disney World. The film stars Brooklynn Prince as Moonee with supporting turns from Bria Vinaite as Halley and Willem Dafoe as Bobby Hicks the manager of the rundown motel Moonee and Halley call home.

I have to be upfront and say that due to personal reasons, The Florida Project is a difficult film for me to critique. Further complicating matters is that I am not at liberty to discuss with readers the specific reason why I struggled to watch and review this movie. As frustrating as that may be for readers, I feel it is important for me to present that information up front so that this review can be read with a properly jaundiced eye. 

With that unpleasantness out of the way, let's take a look at The Florida Project. To start, The Florida Project is a bold film that unapologetically and without the usual sentimentality, explores the curse of poverty in America, for that it should be lauded. Part of what made the movie so difficult to watch was the suffocating and infuriating sense of desperation that infects every pore of this film. I liked what it was trying to do, but was so uncomfortable throughout the film that I simply cannot say whether it was effective or not. 

Unknown-7.jpeg

The working poor portrayed in The Florida Project are a hopeless and hapless lot who are unwittingly condemning their children to the same fate or worse by passing down to them the culture and mindset of poverty. Across the board, with Dafoe's Bobby Hicks being the lone exception, every character in this film ought to have "Born 2 Lose" tattooed on their forehead. The delicious irony that these folks all live in the shadow of Disney World only heightens the notion that the American dream is, in reality, a waking nightmare and you have to have the intelligence and imagination of a six year-old to be dumb enough to believe in it. 

What The Florida Project expertly shows is that poverty is not born not out of a specific race but out of a distinct culture. White, Black and Latino characters all make the same bad decisions and all inflict upon their children the same disease of instant gratification and myopic idiocy from which they suffer. It is from this culture of instant gratification and myopia that the type of poverty seen in The Florida Project takes root and thrives. 

The other positive about the film is that it shows these characters all live in dehumanizing poverty despite the fact that many of them work extremely hard. It is due to structural and systemic reasons though that even the hard workers can never even remotely get their head above water. The system is most definitely rigged against all of them and is meant to thoroughly exploit them from cradle to grave.

images-4.jpeg

I kept thinking of the Latino family in the film The Big Short while I watched The Florida Project. If you'll remember, that "Big Short" family is evicted from the home they are renting because their landlord defaults on his mortgage and they are left living out of a van. There is a scene in The BIg Short where that Latino family is at a gas station and one of their little children runs away from them towards a busy road. The parents quickly catch him but the inherit peril of their situation for them and their children is made visceral in that brief scene. That "Big Short" family most likely would have ended up living in the same rundown, nowhere motel that Moonee and Halley and their hopeless comprades reside. 

The Florida Porject is well-shot in a psuedo-verite type of style by cinematographer Alexis Zabe. The film maintains enough cinematic shot structure to be visually coherent, but it certainly maintains a verite feel throughout. This approach to filming enhances the performances of the unknown cast, who all excel with the raw and improvisational approach. Zabe does really solid work with framing and in exploiting the rainbow of vibrant colors like pink and light blue that naturally inhabit Florida.

Unknown-6.jpeg

Brooklynn Prince is the young girl, Moonee, who is the protagonist of the film and she basically acts just like a kid running around on her own in Florida would act. That is both a good and a bad thing. It is good because it feels very natural and matches the filmmakers style, but it is bad because some kids her age, and her character in particular, are absolutely obnoxious. If you have children, even though you love them with all your heart, you are still probably watching a movie to get away from them, so spending two hours of your free time with an irritating and abrasive beast of a brat like Moonee and her equally horrible friends may not be very appealing. If you don't have children, this movie is a two hour public service announcement for abstinence or abortion, depending on your religious and political persuasion. 

Don't get me wrong, I am not saying Brooklynn Prince is an incorrigible brat, I am saying her character Moonee definitely is, and it is tough sledding watching her run wild in the blistering heat of Orlando. That said, in the one scene that matters above all else in the film, Prince crushes it and knocks it so far out of the park it lands somewhere in Cuba. Does her humanity and emotional vulnerability in that one scene make the other hour and fifty minutes of her incessant obnoxiousness bearable? That is definitely open to debate. 

Bria Viniate does excellent work was Moonee's very young and chaotic mom Halley. Halley is pretty unbearable as well and is every bit the obnoxious child that Moonee is, but her toxicity pulsates with a palpable wound that at times is very compelling. Halley is a train-wreck, and yet even though she is an abysmal mother and a terrible human being, there is never a moment when you doubt that she loves her child. 

Unknown-5.jpeg

Willem Dafoe's Bobby Hicks is the lone steadying and sane influence in the entire hotel of hopelessness. Dafoe's Hicks has a certain smoldering kindness to him that at times burns so hot as to be a fury. Hicks qualifies as being the one-eyed man in the hotel complex of the blind, and he tries his very best to be a benevolent leader even when his tenants conspire to make his life a living hell. Hicks is the character that proves that the plague of poverty is cultural because he is not a victim of his impulses or desires, he controls them and therefore has a semblance of order and predictability in his life. Hicks certainly has impulses, like wanting to smash a predators head in or telling his disgusting tenants or his blowhard boss to go to hell, but he has impulse control and therefore, unlike the poverty stricken surrounding him, he is not a victim to his desires or an accomplice in his own demise. This makes Hicks the one bright light of aspirational hope in an otherwise irredeemably demoralizing story.

To its credit, The Florida Project succeeds in exposing the brutal working class poverty that is engulfing America and spreading like a plague. Once you are infected by this disease of poverty, it becomes chronic, generational and fatal. In the throes of this poverty, marriages fail, mothers and fathers abuse and neglect themselves and their children, and aimless children are left to their own devices and exposed to predators and dangers of all types, thus ensuring the infection of poverty continues to feed off its host for generations to come. 

Rarely does a film dare to so unflinchingly inhabit such an uncomfortable and unpleasant existence as The Florida Project, for that it is to be acknowledged and praised. That said, due to my previously mentioned personal issues, I found the film to be, frankly, unbearable, so much so that I found myself checking out emotionally and even intellectually pretty early on. The reason for my inability to stay emotionally invested in The Florida Project may be because it was simply too realistic or maybe because it was poorly made…to be honest, due to my issues, I am frankly not sure.  

In conclusion, I cannot in good conscience recommend or not recommend The Florida Project. All I can do is ask you to see it for yourself if you have interest in the subject matter, and make up your own mind. I apologize for my inability to concisely and clearly offer you any advice regarding this movie, but just like America when it comes to the topic of poverty, I seem to be entirely emotionally, psychologically and intellectually ill-equipped to be of any use on the matter, and instead am left puzzled to the point of paralysis. If I weren't so paralyzed, I would frantically run away to Disney World, where the Happiest Place on Earth® might make me forget all the things from The Florida Project that I simply don't want to remember. 

©2017

I, Tonya: A Review

i_tonya_xlg.jpg

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

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation: SEE IT. See it in the theatre or at the very least on Netflix/cable. 

I, Tonya, written by Steven Rogers and directed by Craig Gillespie, is the biographical story of infamous American Olympic figure-skater Tonya Harding. The film stars Margot Robbie as Harding with supporting turns from Allison Janney, Sebastian Stan and Juliette Nicholson. 

Bio-pics are notoriously hard to make with any sort of artistic originality. They usually fall into the same trap of simply showing the main events in the protagonists life so everyone can go, "oh yeah, I remember that", and then the movie is over and no one cares or learns anything they didn't already know. What is worse is that these films are usually a cinematic exercise in the dramatically mundane, with nary a daring or artistic vision to be found. 

Unknown-4.jpeg

Well, if you are looking for a bio-pic with some cinematic flair, I, Tonya is the movie for you. I, Tonya avoids all of the well-worn traps of the bio-pic by utilizing multiple perspectives and shamelessly embracing the idea that not only is it impossible for all of the differing perspectives it tells to be true, it is most likely that none of them are. I, Tonya is an unabashed lie of a movie about liars telling THEIR truth…and that is what makes it so utterly fascinating and so relevant to our current age of subjective truth. 

In execution, I, Tonya isn't quite a great film, but it certainly is an entertaining one, and I truly admired the movie for its ambition. Director Craig Gillespie takes the tabloid saga of fallen white trash princess Tonya Harding and turns it into a scathing indictment of America and the illusion and delusion of the American dream. Gillespie successfully pulls the scab off of America's festering class wound and exposes the cancerous rot at the center of American capitalism that threatens to kill its host via class and cultural warfare. 

The entire cast does fantastic work, with lead actress Margot Robbie leading the charge. Robbie does solid and at times spectacular work as Harding. Robbie, for all of her obvious beauty, disappears into the rapacious inelegance of Harding with vivacious aplomb.

Unknown-1.jpeg

Robbie's Harding is, like Donald Trump, a compulsive liar who confuses her truth with "the truth". Robbie embues Harding with a deep-seeded yearning that is encased in a cover of defiance and petulance. In one of the more fascinating scenes in the film, Harding sits alone before a mirror and like Jake LaMotta in Scorsese's Raging Bull or Dirk Diggler in PT Anderson's Bogie Nights, this is when her true, tortured, disfigured self emerges from behind the mask, if only for a moment. This mirror scene is a subtle bit of brilliance, and is the best work of Robbie's young career and reveals an artistic depth that I hope she is able to thoroughly mine in her career.

Allison Janney plays Tonya's mother, the incomparable LaVona Fay Golden. Janney devours every scene she inhabits with the ferocity of a grizzly bear in a honey factory. When I originally saw the trailer for I, Tonya I was turned off because they made the film, and Janney's performance in particular, seem completely comedic and over the top. Thankfully, Janney's work in the film is much subtler, more nuanced and much more genuinely human than it appears in the trailer. 

images-5.jpeg

Janney's work as Tonya's mother has been compared to her Oscar competitor Laurie Metcalf for her work in Lady Bird as the protagonist's difficult mother. I will tell you right now, there is no comparison between the two. Janney gives a far superior performance because she is able to fill her abrasive, peculiar character with a grounded inner life that is vibrant and humanizing. Janney's LaVona is definitely a monster, but there is a pained and tortured person buried within that monster, whereas Metcalf's distant, dead-eyed mother is a one-note performance that rings more and more hollow with her every appearance on screen. 

Sebastian Stan plays Tonya's husband Jeff Gillooly and does excellent work. Stan masterfully disappears into the nothingness that is Jeff Gillooly and at the center of his being places a primal scream that echoes throughout his inner void and reveals itself in Gillooly's impotent frustration. 

Paul Walter Hauser nearly steals the entire film with his portrayal of Shawn Eckhardt, one of Gillooly's friends and Tonya's "bodyguard". Hauser deadpans with such skill it is nearly miraculous. Eckhardt is a character that in lesser hands than Hauser's could have been an over-the-top buffoon, but Hauser turns him into a fascinating, compelling, hysterical and heartbreaking figure.

As I watched I, Tonya other films kept popping into my head. The first film I thought of was Goodfellas, not because I, Tonya is anywhere near as great a work of cinema as Scorsese's classic, it isn't, but because the film uses similar techniques to break the rather stale mold of the bio-pic, like breaking the fourth wall and showing multiple perspectives. If you look closely at the film poster above, you'll notice I am not the only one to have recognized the similarities between Goodfellas and I, Tonya

Another film that came to mind was The Post, which I had just reviewed a few days before seeing I, Tonya. The reason I thought of The Post is because that movie and seemingly every single critic and media person who writes or talks about it, always refers to The Post as "timely". In my review I pointed out how I felt The Post was rather untimely…but you know what is a "timely" film? I, Tonya. Unlike The Post which was shot in a hurry in June of 2017 in response to Trump's presidency, I, Tonya was conceived before Trump was even elected and began shooting before he was inaugurated…and yet, I, Tonya is considerably more prescient and insightful in terms of political relevance than Spielberg's flaccid ode to the establishment because it highlights class warfare and the elite versus working-class American divide. As opposed to The Post, and all of Spielberg and Hanks' films, which portray America as it wishes to see itself through the heavy gauze of its delusion, I, Tonya strips Trump's America bare and exposes the nation for what it TRULY is, not what it wants to be.

images-6.jpeg

The third film I thought of was this year's critical darling, Lady Bird. The reason I thought of Lady Bird is because it is a sort of Disney channel lite-version of I, Tonya. Lady Bird playfully attempts to show the struggle of a lower middle class/working class young woman yearning to break free of her creatively suffocating world whereas I, Tonya shows a creative young woman, Tonya Harding, whom Lady Bird would ridicule, fighting for her literal survival in a country full of liars who despise her for not telling them the truth they want to hear. Unlike Lady Bird, I, Tonya shows real American poverty and the accompanying hopelessness that is strangling our country and is the birth mother of Trumpism. The obstacles Lady Bird must overcome are all imaginary and are the result of her selfishness and sense of entitlement. In I, Tonya, the obstacles facing the generationally poor in America are revealed to be the result of systemic causes that are baked into the American cake that result in self-destructive impulses and idiocy that knows no bounds. Lady Bird is a movie by an elitist about the world she's glad to have escaped, whereas I, Tonya is a movie about the type of dead-end people Lady Bird left behind, or more accurately, doesn't even know exist.

The hopelessness of the left behind dead-enders is fertile ground not only for the desperation that gave us Trump, but for the desperation that has given us the Opiod epidemic. I, Tonya is a funny movie in many ways because it has to be, for if it played itself as a straight drama it would be far too depressing to bear, the proof of which is played out over large swaths of America where Opiod-addicted zombies roam the streets and the stench of death and Narcan fills the air over vast swaths of the country all because people cannot face the meaninglessness of their lives and the emptiness of their reality. 

Unknown-4.jpeg

Another film that came to mind while watching I, Tonya, was The Florida Project, which I have seen but have yet to review. The Florida Project is about a little girl growing up in numbing poverty in the shadow of Disney World. The film is difficult to watch, not because it is poorly made, but because it tells such uncomfortable truths that I, and maybe most people, would rather forget or never know about in the first place. The protagonist in The Florida Project is basically a young Tonya Harding without the skating talent…which is a chilling thought for her, and America's, future. 

As for I, Tonya, the biggest drawback of the film for me was that it isn't shot particularly well. The film is a bit flat visually and lacks the cinematic vigor and camera panache of say, Goodfellas, but that hardly disqualifies it from being worth seeing. In some ways, the less than polished and professional feel of the film enhance the movie's working class appeal.

In conclusion, I, Tonya's ambition extends beyond its execution but in my eyes that it is a noble failing at worst. I encourage you to go spend your hard earned money and time to go see I, Tonya in the theatre because its courageous telling of the real story of class in America is not flattering, but it is revealing as to how we all ended up imprisoned in Trump's America. The real America, the America of I, Tonya and Trump, that Lady Bird and the rest of the Elites want to pretend doesn't exist, is a Reality TV, celebrity obsessed, subjectively-truthy, Opiod-addicted, vapid, hopeless, white trash, fast-food nation. Trump is now King of I, Tonya's America, but twenty some-odd years ago, Tonya Harding was its Crown Princess, and she was a harbinger of the vacuous plague to come. I, Tonya is reminder of the warnings we have failed to heed, and the depth of the pit into which we have dug ourselves. 

©2017

The Post: A Review

0VM9Aq1.jpg

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

My Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation: SKIP IT. No need to see this film except for the wonderful performance of Meryl Streep, so maybe catch it on Netflix or cable if you are so inclined.

The Post, written by Liz Hannah and Josh Singer and directed by Steven Spielberg, is the story of Katherine Graham and Ben Bradlee, the publisher and editor of the Washington Post respectively, as they guide the newspaper through the Pentagon Papers controversy. The film stars Meryl Streep as Graham and Tom Hanks as Bradlee. 

In case you aren't aware, The Post is one of Spielberg's "serious" movies, which the Spielberg-worhsipping Amen chorus in the media tells us means that it should only be spoken about in most hushed and reverent tones. The Post has been self-consciously selling itself as being very "timely" because it is allegedly a story about freedom of the press in the face of tyranny. The film is obviously meant as a nobly defiant gesture in the face of Fuhrer Trump, who goes unmentioned in the film but is an ever ominous presence lurking beneath the movie's surface, sort of like the Great White shark that terrorized one of Speilberg's actually good films, Jaws

trump-shark-meme-1.jpg

Speilberg made The Post not only after Trump became president, but because he became president. The film was hurried into production in June of 2017 in order to strike while the anti-Trump iron was hot in an attempt to convert Trump hate into dollars and awards. The political problem for The Post is that it comes across as entirely, overwhelmingly and painfully reactionary. Being reactionary is not a crime in and of itself, but the mark of a great artist is that they are ahead of the curve. The true artist dances between their individual consciousness and the collective unconscious and are able to sense things they can only articulate and express artistically (even when though they may not be intellectually or "consciously" aware of them) before they come to surface in the wider collective consciousness. With The Post, Speilberg's reactionism feels like merely a symptom of the disease of artistic fraudulence and bankruptcy, which is a malady from which he has long suffered. The film is also a result of his shameless and clumsy attempt to be politically relevant in order to be further admired by those in the political and media establishment.

The truth is I saw The Post over a month ago and was so underwhelmed by it on every single level I haven't been able to muster the creative energy to review it until now. The film is a stale and suffocatingly conventional piece of predictable moviemaking that feels as if a propaganda unit for the Hillary Clinton campaign made an after school special that was a sequel to their smash hit "Love Trumps Hate"…or as America heard it, "Love Trump's Hate".

On the most basic level, The Post is extraordinarily poorly structured cinematic venture and is so numbingly bland as to be unremarkable in every single way. The Post is just one more bit of incontrovertible evidence that Spielberg is simply not that great at making "serious" movies, and that he needs aliens or dinosaurs at the heart of his story in order to be proficient at his craft.

In The Post, just like in his other "serious" films Schindler's List, Saving Private Ryan, Lincoln and Bridge of Spies, Spielberg seems completely unaware of how to create a cohesive and palatable narrative rhythm to a film. As with many of his previous "serious" films, Spielberg chooses to encase The Post in the most useless and clumsy preamble and coda, which renders any sort of dramatic tension or revelations that can be scrounged up in between them entirely moot and ineffective.

There are some sequences in The Post that are so cinematically inept, amateurish and heavy-handed it is difficult to not laugh out loud at them. Of all of the cringe-worthy scenes scattered throughout, none makes the colon twinge quite so much as the scene where Streep's Katherine Graham exits the Supreme Court to a soaring soundtrack amidst a sea of young, bright eyed women who part for her like the Red Sea and then gaze with awe and astonishment upon her as if she were the Goddess coming down from the heavens victorious having slain the patriarchal dragon. This scene is so awful it actually made me unintentionally groan aloud in the theatre. There are also some ridiculous scenes of Nixon in silhouette at the White House that are the absolute height of unintentional comedy.  

171221-goodale-post-tease_rpe5tz-1.jpeg

Meryl Streep stars in the film as Washington Post publisher Katherine Graham, a woman trying to make her way in a man's world. Streep is simply the very best at her craft that we have seen and her work in The Post is testament to that. With a flaccid script, she is able to turn Katherine Graham into an honest to goodness, multi-dimensional human being, the only one in the entire film. Streep's Graham never rings false, which is an accomplishment of Herculean proportions on the part of the Grand Dame, due to the emotionally and intellectually infantile script from which she has to work. 

Tom Hanks co-stars as Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee. Hanks has proven himself over the years to be a decent movie star but at the end of the day he turns out to be a pretty shitty actor. Hanks's shallow portrayal of Bradlee, with his spray on tan and affected grumble of a voice, would be better suited in an SNL sketch than in a feature film. Seeing Hanks on screen opposite Streep is very illuminating, as Hanks is exposed as being a smoke and mirrors huckster of a performer, and Streep is revealed to be the consummate actor.

The narrative of The Post is meant to cover as many politically correct bases as possible. There is the story of the tyrannical president and the noble press fighting for American ideals and freedoms. There is also the story of female empowerment where a woman must overcome the horrors of the patriarchy that conspires to keep her down. With all of the shamelessly, not-so-subtle Hillary love and admiration for the mainstream press imprinted in the DNA of The Post, a more apt title for it may have been "The Establishment Strikes Back".

One of the things that bothered me about The Post, even more than the sub-par storytelling and ham-fisted directing, is why tell this particular version of the story in the first place? The Pentagon Papers is an important story, of that there is no doubt. Daniel Ellsberg is an important story and The New York Times publishing the Pentagon Papers in an important story, but Spielberg doesn't tell any of those stories. Instead, he tells the story of the Washington Post's part in the Pentagon Papers, and that probably isn't even in the top ten of stories surrounding the Pentagon Papers that should or need to be told. 

THEMOSTDANGEROUSMANINAMERIC__1265924084_7710.jpg

The trick that Spielberg manages to pull off in his version of the Pentagon Papers is he manages to smear Daniel Ellsberg and belittles and demeans what he risked and accomplished in exposing the Pentagon Papers. It is remarkable that Spielberg could make a movie about the Pentagon Papers, one of the biggest whistleblowers stories in U.S. history, and yet completely diminishes and disrespects that whistleblower. Spielberg turns Ellsberg into a long-haired, hippie malcontent and narcissist driven solely by his self-aggrandizing instinct and ego. This would not be such a big deal except that it is entirely at odds with the reality of who Daniel Ellsberg truly is and what he did. 

The other thing that bothers me are the lies of omission committed by The Post. Ben Bradlee is portrayed as not only a truth teller in the face of power, but also the quintessential journalist who was a thoughtful and passionate man who cared deeply for his profession. The reality is that Bradlee was the consummate Washington insider and his tentacles were everywhere in The Swamp. It is shown in the film that Bradlee was a friend of JFK and a frequent guest at the White House for private dinners with JFK and occasionally Jackie, which is true. What the film doesn't dare mention is that Bradlee was married to wealthy socialite Toni Pinchot during Kennedy's presidency. Toni's sister was Mary Pinchot Meyer, a divorcee who was having an affair with JFK during his presidency and would frequently go to the White House with Ben Bradlee and Toni in order for them to cover for her and JFK's affair. Also of note is that Mary Pinchot Meyer wasn't just any divorcee, she was divorced from Cord Meyer, a powerful CIA official who was Head of the Covert Action Staff of the Directorate of Plans during Kennedy's administration, and also became the principle operative of Operation Mockingbird, which was an massive operation that was used to secretly influence U.S. and foreign media. 

Another bit of info kept out of The Post about Bradlee is this, that almost one year after Kennedy was assassinated, on October 12, 1964, Mary Pinchot Meyer was assassinated, gunned down in broad daylight, while walking along the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal towpath near her Georgetown home. Why is this important? Well, it is important because Mary Meyer had kept a very thorough diary of her time with JFK, which included not only the usual Kennedy sexcapades, but JFK's use of both marijuana and LSD. To make the Meyer case all the more intriguing, Mary Meyer was convinced that JFK was murdered by a conspiracy involving U.S. intelligence agencies, of which she was intimately familiar, and she was determined to bring it to light.

meyer_death.jpg

After she was murdered some very strange things occurred, the first of which is that someone in the CIA called Ben Bradlee on the day of the shooting to tell him of Mary's murder. Why is this strange? Because Mary Pinchot Meyer was still lying in the morgue and had not even been identified by the coroners office, she was just a Jane Doe. Mary's family didn't even know anything had happened to her at this point, but because of a mysterious source in the CIA, Ben Bradlee did. Bradlee then went to Mary's house and scoured the pace and found her JFK diary and instead of doing the journalistically honorable thing of reporting on it, he instead kept it secret and turned it over to none other than James Jesus Angelton who destroyed it. Who is James Jesus Angelton? Well, James Angelton was just the Chief of Covert Counter-Intelligence Operations for the CIA. 

To make the Meyer story all the more intriguing is what happened when Bradlee was called to testify in the 1965 murder trial against a young Black man charged, and later acquitted, of the crime of killing Mary Meyer. On the stand Bradlee lied, in other words committed perjury, when he failed to mention his interaction with Mr. Angelton of the CIA and about the existence of Mary's diary. How do we know he lied? Because years later when he wrote his 1995 memoir, A Good Life, he told the truth about what actually happened and how he conspired with Angelton to find and destroy Mary's diary. 

Bradlee's back story is pretty remarkable, but so is Katherine Graham's. Graham's husband, Phil, was the publisher and co-owner of the Washington Post. In late 1962, Phil was having an affair with a young woman from Australia and told Katherine about it. A short time later in 1963, Phil got himself into a boat load of trouble when he got stinking drunk at a newspaper publisher's convention in Phoenix and stood up and told a room full of reporters that President Kennedy was having an affair in the White House with...Mary Pinchot Meyer. Mrs. Graham was alerted to her soon to be ex-husbands behavior and flew out to Phoenix with their doctor and Phil was sedated, put in a straitjacket, and flown to Washington where he was quickly hospitalized at Chestnut Lodge, a hospital in Maryland well-known to be used by the CIA for various unsavory psychiatric activities. 

After his initial release five days later from Chestnut Lodge, Phil left Katherine and told friends he was going to divorce her, take sole control of the Post, and quickly remarry with his Australian girlfriend. Shortly thereafter, in June of 1963, Phil was again placed in Chestnut Lodge and treated for "manic depression". Chestnut Lodge then released him in early August 1963 to his ex-wife Katherine's custody for a weekend break because she claimed he seemed to be doing much better. Phil stayed with Katherine at their Virginia farmhouse, and that is where he allegedly shot himself with shotgun. Against the wishes of Phil's will, which Katherine challenged, Katherine Graham then inherited the Washington Post which became a powerful mouthpiece for the intelligence community on all matters.

Unknown-3.jpeg

Ben Bradlee was also a key part of the intelligence community's control over the Post and of American political discourse. The best way to describe Bradlee is that for the duration of his Washington Post career, he was a useful asset to the intelligence community. Katherine Graham was less an asset and more of an insurance policy for the intelligence community. They got her power over the Post, and she gave them access and unquestioned loyalty. Remember the previously Operation Mockingbird, well the Washington Post is the flagship newspaper for Operation Mockingbird, and remember who ran Operation Mockingbird…none other than Cord Meyer, Mary Meyer's ex-husband. (If you want to read more about the very tangled and incredibly fascinating story of Mary Meyer, JFK, Cord Meyer, James Angleton, Ben Bradlee and Katherine Graham, I wholly encourage you to go read Mary's Mosaic by Peter Janney, it is a page-turner well worth your time if you have the interest.)

Now, don't those stories sound much more interesting and dramatically charged than the limp, third-rate Washington Post - Pentagon Papers nonsense that Spielberg conjures in The Post? Wouldn't those backstories make for at least a modicum of intrigue and drama when trying to fully flesh out who these dramatis personae really are and what actually happened at the Washington Post during the Pentagon papers incident? 

norman-rockwell-freedom-from-want-march-6-1943_a-l-7553203-8880730.jpg

But Steven Spielberg has no interest in telling that kind of truth in his movies, he is only interested in telling a certain kind of truth, the same kind of truth that Ben Bradlee and Katherine Graham are interested in telling, namely...the manufactured, "safe" truth. If you look at the length and breadth of Spielberg and Hanks' career you notice something very troubling, they are both only interested in telling that sort of manufactured "safe" truth. Hanks and Spielberg are anything but artistic truth-tellers, they are Rockwellian myth-makers and star-spangled Riefenstahls who consistently and exclusively pump out agitprop for the Establishment and American Empire. I realize that I will be tarred and feathered as a tin-foil hat wearing kook for saying this, but it doesn't take a genius or a madman to figure out that upon closer inspection, Hanks and Spielberg are just like Bradlee and Graham, they are well positioned assets useful in disseminating disinformation propaganda for the American Intelligence community (and maybe some other nations Intelligence communities as well) in order to subtly indoctrinate the gullible and unaware masses.

original.jpg

Bradlee and Graham were so well positioned to be assets for Operation Mockingbird one cannot help but wonder if they were "assisted" in their rise to such pivotal and prominent roles on the American political stage…and the same can be said of Hanks and Spielberg, who have proven time and again that they seem to have risen to heights in Hollywood well beyond their artistic abilities and use their positions of power to inundate the public with most insidious of propaganda. (For further reading on Hanks desire to alter history to appease the American Intelligence community, check out James DiEugenio's book Reclaiming Parkland, it is not a particularly well-written work, but it is does contain some fascinating ands insightful information.)

When you look at the question I posed earlier about why Spielberg would make THIS film about the Pentagon Papers, instead of investigating other more potentially interesting angles of that story (Ellsberg bio-pic, NY Times angle etc.), through the prism of his job as a propagandist for the Establishment and the intelligence community, then The Post makes a helluva lot more sense.  

Spielberg could not make a film with Ellsberg as a hero because Ellsberg is a whistleblower and whistleblowers cannot be perceived as heroic especially in this day and age because they could potentially reveal the crimes of American empire and the intelligence community. Hanks and Spielberg both said as much in doing interviews regarding The Post. When asked if Ellsberg was a hero they both said, "yeah sure", but when asked if Snowden was a hero, they both declined to answer and said it "was complicated". It isn't complicated, it is only complicated if you are a propagandist interested in obscuring truth, not exposing it. The reason they can sort of say Ellsberg is ok is because his revelations are ancient history with no impact on today's world, whereas Snowden is making a brave Ellsbergian stand today, and to make things worse in Hanks and Spielberg's eyes, Snowden did so while Obama was president. 

11.jpg

Think of it this way, Spielberg can make any movie he wants, but he chose the safest route imaginable and made The Post. He could've made a Snowden movie, or a Chelsea Manning movie, both of which would tell the truth to power story and even the freedom of the press story that The Post pretends to tell. He could've made a film about John Kiriakou which would be immensely more interesting than The Post, but he didn't. Spielberg could've still played it safe and made a straight up, paint-by-numbers Ellsberg bio-pic…but he didn't. Hell, Spielberg could've made a Trump bio-pic, Oliver Stone made one of George W. Bush while he was still in office for goodness sake, but he would never do something so ballsy. Instead, Spielberg made the impotent and insipid The Post, with all of its narrative quirks, historical omissions and sub-textual dishonesty.

What I found even more damning than the shitty filmmaking and predictable script on display in The Post, was the audience with whom I watched it. The screening I attended was pretty crowded and at various times throughout the showing, the crowd whooped and cheered for the "good guys" (Hanks and company), and when the film ended there was a rapturous round of applause. I can easily surmise that none of these cheering people voted for Donald Trump, and that they felt their cheering was a brave and courageous act of "resistance".

What all the cheering from the audience proved to me is that this anti-Trump audience deserves that know-nothing buffoon as their president, because just like him they are dim-witted ignorami who only want to be told what they want to hear and are incurious, ill-informed and easily manipulated.  

These cheering ninnies are blissfully unaware of Ben Bradlee's connection to the intelligence community or his duplicitous relationship with JFK's affairs and Mary Meyer's murder. They are also blissfully unaware of Katherine Graham's equally nefarious connections to the intelligence community and the mystery surrounding her husbands downfall and supposed suicide and her subsequent rise to power at the Washington Post. These same simpletons probably confuse Snowden with Assange, and recoil at the truthful and accurate revelations of those two men and Chelsea Manning, but ignorantly cheer the charade of The Post as a metaphor for speaking truth to power and the battle for the freedom of the press today, just because Spielberg tells them to. These fools are Spielberg's bread and butter, for they are the worst kind of fools, they think they are savvy, well-informed, serious people, but they are simply dupes and dopes, and these vacuous, vapid and vacant numskulls have gotten the country, the president and the movie they so richly deserve. 

In conclusion, The Post is certainly not worthy paying to see in the theatre. If you stumble across it on cable or Netlfix you can watch it to see Streep's marvelous performance but that is about it. The Post is fools gold for those looking for powerful stories of the struggle for freedom of the press and speaking truth to power. Viewers would be much better served avoiding the historical revisionism of The Post and seeking out the stories of Edward Snowden (the documentary Citizenfour or Oliver Stone's flawed Snowden), Chelsea Manning, John Kiriakou, Daniel Ellsberg (the documentary The Most Dangerous Man in America) and yes, even the much-maligned Julian Assange, if they want to understand the current fight for freedom of the press and the battle against tyranny, where information and the truth are the greatest weapons of war.

©2017

Are the Grammys Racist?

02-grammys-trophy-billboard-1548.jpg

Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes 58 seconds

The Grammy Awards were this past Sunday night and in their wake there have been charges of racism and misogyny leveled at the awards. The reason for the cry of racism and misogyny is that according to some in the media, Rap music did not win a major award and women were under represented in award wins.

Last year I wrote an article about how declarations of Grammy racism were statistically unfounded, and that piece stands up well against the test of time especially with 4 of 5 nominees for Album of the Year, 5 of 6 nominees for Record of the Year, and 5 out of 5 nominees for Song of the Year being minorities (non-White). 

What is funny in reading that piece now is that last year the racism uproar was over Adele, a White woman, beating out Beyonce, a Black woman, for the Best Album award. The thing that is striking about the competition between those two artists is that…THEY ARE BOTH WOMEN. For those who do not suffer from historical amnesia, myopia or otherwise have the long term memory of a Tsetse fly, this would seem to prove the absurdity of the misogyny charge against the Grammys. Add in the fact that of the last ten Album of the Year awards, five went to men, four went to women and one went to a man and a woman (Robert Plant and Alison Krause). 

GettyImages-800834188-920x584.jpg

The reason the pussy-hat brigade are up in arms this year is because that ginger lightning rod, Ed Sheeran, a male artist for the patriarchy, beat out four female artists for best pop solo performance. From what I have read, the real reason people are upset over Sheeran's victory is not because his work is comparatively sub-standard but rather because of the "message it sends" since at the moment we are in the midst of a cultural female renaissance (#MeToo, #TimesUp). I find this to be a short cut to thinking. Look, God knows I am no Ed Sheeran fan, but on the merits is it totally incomprehensible that his song was a better Pop Solo Performance than the songs from Pink, Kelly Clarkson, Kesha and Lady Gaga? Sheeran is obviously a viable candidate for the Grammy for Best Pop Solo Performance because he won that exact award in 2016 along with a Song of the Year Grammy. Claiming Sheeran is out of his depth or entirely unworthy compared to his female opponents or only won because of misogyny is a tenuous argument at best and a frivolous one at worst. 

The other big scandal is that people are screaming "racism!" because R&B singer Bruno Mars won Song of the Year, Record of the Year and Best Album and in so doing beat out two rappers, Jay-Z and Kendrick Lamar. The argument is that the Grammys are racist because they do not appreciate Rap music. 

Here is the thing about the Recording Academy, it is made up of musicians, producers and engineers. You know what musicians respect…musicianship. Musicians spend an inordinate amount of their time growing up sitting alone in their rooms learning their instrument and honing their craft. No matter how talented you are as a musician, you will not achieve greatness without committing a great deal of time and energy to master your instrument (voice included). You know who doesn't spend an inordinate amount of time learning and mastering their instrument…rappers. You know why? Because rappers do not play instruments, they do not sing, and most cannot read music. Could it be that rap does not win big Grammy awards because it is seen as a cheap shortcut to success, as opposed to rock and R&B which require years and years of working to hone ones craft and skill just to be proficient, never mind transcendent?

Kim-Kardashian-Kanye-West-Baby-Pic.jpg

Rap music is certainly popular (although not as popular as you think - more on that later), but that doesn't make it artistically worthwhile or notable. To put Rap music in context, it is like reality television. Reality television is very popular, for instance the Kardashians are enormously famous across the globe. But that doesn't mean that what they do is a result of skill or craft or is artistically noteworthy. You can turn on your television and see Kim Kardashian and then turn the channel and see Meryl Streep, but that doesn't mean that they are equal or that Kim Kardashian is even an "actress". The same is true of Jay-Z and Kendrick Lamar, they sell a lot of albums but that still does not make them musicians, especially in the eyes of actual musicians. 

This is not to say that rap does not have cultural value or anything like that, it certainly does. What it is to say is that Rap is not deemed award worthy music by musicians because it is devoid of musicianship, and this is why the musicians, producers and engineers in the Recording Academy have been reticent to award Rap their top prizes. The point being that the alleged Grammy snubs of Jay-Z and Kendrick Lamar are not about racism, but about musicianship. Kendrick Lamar and Jay-Z may be brilliant rappers, but that is entirely irrelevant, for neither of them can read music, play an instrument or sing, the three skills that musicians would respect because they worked so hard at them. 

The other thing that is kind of funny to me is that people were crying racism about the Grammys this year, and yet the guy who won the three big awards (Record, Song and Album of the Year) Bruno Mars, is a Filipino-Puerto Rican. If those awards went to some pasty white guy like Justin Beiber or someone equally awful and White, then the argument for racism would at least be coherent, but they didn't and it isn't. 

brunomars-hero_0.jpg

In terms of Rap's popularity, there were a lot of headlines this year that Rap music was now the most popular genre of music in America, overtaking rock music for the first time. When you look at the statistics though, they are terribly, and in my opinion, intentionally, misleading. Billboard claims that Hip-Hop accounts for 24.5% of music consumed (measured by a combination of album sales, track equivalent album units and streaming equivalent album units -- including both on-demand audio and video streams) , and Rock for 20.8% of music consumed, which would be big news if true. But it isn't true because the reality is that Hip-Hop has not overtaken Rock in terms of popularity, the actual category that has overtaken Rock is Hip-Hop AND R&B combined. What these statistics are really saying is that when you combine two popular forms of music, Hip-Hop and R&B, they are slightly more popular than Rock music. Since I could not find the statistics for music consumption for Hip-Hop alone without R&B, the next best thing is to look at statistics of "Album Consumption", which shows that Hip-Hop/Rap is second on the overall list at 17.5% and R&B is fourth at 8.7%, with Rock atop the list at 22.2%. This shows that Hip-Hop on its own would be well behind Rock, and frankly, so would R&B.

Backing up this argument of Rock's superior popularity, is that Rock is still the genre with the most record sales (40% of all record sales are Rock), which is a pretty good indicator of its viability as a musical genre. There is also the peculiar statistic that the Grammy awards this year had no Rock acts nominated in any of the Big Four categories (New Artist, Album, Song, Record of the Year) and the television ratings were down a staggering 24%. The Grammy show also had a dearth of rock acts performing, and a plethora of Rap/R&B acts performing, which begs the question, did people not tune in because there was no rock? Or because Rap is atrociously bad in live performance? (That said, I am not arguing that because Rock is "more popular" or sells more albums than Rap or R&B, that it is more culturally relevant, because I do not think that it is, but that is a long discussion for another day.)

rs-236765-prince.jpg

It is also important to note, at least in terms of the Grammys and popularity argument, that R&B and Rap/Hip-Hop are two very, very different and distinct forms of music. One, R&B, demands a high level of musicianship, most notably the ability to sing, and the other, Rap/Hip-Hop, requires absolutely no musicianship whatsoever. A brief look at the list of top R&B performers in the last thirty years or so reveals a cornucopia of enormously skilled and talented musicians. Prince and Stevie Wonder are arguably two of the greatest musicians to have ever lived, and Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey two of the greatest singers. By the way, all of these performers are Black and all of them have won Grammys which is further proof against claims of Grammys racism. 

If you want to make the argument that the Grammys suck, are irrelevant or idiotic, you will get no pushback from me. But racist? Were the Grammys racist when they awarded Natalie Cole for the Frankenstein-ian sentimentality of Unforgettable over REM's vastly superior Out of Time? Or when they awarded Whitney Houston's Bodyguard soundtrack over REM's Automatic for the People? No, the Grammys weren't racist in making those decisions, they were just way behind the times. And for those who think Rap is an artistically worthwhile musical genre, don't take the Grammy slights personally because the Recording Academy has throughout its history consistently fucked over artistically superior music of the moment for less challenging and more mainstream fare and race has had nothing to do with it. 

NirvanaNevermindalbumcover.jpg

The proof that the Grammys are awful to cutting-edge artists of all colors is pretty easy to see. For instance, in 1993, U2's seminal album, and arguably one of the greatest rock albums of all-time, Achtung Baby, lost out to Eric Clapton's schmaltzy Unplugged album. Another example is that In 1992 when Natalie Cole was beating out REM for Album of the Year, the best, most consequential album of that year and of that generation, Nirvana's Nevermind, WASN'T EVEN NOMINATED. 

 

In 1997, Celine Dion beat out Smashing Pumpkin's alternative anthem Melon Collie and the Infinite Sadness for Album of the Year. In 1998, Bob Dylan's Time out of Mind beat out Radiohead's brilliant masterpiece OK Computer. In 2001, Steely Dan's flaccid Two Against Nature beat out Radiohead's Kid A and Beck's Midnite Vultures, two extraordinary pieces of work.

The list goes on, in 2002 the mundane soundtrack to Oh Brother Where Art Thou beat U2's redefining renaissance album, All That You Can't Leave Behind. 2003 Norah Jones lush snooze-fest Come Away With Me beat out Springsteen's American epic The Rising. In 2005 Ray Charles nostalgic Genius Loves Company beat out Green Day's instant classic American Idiot. 

Obviously, none of these examples were the result of racism on the part of the Grammys, but were due to the Recording Academy skewing more towards the established acceptable music rather than anything that is pushing boundaries. When you add the Academy's inclination to look backwards with their memberships prejudice toward musicianship, then you get a scenario where Rap/Hip-Hop music is less appreciated than popular music fans may like and racism is not even remotely the reason. 

To me, the real scandal is not Grammy (or Oscar) "racism", it is the neutering of that word through continued overuse. Racism simply no longer has any force as a pejorative, and that is why we have seen recent attempts to up the ante on charges of racism by using the terms White supremacy, White privilege or institutional racism. The word "racism" has become like antibiotics, its overuse has made it less effective which is ultimately dangerous to us all. 

Crying racism over perceived awards slights is absurd and frankly, entirely counter-productive. Is the problem with race in America really the collection of artists in the Recording Academy or in the Motion Picture Academy? In industries where Blacks have thrived well beyond their demographic reality is that really the best place to point the finger of racism?

My advice to those crying racism over the Grammys awarding a Filipino-Puerto Rican singer over Black rappers…stop being emotional and irrational and get serious. Stop making "racism" your instinctual response to any failure on the part of Black people, especially when it comes to something so subjective as musical tastes. You are doing your noble cause no favors by tilting at such ridiculous and easily disprovable windmills. 

 

©2017

 

Downsizing: A Review

Downsizing-movie.png

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

My Rating: 1.75 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation: SKIP IT. No need to ever see this movie. 

Downsizing, written and directed by Alexander Payne, is the story of Paul Safranek, a midwestern physical therapist who chooses to undergo a new procedure that will shrink him down to being only five inches tall in order to start a new life in an experimental, eco-friendly mini-world. The film stars Matt Damon with supporting performances from Christoph Waltz, Hong Chau and Kristen Wiig. 

Downsizing is one of those movies that is rife with possibilities, but in execution ends up being  a disaster. Alexander Payne can be hit or miss for me as a director, for instance I loved About Schmidt, and was lukewarm about Sideways and Nebraska and loathed The DescendantsDownsizing falls into the frustrating The Descendants category in the Alexander Payne catalogue for me. 

downsizing-movie-matt-damon.jpg

What is so troubling about Downsizing is that the original idea, about shrinking people down in order save the environment, is bursting with a myriad of dramatic potential and yet not only does Payne not realize these possibilities, he seems to be entirely oblivious of them. Payne suffocates the creative prospects of the premise in its crib and instead churns out a very blasé, bland and boring product that is bungled from start to finish. 

While Downsizing portends to be an important "issues" film, the movie labors under the strain of its own delusional sense of self-importance. The film never actually tackles any difficult subjects, only strikes a concerned pose and then walks away. Like a eunuch in a whorehouse, Payne only seems to be vaguely aware of what he is missing. 

5vVvTa3C5m17SnP4A5HF57XsA5n-0-230-0-345-crop.jpg

For instance, the first thing that comes to mind for me is the idea that if people shrink themselves, they immediately become vulnerable to the Tyranny of the Big. Once people are shrunk, Big people could crush little people and their worlds with little effort at all. The result of that would be that little people become entirely reliant on the kindness of the big for their survival. To me it would be fascinating to investigate in Downsizing the idea of people choosing to make themselves weaker and subservient to a giant class of humans, to me that sounds like a metaphor for people's relationship with Big Tech like Facebook, and their acquiescence to massive surveillance programs. To explore the theme of "if you aren't doing anything wrong, you have nothing to hide", would be an interesting one, but Payne never even contemplates it. 

The Tyranny of the Big theme also could've have been used to explore political issues staring all of us in the face…like American empire, or authoritarianism rising across the globe. But Payne chooses to make a limp non-point by having the "shrinking" technology used by only one government for nefarious reasons…that government…Vietnam. A plot point in the movie is that Vietnam, of all countries, shrinks a group of protestors. Why Vietnam? Of all the countries you could use to show authoritarianism in the world you choose Vietnam? 

hong_chau_christoph_waltz_downsizing.jpg

The reality is that Payne chose Vietnam because it is a safe choice, not because it is a relevant or interesting one. Vietnam is a "communist" country, and Payne knew he'd get no pushback from anyone, especially here in America, by attacking them. If Payne had any balls…which it is very obvious he doesn't, he would've used China instead of Vietnam. Calling out China as authoritarian by having a storyline where they "shrink" some Tibetan human rights protestors would be a gutsy and dramatically interesting thing to do, but Payne would never do that because China is a market where he wants his movie to play and make money. So China is a no go. The U.S. is another no go for the same obvious reason, calling out American empire is a non-starter for a milquetoast filmmaker like Payne. How about Israel? Why not have Israel "shrink" down Palestinians protestors in order to be able to reduce Palestinians in the West Bank to living in a shoe box so Israeli's can take even more of their land? Payne would never, ever, ever do that because…well…you and I both know why that would never happen.

The lack of testicular fortitude on the part of the director is not the only issue with the film. Downsizing suffers from some of the most basic of filmmaking and storytelling errors imaginable. For instance, there is scene near the end of the film where a bible is used as a critical dramatic device, the problem with that, is that is literally the first time that bible has ever appeared or been mentioned in the entire film…it is a bizarre and glaring bit of amateurish filmmaking. Structurally the film is no better,  as the movie is so fundamentally flawed it teeters the whole time you watch it until it ultimately collapses onto itself. 

The acting is also uneven and disconnected as well. Matt Damon is a fine actor, but he never feels genuinely connected to the material or the character and instead appears to be going through the movie star motions. I read that Paul Giamatti was originally supposed to play the lead role but for some reason was replaced by Damon. I think Giamatti would have been a far superior choice to embody the sad sack character of Paul Safranek. 

Christoph Waltz is an actor I admire, but his character is so poorly written he is entirely incoherent. What Waltz's Dusan Mirkovic is even doing in the film is beyond me, and it seems, beyond him as well. 

Hong Chau's character Ngoc Lan Tran, is difficult to watch. Chau does a good job acting, in fact she delivers a flawless monologue at a dining room table that is worth seeing, but her pidgin english is unbearable and the character feels more like comic relief than a fully fledged human being. Having an Asian character speaking pidgin English used as comedy comes across as terribly tone deaf and at best uncomfortable, and at worst incredibly racist. 

downsizing paramount.jpg

Downsizing's running time is two hours and fifteen minutes, yet the movie feels unconscionably much longer. By the time the final act of the movie begins I could not have cared less about any of the characters involved at all. Everything seemed forced and manufactured and totally devoid of any genuine human emotion or understanding. 

 

Downsizing boasts a top-notch cast and an intriguing premise but fails to properly utilize either of those things. Alexander Payne's failures as a director and writer scuttle what could have been a truly fascinating ship, and instead we are reduced to watching the equivalent of no one of interest floating on a dingy in a kiddy pool.  

Downsizing is so insignificant and unremarkable that even though I saw it for free while sitting in my living room, I still almost got up and walked out. The only thing Downsizing did was downsize my patience for this stupid movie…oh and hopefully it also downsized Alexander Payne's cache in the film industry. My recommendation is that you skip Downsizing, there is absolutely no need whatsoever for you to see this film at anytime or anyplace. If you stumble across it on cable late one night, turn the television off and go watch a dog take a dump on a dollhouse, it will be time better spent than watching this miniature mess. 

©2017

Phantom Thread: A Review

phantom_thread_teaser_instgrm.jpg

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

My Rating: 4.7 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation: SEE IT IN THE THEATRE. For those who have more sophisticated taste in cinema, this is a true gem. For those with more conventional tastes, this might be enjoyable but a bit difficult. 

Phantom Thread, written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, is the story of Reynolds Woodcock, a renowned fashion designer in 1950's London, and his unlikely relationship with a young waitress. The film stars Daniel Day-Lewis, with supporting turns from Lesley Manville and Vicky Krieps.

Phantom Thread is, like most of director PT Anderson's films, one of those movies that successfully operates upon multiple levels simultaneously. On the surface, the film is a dark relationship story, but just below that surface there is a seething underbelly that is glorious in its insightful complexity. While the surface story is entertaining and compelling, the real riches are to be found in the underbelly, where the treasure chest of psychological marrow resides.

phantom-thread-daniel-day-lewis.jpg

That marrow is the psychological story of a man attempting to integrate his anima. The anima is archetypal feminine energy and men spend their lifetimes trying to resolve their anima issues, just as women spend their lives attempting to resolve their animus issues, both in the pursuit of psychological wholeness. The true narrative at the heart of Phantom Thread is that of the artist (Woodcock - who is probably a stand in for the artist PT Anderson himself), first recognizing, then reconciling with his anima. All artists are in a lifelong dance with their anima, at times immersed init and other times repulsed by it. While the twists and turns in the narrative of Phantom Thread can at first glance seem a bit much, when viewed through the prism of this psychological lens, they are entirely appropriate and quite remarkable. 

PT Anderson is the preeminent auteur of our age. He is one of the rarest of rare filmmakers who is equally masterful directing actors as he is directing the camera and the narrative. Darren Aronofsky is similar filmmaker to Anderson in this respect but is not quite up to his level. What immediately struck me about Phantom Thread and brought Aronofsky to mind is that the anima narrative at the core of Phantom Thread is almost identical to the core of Aronofsky's last film, the much maligned and debated Mother! (not to mention a very similar narrative structure). I certainly do not think either director intentionally stole the idea or that they were even conscious of the similarities, but it is very striking to me when two artists of PT Anderson's and Darren Aronofsky's caliber are moved by the same muse. Whenever that happens my Isaiah/McCaffrey Wave Theory alarms go off and I immediately sit up and take notice. Now…to be clear, Phantom Thread is a vastly superior film to Mother!, of that there is no doubt, but the similarities of their DNA are worth noting.

Daniel Day Lewis gives what may very well be his greatest performance in Phantom Thread, and considering his stellar career, that is saying a lot. Lewis gives his Reynolds Woodcock a vivid inner life filled with specific and detailed intentions that are palpable on screen, such as when he sets his sights on the young waitress Alma. While Woodcock is a meticulous study in contained fury, it is when he reveals his magnetic and seductive charm that the true force of his power is seen. 

the-phantom-thread-trailer-1e98fcf2-7417-4ff9-bb81-a75e0cabd04b.jpg

Lewis is always an intoxicating actor to watch, a master craftsman with a commanding and innate dynamism that is so compelling as to be nearly hypnotic, and so it is in Phantom Thread. Lewis has said that this is his last performance, and that would certainly be a terrific loss for the acting world, but going out with such a tour de force as he gives in Phantom Thread feels like a wonderful Daniel Day-Lewis-ian thing to do for the always enigmatic master. 

Vicky Krieps bursts onto the acting scene as Alma Elson, the waitress who catches Reynold Woodcock's eye. Krieps is an alluring and luminous screen presence. She has an understated power to her that is impressive to behold. There is never a moment where she seems overwhelmed opposite the Greatest Actor in the World®, Daniel Day-Lewis. 

Krieps has an earthy, beguiling sexuality about her that is captivating and enchanting. Watching her Alma navigate the treacherous waters of her relationship with Woodcock by using different tactics and strategies was a joy to behold simply due to Kriep's unabashed talent. 

Lesley Manville plays Reynolds sister Cyrill to perfection. Cyrill is the brains and structure behind Reynolds talent, without her the entire fashion dynasty they have built would crumble. Manville's command of stillness and steely glare make her Cyrill a sort of Lady MacBeth of the House of Woodcock, as she is unsexed and the true power behind the throne. 

Even though he is a highly skilled fashion designer, Reynolds is still a man in every sense of his being. Although he may not appear to be, he is a man ruled by his appetites and his very specific and unique tastes, whether it be in food or women. 

Cyrill is the one who has learned to remain still so that Reynolds hungry animal nature does not devour her, but the intrigue of Phantom Thread is watching Alma try and figure out how to tame Reynolds beast and satiate his appetites without sacrificing herself in the process. 

1280x720-posterframephantomthread.jpg

Besides being filled with superior acting, Phantom Thread is a gorgeous film to look at as well. Anderson's usual cinematographer, the always fantastic Robert Elswitt, was unavailable to shoot Phantom Thread, and rumors are that Anderson shot it himself, although he claims it was a collaborative effort on the part of multiple people. Whoever shot it though deserves accolades as the framing, in particular, but also the color palette and the sheer beauty of the lighting, some of it with just candles, are remarkable. 

The fashion on display is also a wonder to behold. I am not someone who usually notices that sort of thing but I was overwhelmed with the beauty and intricacy of the wardrobe in the movie. I assume Phantom Thread, which is nominated for six Oscars, will at the very least get a win for Costume Designer Mark Bridges, who richly deserves the award.

In conclusion, I loved Phantom Thread and think it is one of the very best films of the year. Like PT Anderson's other films There Will Be Blood and The Master, it may be a bit impenetrable for  those whose tastes are not inclined to the art house. For cinephiles or those with more ambitious movie going tastes though, Phantom Thread is a delectable cinematic feast. I highly recommend you spend your hard earned dollars and sparse free time to go see it in the theatre. 

©2017

ADDENDUM:

****WARNING- THIS ADDENDUM CONTAINS SPOILERS!! THIS IS YOUR OFFICIAL SPOILER ALERT!!****

phantomthread2.jpg

- I just wanted to write a brief analysis of the film to add to my review for those who have seen the movie already. The thing to watch for in Phantom Thread is Reynolds obvious controlling and power hungry nature. Notice how he has very specific tastes in food and how he controls his environment. 

Reynolds, who, like most artists, is estranged from his anima but like a flame is constantly drawn to it and then repulsed by it, which is why he goes through so many different muses…just like the writer character in Mother!

The fascinating thing to me is that Alma uses mushrooms to sicken Reynolds. Mushroom are grown in the shadow…symbolic of the psychological shadow. She surreptitiously gets Reynolds to digest his shadow material and it makes him ill. It is when he is ill, weakened, that his "male armor" comes down and he is helpless and is able to appreciate Alma once again. 

When caring for the sick Reynolds, Alma takes on the role of his late mother…mother being the ultimate anima figure (hence Aronsofky's film titled Mother!). Reynolds even has a fever dream where he sees Alma and his dead mother in the room with him and they sort of blend into one another. This is the beginning of Reynolds integrating his anima, which is hard and painful work, but ultimately not only necessary but vital. 

As time goes on and their relationship twists and turns, Alma returns to the mushrooms, this time even more of them. Reynolds understand why this is, and that he must turn himself over to the shadow material (mushrooms), even risking his life, in order to have the anima experience he so desperately needs to "survive" as an artist and to continue on his journey to wholeness. 

In some ways, Alma is a witch, using nature to brew up a concoction in order to weaken Reynolds and remove his masculine armor in order to make him more susceptible to the spell of the animus. 

I know that this interpretation might be a bit much for some people, but it makes for a fascinating and in my opinion, ultimately satisfying, way to watch the film. 

©2017

The Shape of Water: A Review

SHAPE-OF-WATER2.jpg

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

My Rating: 4.65 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation: SEE IT IN THEATRE

The Shape of Water, written and directed by Guillermo del Toro, tells the tale of Elisa, a mute janitor, and her relationship with a mysterious humanoid-amophibian creature being held in a secret government facility in Baltimore in 1962. The film stars Sally Hawkins and boasts supporting performances from Octavia Spencer, Richard Jenkins, Michael Shannon and Michael Stuhlberg. 

I had zero expectation when I went to see The Shape of Water. I really enjoyed director Guillermo del Toro's earlier film Pan's Labyrinth, which was a dark and hypnotic fever dream of a film, but had not ventured to see his more Hollywood friendly, commercial films like Hellboy or Pacific Rim, as they held no interest for me. All I knew of The Shape of Water was what I had seen in the trailer, which was that it was some weird intra-species romance movie. Having seen the film, I can attest that it is that…but it is also so much more. 

screen-shot-2017-09-14-at-9-49-54-am1.png

The Shape of Water is a glorious film and is easily one of the best movies of the year. Director Guillermo del Toro has created a truly original and unique piece of cinematic art that drips with rich religious, political and mythological symbolism. Del Toro masterfully delivers a deliciously subversive take on an unconventional love story by paying homage to the storytelling conventions of Old Hollywood by turning them on their ear.

Del Toro is well-known as a visual virtuoso and The Shape of Water is no exception. His collaboration with Danish cinematographer Dan Laustsen results in a cinematic symphony where nearly every shot could be hung in an art museum. Del Toro and Laustsen's delicate use of color and shadow create a lush texture for the film that is palpable. Laustsen's brilliant use of varying shades of green and a sparing but vibrant red do not just create a visual feast but also convey the deeper psychological and political sub-text of the film.

images-1.jpg

Del Toro also coaxes outstanding performances from his noteworthy cast. Sally Hawkins gives an exquisitely sublime and bravura performance as del Toro's mute leading lady. While Ms. Hawkins character Elisa never utters a single line of dialogue, she speaks volumes with her entire being, never wasting a single moment of screen time. Ms. Hawkins uses specificity and intentionality to imbue Elisa with a tangible yearning that is breathtaking in its earnestness and tenderness. To Hawkins (and del Toro's) great credit, Elisa is never reduced to a child-like state of innocence where the audience would pity her, but instead she is a capable and sexually aware full-fledged woman struggling to find her voice, which makes the film very topical if not downright prescient.  

Richard Jenkins gives an absolutely magnificent performance as Giles, Elisa's friend and next door neighbor. Giles is at once both pathetic and defiant, ferocious and forlorn. Jenkins is a consistently fantastic actor and his work as Giles is a testament to his extraordinary talent, skill and commitment to craft. 

The rest of the cast, Octavia Spencer, Michael Stuhlberg and Michael Shannon all do exceptional work in their supporting roles. It is difficult to single one of them out above the others, but if forced to I would only mention that Michael Stuhlberg's work as Dr. Hoffstetler is a complex and subtle piece of genius that is a pleasure to behold. Stuhlberg is an often overlooked actor but he is devastatingly good.

shape1.jpg

Ms. Spencer and Mr. Shannon are too great actors as well and their work in The Shape of Water is, as always, stellar. Ms. Spencer is such a master craftswoman that her acting always feels like it is entirely effortless and so it is with her portrayal of Elisa's friend Zelda. And Michael Shannon, who plays Colonel Strickland, is like a volcano on screen, even when he is dormant, he emanates a dynamic combustibility that is unnerving. It was a true pleasure to watch such a superior ensemble work their magic in The Shape of Water.

The Shape of Water isn't just an entertaining and moving film, it also surreptitiously and masterfully comments on American capitalism, empire, Russo-phobia, McCarthyism, the feminine, love, psychological and spiritual evolution and the human urge to know God and thyself. (see Addendum below - warning it has spoilers in it). Del Toro and his superb cast are all able to tell multiple layers of the same story without ever being obvious or preachy. Watching the myriad of themes and layers of the film be expertly woven together is a joy to behold an drakes for a  compelling and magnetic joy movie going experience. 

the-shape-of-water-sally-hawkins-octavia-spencer.jpg

In the sea of cinematic brilliance that is The Shape of Water, what stood out to me the most though, is that this is a bit of a weird fantasy film, set in a different time period, and yet is pulsates with a genuine and tender humanity that is completely absent in other more contemporary and "reality-based" films like Three Billboards and Lady Bird. Those films are devoid of the true, genuine human experience that is the dramatic heart of The Shape of Water and that is a monument to the impeccable artistry of Guillermo del Toro and his superior cast.

In the final analysis, The Shape of Water is a lush and luscious film that is an artistic feast for the eyes and the psyche. This film speaks to both cinephiles and cine-peds (my new word for people with more pedestrian tastes in movies), I highly recommend you dive in deep into The Shape of Water and spend your hard earned money and invaluable free time to go see it in the theatre. 

©2017

 

ADDENDUM

****WARNING: THIS ADDENDUM CONTAINS SPOILERS!!****

The spoiler free review is above, but I had written a few thoughts in an earlier draft on the deeper meaning of the movie and realized they may constitute a violation of my claim that this was a spoiler free review, so I figured I would excise them from the review and haphazardly share them in an addendum for those who were interested. If you haven't seen the film yet, and want a "virgin" experience, then skip the following sections entirely. 

- The film's political and religious symbolism is there for those who wish to find it. The movie is again prescient in that it recalls the Russo-phobia of the early 1960's and the McCarthyist impulse which accompanies it and which is rearing its very ugly and dangerous head once again now. The film also subtly and gracefully reveals the moral rot at the core of American empire and American capitalism.

Del Toro masterfully exposes American capitalism as being a cancer on the soul of humanity (a great example is Colonel Strickland and his perfect yet loveless family and his new car which is green…with envy…and his hand which is gangrene…as he is, like America, rotting from within), and reveals the American dream to be the result of a fever that will eventually drown/suffocate us all. Like George Carlin says, "they call it the American dream because you have to be asleep to believe in it".  In the case of The Shape of Water, in order to awake from the nightmare of the American dream, one must evolve, or maybe the better word for it is…devolve…and return to the depths of our truer selves where we live from our heart and can become gods. 

- Not surprisingly due to the title of the film, the symbolism of water is throughout the movie. In a Jungian context, water is symbolic of the human psyche, and to dive into the deep waters is to explore our sub-concious. Keep this in mind whenever water is present in a scene in The Shape of Water. Understand that in order for the individual and the collective to evolve, dipping our toe into the pool of our minds is a must if we ever hope to dive into the depths of our deeper meaning and purpose. Integrating the knowledge found in the depths of our psyche occurs when we integrate with a creature from the depths. So in The Shape of Water, when Elisa is trying to understand the creature, she is really trying to understand herself. True integration…the melding together of the old knowledge with the new, occurs when Elisa and the creature have sex…in water. 

Also note that Elisa is only connected to her sexuality in water…her ritualistic bath and masturbation are her "dipping her toe" into the pool of her psyche. It is also, in a religious sense, like going to Mass. But Mass is only a simulation of the God experience, when Elisa is in the water with the creature and they have sex, that is the ultimate integration/God experience. Only with the God experience can humanity and/or Elisa's psyche develop. 

There are also obvious symbols of the creature being a Christ like figure. He has a wound on his side for example, and he is chained to a central spot, like a mandala, and is tortured and beaten by a guardian of the American/Roman Empire. The creature also has mysterious and miraculous healing powers for himself and others. 

The egg is also is a pretty interesting symbol in the film. Obviously the egg is a symbol of fertility and birth, and also of the universe. Elisa feeding the creature her egg is symbolic of her offering her feminine energy to him, he devours it and integrates it and thus is not just a male, but like a god is both male and female. This is also why the question of his genitals comes up and Elisa explains that it is contained within him but is revealed at the right moment, almost like his body is a tabernacle and his genitals the god housed within. 

If you look carefully throughout the film, you will see lots of religious Catholic symbolism. if you can, notice the shape and positions the characters are in when they are in water. There are memento when they look as if they are hung on a cross, or are in a Pieta pose. 

Alright…those are just some brief and scattered observations on the film. I really loved the movie and I wholly encourage you to see it, or to see it again. If you do see it again keep your eye out for the when, where and how del Toro uses the color red and the color green. And also take note of water!!

©2017

 

#MeToo: It's Not Broke, but You Can See the Cracks

texture-1066878_1920.jpg

Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes 48 seconds 

In the U2 song "All Because of You" off of their 2004 album "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb" there is a lyric that goes, "I'm not broke, but you can see the cracks". That lyric kept popping into my head over the last few weeks as I followed the cavalcade of developments with the #MeToo movement. 

As my long time readers know, I have written extensively on the subject of #MeToo since the Weinstein story broke in early October ( linklink, linklink, link, link, link ). Early on in the story, I wrote what I considered to be a warning to the #MeToo adherents that their movement was destined to self-destruct because it was built on the sand of emotion and not a sturdy foundation of reason. Sadly, for my efforts I was routinely called lots of charming names like misogynist and rape apologist by readers who disagreed with my diagnosis. The following months though have proven my insights to be correct. If you have read my article, "Phases of a Sex Panic", you would be able to recognize that we are now deep into Phase Three of this current sex panic, with all the warning signs of #MeToo's decline due to decadence coming to fruition which will no doubt be followed by a backlash.

THE HIT ON AZIZ ANSARI

There have been a plethora of big #MeToo stories recently and they back up my predictions and hypothesis of #MeToo and its future. One big story was the Babe.com article which claimed comedian Aziz Ansari had "sexually assaulted" a young woman, Grace, with whom he went on a date. The reaction to the Babe article highlighted a gigantic rift in the #MeToo movement between generations. Younger women saw the Babe story as a tale of sexual assault while older generations saw it as "revenge porn" for a bad date. Caitlin Flanagan of The Atlantic wrote two Ansari articles (link, link) that were insightful and eloquent. Her takedown of the Ansari story is mandatory reading. Bari Weiss of The New York Times also wrote an Op-ed taking the Babe article and the claims that Ansari sexually assaulted his date to task. 

Flanagan and Weiss join Daphne Merkin (New York Times) and Meghan Daum (LA Times) as women who have written worthwhile pieces that challenge #MeToo and spotlight its very apparent shortcomings. Not to break my arm patting myself on the back (or to quote Bono from the song above, "I like the sound of my own voice, I didn't give anyone else a choice") but, I wrote pieces with remarkably similar themes regarding #MeToo months before these women ever considered writing their articles. I am glad my once lonely voice in the wilderness clamoring for reason and rationalism has now become a mini-chorus that includes other thoughtful writers, particularly females ones, because the topic of rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment is too important to be left to the emotionalist and reactionary warlock hunters of #MeToo.

VIVE LA FRANCE

Recently, actress Catherine Deneuve and a group of French women wrote an open letter challenging #MeToo, and were joined by French film star Brigitte Bardot, who called the movement "ridiculous and hypocritical". In addition, French actress Juliette Binoche said something in a recent speech that I thought was incredibly important but received scant attention. Ms. Binoche said in relation to #MeToo that she WANTED to hear men's thoughts. This is is stark contrast to Minnie Driver and Alyssa Milano and the rest of the #MeToo mob that has consistently shouted men like Matt Damon down when they voiced their opinion on the subject.

The argument made by #MeToo and many neo-feminists is that men have no right to talk about the subject, whereas Ms. Binoche's argument is that men are as deeply involved in this issue as women, and so their perspective is equally valuable. The reason #MeToo wants to keep men quiet is because men might not say what they want to hear…like when Liam Neeson echoed my thoughts and called the movement a bit of a "witch hunt". I appreciate Ms. Binoche speaking up and out because I am constantly told by hectoring readers, or now former readers, that I should keep my mouth shut on #MeToo issues (and all issues really) because I am a straight, White, male. I have always found this line of attack to be so transparently infantile and foolish as to be absurd, but it seems to be the favorite fall back position for people who are entirely incapable of formulating and articulating a coherent logical argument. 

JAMES FRANCO IN THE CROSS HAIRS

Another big story were the charges of sexual misconduct against actor James Franco by his former girlfriend and some of his acting students. The charges against Franco and Aziz Ansari are so typical of Phase Three of a Sex Panic that it is remarkable. One of the claims against Franco was that while he was in a romantic relationship with a woman, Violet Paley, he allegedly took out his penis while they sat in a parked car together and motioned for her to perform fellatio upon him. The woman claimed she didn't want to do it but did because she "didn't want Franco to hate her". 

The Ansari situation was a date where the two people got naked, performed sex acts on each other and then Ansari kept asking for intercourse and the woman declined and so the date ended. Later, both Franco's companion Ms. Paley and Ansari's date Grace, claimed they were "sexually assaulted". It is objectively obvious that what happened to these woman may have been uncomfortable for them, but it was not sexual assault. In hindsight, these women regretted what they did and they used the #MeToo movement to turn their regret into revenge upon the famous men they felt treated them poorly.  

What the Franco and Ansari cases highlight is one of the things that disturbs me and the previously mentioned female writers Flanagan, Weiss, Merkin and Daum, and that is the embrace of victimhood and the reinforcing of a learned helplessness on the part of the women involved. As Caitlin Flanagan writes in her piece about Ansari's date Grace who was uncomfortable but didn't leave the situation, "have we forgotten how to call a cab?"

The dangerous dynamic being set up by #MeToo is that women are delicate, fragile flowers who have no agency and who need special protection. To me that is the exact opposite of what is required to change the predatory paradigm under which the sexual harassment and misconduct that #MeToo has so nobly highlighted once prospered. 

If women, like Grace and Ms. Paley, make bad decisions they must take responsibility for them, not use #MeToo to turn their regret into revenge because all that does is muddy the waters revolving around the issue of rape and sexual assault. For Ansari's date Grace to claim what happened that night was sexual assault is so outrageous as to be obscene, and is extremely disrespectful to women (and men) who truly have been sexually assaulted.  

STAR FUCKER

Both Ansari's date Grace and James Franco's former companion Ms. Paley strike me as women who fall into a particular category of person that is all too common in the entertainment industry. The Rolling Stones aptly named these type of people as "star fuckers" (see video below). I fully acknowledge that is an unkind term, but that doesn't make it any less descriptively accurate. In the cases of Ms. Paley and Grace, these women were interested in these men because of their fame and wanted to use that fame to their social advantage. When that didn't happen, their infatuation turned into affliction and they sought their pound of public flesh. 

THE SIREN'S CALL OF VICTIMHOOD

The Ansari/Grace story has highlighted the notion that the Siren's call of victimhood seems to intoxicate younger women much more than it does older ones, probably because older ones fought so hard to not be victims, while younger ones have grown up with victim status being exalted.

I have written previously about how tempting it is to turn any sexual interaction into a claim of sexual assault or misconduct when the payoff for that is unchallenged acceptance and identification with the archetypal energy of the victim. This approach may be emotionally satisfying in the short term for the individual, but is a death knell for the #MeToo movement in the long term. 

Women won't become safer from predatory men, or be more empowered with the #MeToo embrace of victimhood, but will only empower predators more. And by stifling male voices, and taking away female agency, women are inadvertently generating a dynamic that ultimately will increase the chances of harassment and assault happening, not reduce them.

Women do not need to be protected because they are emotionally slight and psychologically weak, they need to be empowered by acknowledging and celebrating their innate mental, physical, spiritual and emotional toughness and resilience. Women need to be taught from as early an age as possible that it is ok to be hated, that way when they grow up, they won't feel "coerced" into blowing a guy when they don't want to all to avoid being "hated". Women also need to learn that their self-worth should not be determined by the fame of the man with whom they sleep. They also need to learn that their bodies are theirs to do with as they please and that they are responsible for the choices they make and the consequences that come with them. All of these things are things that women in the #MeToo movement and modern feminists would say they want for women as well, but their actions thus far do not support this long term outcome, in fact, they guarantee the exact opposite. 

LITTLE BILL MAHER MAKES A POINT!!

This past Friday I forced myself to watch Real Time with Bill Maher on HBO. Maher is a vapid thinker and an insipid comedian, but I feel it is my duty to watch him so you don't have to. This week, something remarkable happened…I actually agreed with Little Bill Maher. I know, I know, I am just as shocked and horrified as you are. After having spent the last few years referring to him as "Little Bill" and claiming he enjoyed performing fellatio on members of the intelligence community establishment, here I was nodding in agreement with what that silly-putty faced douche bag was saying. I was so startled by this turn of events I sat for hours pondering if my thinking was wrong because Maher thought I was right. 

I agreed with Maher because in his "New Rules" segment to close the show, he did a lengthy bit on the #MeToo movement. Maher went through his argument and basically made the case that while he believes sexual misconduct is abhorrent and should be stopped, the #MeToo movement is damaging to that cause because it is emotionalist and anti-reason.

Upon further review I realized that the reason I liked Maher's bit and agreed with it so much is because I wrote the same exact thing many times over. In fact, it seems very clear to me that either Maher, or more likely, someone on his writing staff, had read my RT piece on the subject that coincidentally came out during his show's recent hiatus. The reason I conclude this? Because Maher uses the same argument, structure and the examples in his New Rules segment as I did in my RT piece and its recent update. Read my piece and then watch the segment below to see what I am talking about.

Look, I am glad people are finally coming around and listening to me, but if Bill Maher wanted to be ahead of the curve for once, he could simply throw me a couple bucks and I'd happily consult for his stupid show. Ok…to be honest it would take considerably more than a "couple bucks", and even then I wouldn't do it "happily", but I would do it….maybe…but I'd still call him Little Bill.

In conclusion, things are happening fast and furious with #MeToo. Stories break on the subject everyday, from Woody Allen to Michael Douglas to David Copperfield, there is always a new charge and a new headline. We are knee deep in Phase Three of this current sex panic and the cracks in the veneer of the movement are showing and growing. The Aziz Ansari story is NOT the "have you no shame" - McCarthyism stopping moment, but it is an important moment none the less because it reveals the deep foundational rifts within the #MeToo movement. Phase four and the inevitable backlash is a ways off, but it is definitely coming, especially with #MeToo adherents choosing reactionary emotionalism over nuance and self reflection. These are strange times, and they will no doubt only get stranger.

 

©2017

Profiles in PC Courage: Brave Millennials Attack 'Friends'

5a60ba1ffc7e93e5148b4568.jpg

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes 33 seconds

Hyper-sensitive Millennials watching the 1990’s sitcom Friends on Netflix have been emotionally triggered by what they perceive to be the show’s homophobia and misogyny.

America is under attack. Just read the headlines, we are surrounded by vicious enemies intent on destroying our way of life. There are imaginary missiles being shot at Hawaii. Vladimir Putin is hiding under every American’s bed. And now Friends, that cornerstone of the 1990’s Must See TV craze, has been revealed to be the enemy within working to destroy our politically correct American values.

Friends, which ran from 1994 to 2004, followed the travails of the Friends, Ross and Rachel, Chandler and Monica, Phoebe and Smelly Cat and Joey and every woman in New York, and Americans, me among them, watched it with a religious fervor. Friends was so ubiquitous in the 90’s, you simply couldn’t escape it or it’s relentless ear worm of a theme song “I’ll Be There For You”, even star Jennifer Aniston’s hair cut “The Rachel” became a cultural craze.

So, how can a benign, mass market, corporate network television show like the 90’s beloved NBC sitcom Friends be anything but mild entertainment? Well, little did we know at the time, but Friends had a dirty little secret that, due to some very delicate and sensitive Millennials, has been exposed twenty years later.

The truth of Friends is this, as I and the rest of America were mindlessly enjoying the shenanigans of the Friends as they hung out in their ridiculously oversized New York City apartments and drank coffee at Central Perk, their absurdly welcoming coffee shop, we were actually being conditioned to hate women, homosexuals and fat people. I know it is hard to believe, and I am just as shocked as you are about this whole turn of events, but it is true. I know this because a bunch of Millennials took to Twitter to alert me to the error of my Friends watching ways and the malevolent evil infecting the show.

635951612081865157-510219837_Monica-1.jpg

This whole situation started because all ten seasons of Friends are now available on Netflix and Millennials have been checking out the show. As they watched, some of the more fragile Millennials got “emotionally triggered” when they noticed something sinister, namely that Friends is homophobic, misogynistic and fat-shames people…well…not all people, mostly just Monica, who, let’s be honest, was shamefully obese as a teenager.

These emotionally-triggered Millennials then took to the internet in a tizzy of Friends-fueled outrage to share their disgust at discovering all of the insensitive jokes about Chandler’s sexuality, Monica’s girth and empty-headed lothario Joey’s lust-fueled womanizing.

When I think of these brave young Millennials forcing themselves to sit through the politically incorrect nightmare of Friends just so they could inform me of its evils, I’m reminded of another generation of self-less young people who, at a similar age as the Millennials are now, 18, 19 and 20 years old, stormed the beaches at Normandy under a torrent of Nazi machine gun fire and were sacrificed by the thousands in order to assist the Allies in getting a foothold in Europe against Hitler’s war machine.

overlord.jpg

Those young men who fought World War II have been branded the “Greatest Generation”, but after being “woke” by these anti-Friends Millennials, I have now come to realize that the true “Greatest Generation” of American heroes are actually the Millennial multi-cultural couch warriors braving the savage horror of watching Friends on Netflix. These courageous heroes and heroines have survived a fate much crueler than anything seen on D-Day, they’ve had to survive being exposed to the most brutal weapon of all, indelicate humor!

Friends’ homophobia, in particular, is an atrocity that is utterly shocking to behold in hindsight. I wish there had been some intrepid Millennials around back in the 90’s so they could have notified GLAAD, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, about the horrific gay bashing comedy of Friends. In case you were unaware, GLAAD is a watchdog against homophobia in the media and they surely would have held a vile show like Friends to account for their anti-gay and hate filled humor. Oh wait…I just looked it up and it seems a non-Millennial did inform GLAAD back in the 90’s about Friends and GLAAD swiftly responded by nominating the show three times (1995,’96,’97) and awarding them once (1995) for their prestigious GLAAD Media Award which is to “recognize and honor various branches of the media for their outstanding representations of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and the issues that affect their lives.”

I am flabbergasted that GLAAD was so easily duped by Friends!! I hope some Millennials valiantly take to twitter to do battle with GLAAD for their Chamberlain-esque appeasement of Friends back in ’95!

Bill-Cosby-Rape.png

Having had the scales torn from my eyes regarding Friends, I now look with a jaundiced eye to the other sitcoms of my past. With the true nature of Friends revealed, the whole house of Must See TV cards now crumbles and we are left with some very ugly truths. For example, Seinfeld wasn’t just a witty show about nothing, it was a piece of propaganda meant to uphold the patriarchy and white supremacy. Cheers was not an amusing little romp about a rag-tag group of fun-loving friends in a Boston bar but rather a vehicle to demean the working class as drunk and stupid while fat-shaming Norm in the process. The Cosby Show wasn’t a good-humored program about a kindly upper middle class African-American doctor and his family, but rather was a vehicle meant to uphold a veneer of normalcy that obfuscated the truth about a man and his serial sexually predatory behavior. (OK…that last one actually IS true.)

I was initially skeptical but have now been thoroughly convinced by the emotional Millennial outcry against Friends. I believe with all of my soul that my once best Friends, Rachel, Monica, Phoebe, Chandler, Joey and Ross, and even Ross’s funny little monkey Marcel, have most egregiously over-stepped the bounds of decent humane behavior and political correctness with their homophobia, misogyny and fat-shaming.

I, for one, admire our newest “Greatest Generation”, the Millennials, and applaud them as they mount their revisionist history offensive against the scourge of past comedy that in hindsight may be considered slightly questionable and that makes them feel ever-so-mildly uneasy.

CHURCHILL_2649842b.jpg

When I think of these brave young men and women and the long fight that lay ahead for them, I am reminded of Winston Churchill’s famous rallying cry for the British as they faced down the Nazis. If Churchhill were alive today I’m sure he would tell Millennials…”We shall go on to the end. We shall fight Everybody Loves Raymond, we shall fight on against Frazier and The Golden Girls, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength against The Simpsons, we shall defend Political Correctness, whatever the cost may be (as long as it is minimal and requires no effort greater than tweeting). We shall fight Who’s the Boss from the 80’s, we shall fight Mary Tyler Moore and M*A*S*H* from the 70’s, and we shall fight The Dick Van Dyke Show from the 60’s and I Love Lucy from the 50’s; we shall never surrender!”

In closing and as thanks for enlightening me to the pernicious villainy of Friends, I want to share with my new Millennial “friends” these sage words of wisdom which struck a chord with me when I was a young man and might do the same for them as they make their way in the world. So Millennials, rouse yourself from your parent’s couch, put down your energy drink, your vape and your iPhone 8 and lose yourself in the insipid, banal brilliance of The Rembrandts “I’ll Be There For You”…and try not to get too offended.

“So no one told you life was going to be this way.

Your job’s a joke, you’re broke, your love life’s D.O.A.

It’s like you’re always stuck in second gear,

when it hasn’t been your day, your week, your month, or even your year, but…I’ll be there for you (when the rain starts to pour)

I’ll be there for you (like I’ve been there before)

I’ll be there for you (cause you’re there for me too)!”

A VERSION OF THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON THURSDAY, JANUARY 18, 2018 AT RT.

©2017

Queen Oprah - Pope of the Cult of Personality

QueenOprah.jpg

Estimated Reading Time: 6 minutes 66 seconds

A week ago Oprah was the talk of the town out here in Hollywood after she gave a rousing speech at the Golden Globes which many felt was presidential in tone, if not ambition. The media quickly hopped aboard the "Oprah for President" train and rode it for all it was worth. Since the Oprah train is currently refueling in the station while the media and the American public, both of which have the attention span of a brain addled fruit fly, have turned their attention to talk of "shitholes", I though I'd take this opportunity to share my two cents on Oprah's impending ascension to the throne. 

As I said in my Golden Globes article last week, I think Oprah is a very compelling figure. Her life story is almost the quintessential American Dream narrative for the modern day. That said, I think the fact that Oprah is being embraced as a savior for the Democratic party and America is a giant red warning sign of a nation and democracy in a death spiral.

FLIP SIDES OF THE SAME COIN

The main reason liberals and democrats are so enthused about Oprah is only because they believe she can beat Trump. Beating Trump is the be all and end all of Democrats existence at this point and Oprah seems like a magic silver bullet to bring down the Flame-Haired Wolf-Trump. 

20080516_bts_109_350x263.jpg

On a strategic level, I think this point of view may very well be correct. Oprah can and I believe would beat Trump if she is nominated. But her victory would signify the end of America as a serious, viable superpower that is the most powerful nation on the planet. The reason being that while Oprah is the polar opposite of Trump in many ways, at the most basic level she is just the flip side of the same celebrity coin that inspires the most base instincts of the American sheeple. Oprah, like Trump, would not be elected due to her ideas but because of her celebrity. Just like Trump, she would also be elected out of a reactionary and emotional impulse (in Trump's case against Obama and the establishment, in Oprah's case against Trumpism) rather than out of a thoughtfully and logically driven response to America's difficulties.

The differences between Oprah and Trump are glaring. The most obvious is that she is a self-made billionaire while Trump, who inherited his father's fortune and business, was born with a silver spoon so far in his mouth it shone out his "shithole". Other differences are that Oprah is an optimistic, inquisitive, African-American woman and Trump is a gloomy, incurious, White man. 

In terms of similarities between Oprah and Trump, they are pretty obvious. Both are celebrities, both built their brand on
lower class" (talk show,reality tv) television, both are very wealthy (although Oprah is actually wealthy, whereas Trump claims to be wealthy) and both are so famous as to be known by only one name. 

THE UNIVERSITY OF THE CULT OF OPRAH

There is another similarity that the media and liberals seem to have overlooked in their comparison between these two personality behemoths, and that is that they are both egotistic, narcissistic, charlatans of the highest order. 

I know that some people will be furious that I have blasphemed Queen Pope Oprah by declaring her to be a fraud, but the evidence is very clear for any who wish to open their eyes to see it. 

Oprah's entire empire was built on monetizing other people's misery and desperation. Her talk show had the veneer of "self-help", but like the vast majority of self-help snake oil salesman, it was little more than a flim-flam operation. Oprah's two biggest apostles, Dr. Phil and Dr. Oz make beaucoup money on their snake oil commissions and are unimpeachable proof of Oprah's, and their, fraudulence. 

If you spent anytime consciously watching Oprah's talk show over the years, or her other show on her network OWN, in her "retirement" years, a few things become very clear. The first is that the shows are nothing but bias confirmation for the members of the cult of Oprah. Secondly, and not surprisingly, the shows are never about the guests or any insight they might provide, but rather about Oprah and any insight she may gain, and since she is head of the cult, it is only when she gains insight that the information can then assimilated by the entire congregation. 

992oft.jpg

In a way, Oprah's entire self-help Empire is like Trump University on New Age steroids. Oprah's status as a cult leader was constantly reinforced through pseudo-spiritual speak and the giving of ever more elaborate and expensive gifts to her audience (you get a car! you get a car!). Oprah is the High Priestess/Popess of that insipid brand of the New Age called The Secret or in more conventional Christian terms, The Prosperity Gospel. The Secret/Prosperity Gospel is about people getting all the things they desire, a big house, a new car, a sexy spouse, lots of money etc. etc. It is a religion of rewards devoid of sacrifice or humility. What The Secret/Prosperity Gospel, and Oprah, really do though is put a pseudo-Christian spiritual veneer on top of what, at its core, is nothing more than blind and unadulterated greed. 

Trump's entire existence is fueled by the same unadulterated greed that is the lifeblood of Oprah's movement. Oprah's (and Trump's) Church of American Greed adherents make sure to never actually spend time in self-reflection or self-inspection, rather they simply spend their time trying to "manifest" the dreams and riches they instinctively and impulsively desire. A true spiritual approach would be to look deep within to try and discover WHY you are so hungry for these worldly things, and to resolve that part of your psyche and spirit so that you can attain purpose and meaning in your life WITHOUT a mansion, fancy cars or millions. But that sort of genuine spiritual work is anathema to both Oprah and Trump, who at their core only care about the external trappings of life and not internal fulfillment. Trump wears his vapid greed by adorning his life with things that look expensive, like gold, and Oprah does the same thing, except she adorns her life with the fools gold of shallow New Age speak like The Secret or Eckhart Tolle and the pose of enlightenment.

A MILLION LITTLE PIECES

Oprah and Trump both are victims of their own ego, and both make sure to self-aggrandize by placing their name on absolutely everything they touch. Trump does this with his buildings and businesses and Oprah does it her network, shows and businesses. 

An example of Oprah's ego on full display was when author James Frey went on her show to promote A Million Little Pieces, his alleged 2003 memoir of his addiction that Oprah had made a part of her "Oprah's Book Club" (notice the name branding there!!). It later turned out that Frey either made up or embellished a great deal of the book and Oprah had a conniption. Frey actually went on her show in 2006 and she gave him a serious and humiliating dressing down in front of America. The gist of her assault on Frey was this, "how DARE you lie to me!" 

Here+Are+Some+Softballs%2C+It%27s+Always+Smart+to+Back+Big+Money.jpg

What was intriguing to me was that in October of 2002 Oprah had another show where she had on guests who vociferously espoused the Bush administrations Iraq war propaganda. Oprah's guests included infamous New York Times reporter Judith Miller, pro-war pundit Kenneth Pollock and Ahmed Chalabi's "right hand man". Oprah lapped up these guests pro-war propaganda and punditry and actually shut down an audience member who asked a question of the veracity of the guests claims (see video below).

What is striking about this is that Oprah never had Judith Miller or Kenneth Pollack or any other pro-Iraq War people on her show after the war went bad and the WMD propaganda crumbled when it met reality. Oprah never got furious with these people and never held them to account. The reason that James Frey felt Oprah's fury and Judith Miller didn't, is because it was personal with Frey because she had attached her name to his book. Oprah wouldn't dare speak truth to power in holding the lying, war-mongering neo-cons who are responsible for the deaths of a million Iraqis accountable, but she would bully some dopey writer who bullshitted her with his book. This pattern of using "tough love" to those below her but kid gloves with those above her, are a trademark of Oprah's television personality. 

Besides ego, the other reason Oprah was so enraged by Frey was because he jeopardized her entire self-help, New Age brand by soiling it with the reality of his exposed lies, and Oprah is in the business of selling fantasy. Frey's lies pulled back the curtain and revealed that there is a formula for extracting money out of the desperate, and it is by telling them what they want to hear and couching it in the spiritual terms that make it seem profound. This spiritualized flim flam formula is Oprah's bread and butter and Frey's being caught lying threatened to shatter the even bigger lie of Oprah's empire into a million little pieces, which is why she lashed out so forcefully against him. 

SPEAK YOUR TRUTH?

The most important thing that Oprah said in her speech at the Golden Globes is something that stood out to me because it revealed her to be nothing more than Trump's liberal shadow. In the speech Oprah praised and encouraged women to "speak their truth." What could possibly be wrong with encouraging people to "speak their truth" you might ask? Well…a lot. You know who drives liberals crazy by speaking their truth…Donald Trump. Trump's truth about the size of his inauguration crowds or his intelligence or numerous other claims, are observably not accurate, but they are Trump's truth. As George Costanza famously said, it is not a lie if you believe it! And so it is with Trump…and also with America. 

95528-Isabel-Allende-Quote-Those-who-seek-the-truth-run-the-risk-of.jpg

Trump "speaking his truth" infuriates liberals, but liberals, Oprah in particular, are guilty of the same sort of post-modern subjective truth making of their own. For instance, in the #MeToo movement, sexual harassment is solely a function of a woman's subjective experience, not of an objective truth backed up by observable facts. The same is true for the transgender issue. Transgender people have the subjective experience of identifying with a  different gender than their sexual organs would indicate, but the objective, observable reality to the rest of the world is at odds with their subjective experience. The transgender movement is trying to convince or force a transgender individuals subjective experience as being greater than observable objective reality. Both #MeToo and the transgender movement deal with deeply personal, traumatic and serious issues which should not be dismissed or taken lightly, but that doesn't mean we should ignore the glaring similarities between these movements and Trump when it comes to defining and speaking their "truth" and liberal hypocrisy in the face of such subjective - objective contradictions.

Whenever anyone either says they are "speaking their truth" or encourages others to "speak their truth", I cringe. Truth speakers are almost always victims of their own ego and speak "their truth" in order to feed that ungainly and voracious beast. What I want Oprah or any other potential president or any other person to do is this, do not "speak your truth" but "seek THE Truth". Do not encourage others to "speak their truth" but demand that they "seek THE Truth". 

THE Truth shall set you free, whereas your truth will imprison you to your baser instincts of avarice and self-aggrandizing delusions. What America needs is Truth Seekers, not truth speakers. What America needs is not another carnival barker, snake oil salesman or woman who will tell us what we want to hear. What America needs is someone to tell us THE Truth, not to tell us our truth is all that matters. With Oprah, as it is with Trump, we will get a truth speaker, not a Truth Seeker, and their narcissistic truth will not set us free but rather will fool us into languishing away in the prison of our own desires.

©2017

A Week of Holes: A$$holes, Sh*tholes and Rabbit Holes

hole_logo1.jpg

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes 48 seconds

 

A ROSE BY ANY OTHER NAME

Last week the media, the internet and the #Resistence®, went batshit crazy because President Trump called Haiti a "shithole". Upon hearing the news I turned on MSNBC and was treated to their wall to wall coverage of Shithole-gate which included going so far as to have the word "shithole" uncensored on their scroll and spoken on their airwaves. While I found the entire spectacle adolescently entertaining, it was also informative, although one had to dig deeper than the salty headlines to get to the heart of the matter.

The establishment talking points on Shithole-gate were obvious from the beginning, Trump's uncouth utterance was proof of his unadulterated racism and a clear sign of the end of America if not the world. Cable host after cable host and guest after guest all suffered from the vapors in an epidemic that bordered on a frenzied hysteria.

Upon closer inspection I found the entire episode to be…well…manufactured. Here are some basic truths. First, Trump is a world class asshole, of this there can be no doubt. He was an asshole before he became president, he is an asshole as president and he will no doubt be an asshole after he leaves office. Second, Haiti is a shithole. These two things can both be true at the same time. Acknowledging these facts does not make you a bad person, it makes you an intellectually forthright one. 

17836158_1485895889.8772_updates.jpg

Now, should the President of the United States call any country a "shithole"? No, of course not. But that doesn't mean that there aren't shitholes in the world…and Haiti is certainly one of them. Does Haiti being a shithole mean that Haitians are somehow less than any other group of people? Does this make them intellectually inferior or something? No…it just means that Haiti is a shithole. And look, when it comes to shitholes I know of which I speak...my ancestors came to America from a shithole (Ireland) and I currently reside in a shithole (Los Angeles).

The real question that no one in the media wanted to ask during the Shithole-gate fury was why is Haiti, or "Africa" or El Salvador - the other places Trump called shitholes, a shithole? The answer to that is certainly complicated, but you cannot answer that question without first pointing the finger directly at European and U.S. colonialism and/or slavery over the centuries. Another key part of the answer is also U.S. expansionist empire and militarism, even over the last forty years, most notably during the Reagan and Clinton administrations, being directly responsible for the instability and devastating poverty in Haiti, El Salvador and many parts of Africa today.

The reason no one in the media wants to admit that Haiti/El Salvador/parts of Africa is a shithole, or asked why Haiti/El Salvador/parts of Africa is a shithole is because they only push historical revisionism in regards to American empire. Admitting to historical reality would mess with the current establishment narrative which can be loosely summed up this way…"America was totally perfect and absolutely awesome until Trump became President". President Trump is certainly a boorish beast, but America has behaved like a boorish beast for a long time, well before we had one in the oval office, just ask anyone on the wrong end of America's big stick in the last fifty years, from Salvadorans who lived through Reagan's war in Latin America all the way back to the Vietnamese, Koreans and Filipinos, if you have any doubt about that.

DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE

Another thing that stood out to me about Shithole-gate is that it made for an extremely convenient distraction while another much more vital story was happening that the establishment would rather we not pay attention to. That story was the renewal of a Patriot Act-era bill that allows the NSA and FBI to do warrantless surveillance on American citizens.

The Surveillance bill is a controversial one, and there were many libertarian-minded Republicans who were against it, most notably Justin Amash from Michigan who attached an amendment to the bill that would force the FBI to get a warrant before searching the NSA collected surveillance. 

Even though he was going against his own party, Amash had gotten the commitment of dozens of Republicans to support his amendment and simply needed the support of a majority of House Democrats in order for it to pass. He got some Democrats to go along with him, but the Democratic party leadership, most notably including Nancy Pelosi (Ca.), Steny Hoyer (Md), Adam Schiff(Ca) and Eric Swalwell(Ca) voted against the Amash amendment and thus it was defeated.

2016_11_12_TrumpVictoryGivesPutinFreeRein21448436966.png

What is so interesting to me is that Pelosi, Schiff and Swalwell are all leading figures in the charge of Russia-gate assault against Trump. Schiff and Swalwell in particular, routinely get in front of any camera they can find and pronounce with a Tourette's Syndrome level of persistence, that Trump is a dangerous, authoritarian, traitorous, treasonous, Hitler-esque, Russian-Manchurian president. These Democrats speak of Trump and Russia-gate as the single greatest threat to American democracy in the history of the republic. And yet…they just voted to give the man they claim to be an authoritarian monster, Trump, vast, unchecked surveillance power over all Americans. Something here does not make sense.

The only logical conclusion that you can draw from Pelosi, Schiff and Swalwell, all from safe Democratic districts in California (as an aside - Sen. Dianne Feinstein, former Sen. Barbara Boxer and former Congresswoman Jane Harmen are all from allegedly liberal California and all are/were vociferous defenders of the intelligence community and allowing them unfettered surveillance of all Americans...hmmm...curious...very curious) , voting to give Trump such vast unchecked surveillance powers is that they do not actually believe most of what they say about the man. They cannot possibly believe he is evil, authoritarian, nefarious or a traitor, for if they did they would try and curb his powers instead of expand them. 

With their vote the other day, and with the accompanying silence over it from the media and the #Resistance®, one can only conclude that all of these entities are simply playing roles in a kabuki theatre production titled "Russia-gate". If Trump was "installed" by Putin through Russian hacking to be President of the United States as so many in the #Resistance® seem to claim and so many in the media seem to imply, then it would be inconceivable if not down right insane to grant him expanded surveillance powers over Americans.

#RESISTANCE IS FUTILE...AND FEUDAL

With the Democratic pro-spying vote, and the subsequent media silence over it, the #Resistance®, in all its manifestations, has proven itself to be little more than a pose. For over a year now I've heard liberals and the media shrieking about Trump's attacks on the journalists and the institution of the free press, but this charge rings entirely hollow when the Democrats vote to give Trump unchecked spying powers over all Americans including journalists, and the alarmist media does not sound the alarm bell over Trump's spying power or the Democrats complicity in giving it to him. (Not to mention the #Resistance® and the mainstream media's glee at RT America being forced to register as an agent of a foreign power...but that is a story for another day).

resistanceBlog-1.jpg

The media silence on the warrantless surveillance bill is even more hypocritical when seen through the lens of their moral outrage toward Trump's "shithole" comment. The media has uniformly called Trump racist over his "shithole" comment, and they have made a big stink (pun intended) about this racial angle of the story, in particular because it is civil rights leader Martin Luther King's birthday on Monday. To see the consternation on the faces of every blowhard cable news personality over this perceived racial slight is the height of comedy, especially when you consider their silence on unchecked government surveillance. The reason I find it so funny is because MLK was the victim of government surveillance, in fact he was the target of a vicious FBI surveillance campaign, the same kind of surveillance that the Democrats just allowed the incorrigible racist Trump to do, and which the media has been silent over. The acquiescence of the Democrats on warrantless surveillance, and the deafening silence over it from the media and the #Resistance® is proof that the whole Russia-gate and anti-Trump hysteria is manufactured nonsense.

Pelosi, Schiff and Swalwell's vote for Trump's warrantless spying of American citizens in particular is actual, tangible proof that Russia-gate is a hoax created out of political opportunism, wrapped in faux-patriotism and for the sole purpose of distracting the masses. Thus far there has been exactly ZERO evidence provided to the public showing Russia "hacked" the election, the DNC or Podesta's emails. None. But with Pelosi, Schiff and Swalwell voting to expand Trump's surveillance powers and eliminate even remedial oversight on government spying, there now is evidence that Russia-Gate is utter bullshit because if it were true Pelosi, Schiff and Swalwell would NEVER vote to authorize Trump to spy on Americans without any oversight. NEVER.

And in the wake of this betrayal where is the #Resistance®? Where is the pussy hat brigade that defiantly paraded through Washington last January? Where is Rachel Maddow and the media with their vociferous attacks on Trump and the damage he can do? The answer is they are all off having an anti-Trump circle jerk while the Democrats empower Trump to spy on Americans without a warrant.

IT'S A BIG CLUB...AND YOU AIN'T IN IT

As a fun little exercise, watch the media in the coming months and every time Pelosi, Schiff and Swalwell go on various networks and decry Trump's awfulness, which will be often as they are thirsty-to-the-extreme, see if any cable news host actually calls them out on their Trump-surveillance hypocrisy. See if Rachel Maddow, Chris Matthews, Anderson Cooper or any of the other empty heads at MSNBC or CNN will ask the glaringly obvious question to Pelosi, Schiff and Swalwell, which is why, if Trump is so uniquely threatening to American democracy, did you vote to expand his powers and allow him to spy on American citizens without any oversight?

Maddow, Mathews, Cooper and the rest won't ever do that because, just like Pelosi, Schiff and Swalwell, they are just dealers in the establishment casino and the table is tilted, the game is rigged, the fix is in and the house always wins. To quote the immortal George Carlin (unlike Bill Maher or John Oliver and their ilk, Carlin really did speak truth to power), "it's a big club…and you ain't in it!". (Please watch Carlin in the short clip below. He astutely lays out the reality of America for all to see.)

The big take away from Shithole-gate is this, the manufactured fainting spells of the #Resistance® over Trump saying out loud what the rest of us know to be the truth, that Haiti is a shithole, is meant to distract us from their complicity in the continued assault by the U.S. government and its intelligence community on the civil liberties of all Americans.

In conclusion, Haiti is a shithole. You know what else is a shithole? Nancy Pelosi is a shithole. Adam Schiff is a shithole. Steny Hoyer is a shithole. Eric Swalwell is a shithole. The Democratic party is a shithole. The media is a shithole. The #Resistance® is a shithole. Poseurs, phonies and fakers all. It has now been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that the true objective of the #Resistance® and their media cohorts is only to further empower the establishment and to maintain the status quo at all costs. As it is with all bullshit artists, from Donald Trump to the #Resistance®, do not listen to what they say, but watch what they do, and then you will know their true intentions. 

 

©2017

Some Brief Thoughts on the Golden Globes

gettyimages-84185179.jpg

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes 28 seconds

It is difficult to imagine a less relevant awards show than the Golden Globes, which unveiled their 2018 edition last night. The Golden Globes are so ridiculous they make the Emmys look like the Nobel Prize for Physics. 

Golden Globe awards are notorious for being routinely purchased (most infamously - Pia Zadora) and are like Chinese food, twenty minutes after digesting the Golden Globes show, no one actually cares or remembers who won. For years the Golden Globes award show has been little more than "Hollywood's biggest party" and the unwashed rubes who weren't invited get to watch the festivities on their television sets.

Last night's show has garnered a lot of attention because it was all about #MeToo and the accompanying self-aggrandizing emotionalist nonsense that surrounds it (like the shaming of Blanca Blanco for not wearing black, which is a wonderfully totalitarian thing to do!!). I once had a conversation with a friend, a Jungian psychologist, who talked about how with narcissists even their pain must be perceived to be exponentially greater than everyone else's, and so it is with Hollywood and #MeToo.

Contrary to popular opinion, the reason that #MeToo is happening right now is not because sexual abuse and harassment were shockingly revealed to have happened in Hollywood, everyone in Hollywood, myself included, knew to some extent it was happening well before the Weinstein "revelations". No, the real reason #MeToo is happening is because people outside of Hollywood have been made aware of the rampant abuse and harassment that routinely goes on here and Hollywood is embarrassed by that…the women of Hollywood most of all. The jet fuel of #MeToo is not the claimed outrage of Hollywood's women, but the shame felt by women who accepted abuse and harassment as business as usual, or who made deals with the devil in order to advance their career or who failed to stand up for themselves or their compatriots when they had the chance. No doubt I will be publicly slammed for "victim shaming" for stating this obviousness, but trust me when I tell you…this is EXACTLY what is being said behind closed doors and in private conversations here in Hollywood. 

NATALIE PORTMAN

Last night wasn't just all about the women, it was also about diminishing the work of men. Natalie Portman has gotten a ton of praise for her actions last night when she was introducing the Best Director category. As Portman announced the nominees she snidely said "here are the five, all male nominees". After she said it the camera cut to eventual winner Guillermo del Toro with an anguished and hurt look upon his face. Portman's holier than thou, condescending girl-speak was an empty and frankly, incredibly rude and graceless gesture. How would Ms. Portman feel if someone took a shit on an award she was about to win? Probably not so great. 

Think of it this way...How would Ms. Portman react if someone said, "here are the all-Jewish nominees" at some category of the Oscars? She probably wouldn't appreciate it very much considering her pride in her Jewish heritage….and she'd be right. So why is it okay to single out men who have been nominated but not any other group, no matter how disproportionate you perceive their nominations to be? 

rs_600x600-180107200009-600.natalie-portman-2018-golden-globes-show-2.ct.010718.jpg

The question that should be posed to Ms. Portman is two-fold…first...what women should have been nominated? I have heard people say Greta Gerwig for Lady Bird. My retort to that is that Lady Bird is an acquired taste, one which I have not acquired, but to claim that Gerwig's direction is noteworthy reveals a truly staggering ignorance of the art of filmmaking. Some have said Dee Rees, the director of Mudbound, should have been nominated. I have not seen Mudbound, which is indicative of the logistical problem with the film and maybe why she was not nominated. Mudbound is a Netflix film and is streaming on the service. Hollywood still has not figured out what to do with Netflix films and whether to take them seriously as cinema or not. Mudbound may very well be great, but so was Beasts of No Nation, a superb Netflix film directed by Cary Fukinaja a few years ago, and he wasn't nominated either. I have heard some people say that Patty Jenkins (Wonder Woman) or Kathryn Bigelow (Detroit) should have been nominated. Anyone who says this is a thoroughly ignorant and unserious person. Wonder Woman was a decent movie, but it wasn't even the best superhero film this year and it certainly isn't awards worthy. Detroit is, thanks to Bigelow's abysmal and amateurish direction, not only an awful film but one of the worst films I have seen in decades. 

The second part of the question Ms. Portman should answer is this…who among the nominees for Best Director should not have been nominated? Should Del Toro be snubbed in favor of a female director? Martin McDonagh? How about Christopher Nolan, Ridley Scott or Steven Spielberg? If Ms. Portman has an opinion…she should "grow a pair of balls" and say who should and should not be nominated instead of acting like a petulant little girl holding her breath and stomping her foot until she gets what she thinks she deserves. 

I'll put my money where my mouth is, or in keeping with the previous metaphor, I'll "whip my gigantic balls out" and tell you who should be nominated….Paul Thomas Anderson for Phantom Thread and Matt Reeves for War for the Planet of the Apes. Who shouldn't be nominated…Martin McDonagh and Steven Spielberg. Your move, Ms. Portman.

GARY OLDMAN

gary-oldman-0.jpg

Gary Oldman won Best Actor for his work as Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour and gave what I thought to be the best, most composed and intelligent speech of the night. Sadly, I have seen articles pop up today proclaiming Oldman of being "this year's Casey Affleck". If you remember Casey Affleck won the Oscar last year and there was a bit of an uproar because he had been alleged to have harassed two women working on a film with him years before. Affleck and the women settled the lawsuit. 

Oldman was alleged to have struck his wife during a domestic dispute a few years back and people are saying he shouldn't have been awarded because of it. The fact that the incident was investigated and deemed to be either untrue or inaccurate carries no weight with the #MeToo mob who are incapable of grasping nuance in any shape or form. It will be interesting to see if this supposed skeleton in Oldman's closet is used to keep him from winning a much deserved Oscar. 

It would be really amazing if artistic awards could actually just be given on nothing but merit as opposed to having the right victim identity or being given the seal of approval of mindless mobs like #MeToo or #OscarsSoWhite.

OPRAH!!

The biggest news of the night came from Oprah who gave a rousing, campaign-esque speech that has all of Hollywood buzzing with the thought of her running for president in 2020. Oprah is enough like Trump for her electoral victory to be a distinct possibility if not likelihood, and just different enough from Trump to be embraced by all liberals and even independents. 

lead_large.jpg

Oprah and Trump are both billionaires, both were "tv stars" and both have no experience in politics. Unlike the silver spooned Trump, Oprah is a self made woman who built her considerable empire from less than nothing. Also unlike Trump, Oprah is a likable, intelligent and inquisitive person that is adored by the mainstream media. Oprah's status as a new age female Pope, her enormous entrepreneurial success and her ease and prowess at oratory and television would make her a formidable opponent for anyone, but especially for Trump, and especially after he has had four years to show what a charlatan he truly is. 

All of that said, I think the fact that there are large swaths of America who either love Trump or who would love Oprah to run against him, is a sign that this country is in a deep state of corrosive ignorance, malignant decadence and imperial rot that is indicative of a nation perilously close to collapse, self-immolation or both. 

Oprah certainly has the potential to be a tremendous president, but none of that will matter as her election in the shadow of Trump's presidency would only reveal an empire hurtling towards its own self-destruction. Oprah is amazing, just ask her or her sycophants and they'll tell you she can do anything, but I guarantee what she won't be able to do is to save us from ourselves. 

THE FEVER BREAKING?

advice.jpg

One final pseudo-Golden Globes related note and that is that this morning there was an op-ed in the LA Times from Meghan Daum titled "Had Enough of the Visceral Response to the Trump Era? Try a Little Nuance Instead." Ms. Daum's piece is well worth reading. I probably enjoyed it so much  because I have been writing the same ideas for well over a year, since before Trump even won the election. 

Ms. Daum's piece, in combination with Daphne Merkin's New York Times article the other day, are hopefully indicative of a fever breaking. I was not infected by the emotionalist fever and so was able to keep my head about me while those around me lost theirs. To Ms. Daum and Ms. Merkin I say, welcome to the party…better late than never.

©2017

Echoes of Totalitarianism in #MeToo and Russia-Gate

1-xiC55xuDkLpvsU_4PalkjQ.jpg

THE RISE OF AMERICAN TOTALITARIANISM

 Is America a totalitarian nation, a nation filled with totalitarians, or both?

As I made the rounds at the plethora of holiday parties in liberal Hollywood, the consensus here was that people are angry and frightened over Trump’s election and presidency. In response, they have found two outlets to take their fear and loathing to extremes, the #MeToo movement and the Trump-Russia story.

It is ironic these stories share the spotlight in our current cultural zeitgeist because while Russia-Gate was born out of a paper-thin intelligence report that was almost entirely devoid of relevant facts, the #MeToo movement was born out of overwhelming evidence and testimonials of Harvey Weinstein’s truly despicable and not-so-secret abusive behavior over the last thirty years.

totalitarism.jpg

Another irony is that the Russia story is fueled by those in the media that believe that Russia and the Russian people are all totalitarian Soviets at heart, while some in the #MeToo movement have, at times, behaved like Soviet totalitarians. While the particulars are very different, the totalitarian impulse at the heart of both of these stories is eerily reminiscent of the dark period of McCarthyism and Hollywood’s blacklist.

In the Russia-gate story the totalitarian inclination revealed itself when the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence investigating allegations of collusion between Trump and Russia declared that the scope of their probe would be so broad as to encompass anyone a subject “knows or has reason to believe is of Russian nationality or descent”.

California Senator Dianne Feinstein also demanded that Facebook hand over all information on “Russia-connected accounts” which she defines as “a person or entity that may be connected in some way to Russia, including by user language setting, user currency and or other payment method.”

This means that the 3 million Americans of Russian-descent are now suspect, and if you fraternize with them you are suspect too. This sort of terrifying xenophobic propaganda, political repression, restriction of speech and mass surveillance would make Stalin proud and is a strong indicator of a totalitarian trend.

The #MeToo awakening has brought much needed attention to the scourge of rape, sexual assault and harassment by people in power, but it too has a shadow that resembles the spirit of totalitarianism.

Dana Goodyear’s article in The New Yorker titled, “Can Hollywood Change Its Ways” highlighted some of the examples of the totalitarianism at the heart of #MeToo. In the piece, she describes accused individuals being disappeared from public memory.

Photographs of the accused have come down from walls, names are being scrubbed from donated buildings, performances have been reshot with replacement actors, online libraries pulled, movies shelved.”

She then quotes a sexual harassment investigator who tells her “An association with the accused is totally toxic now, with this wave upon wave upon wave, and Soviet-style erasure.”

03-garrisonkeillor.jpg

An example of this Soviet-style erasure is Garrison Keillor. Keillor, the longtime host of NPR’s A Prairie Home Companion, had a co-worker claim that his hand momentarily lingered too long on her bare back during a hug. As a result, NPR not only cut all ties with Keillor and his production company, but the words “Prairie Home Companion” have been excised from NPR and they have vowed never to re-broadcast any of his old episodes. In the tradition of totalitarianism NPR has succeeded in creating a world where not only does Garrison Keillor not exist, but he NEVER existed.

Goodyear also writes in her article of an unnamed male movie industry executive,

Now he worries that having a young female assistant will invite speculation, and speculation begets reporters’ calls. The very idea provokes hysteria. ‘Men (in Hollywood) are living as Jews in Germany,’ he said.”

Obvious hyperbole aside (millions of innocents are not being slaughtered over #MeToo claims), the terror that would generate comparisons to “Soviet-style erasure” and the Nazi’s Final Solution sounds pretty totalitarian to me.

Another example of #MeToo totalitarianism occurred last month when Matt Damon learned the hard way that trying to speak reason and logic in the face of a powerful emotional tsunami like #MeToo is a fools errand.

Damon commented on the #MeToo moment by saying he thinks the alleged perpetrators of misconduct should not be thrown into “one big bucket” because there is a “spectrum of behavior”.

Damon then said, “You know, there’s a difference between…patting someone on the butt and rape or child molestation, right?”. He went on to add, “Both behaviors need to be confronted and eradicated without question, but they shouldn’t be conflated, right?”

91TXQd8uNbL._AC_UL320_SR208,320_.jpg

#MeToo gatekeepers Alyssa Milano and Minnie Driver quickly chastised Damon for not adhering to the #MeToo movement’s orthodoxy. Across the board the press joined Milano and Driver in shaming Damon for his “mansplaining” and sent a clear message that dissenters from the party line will be publicly punished.

While there has been some great #MeToo reporting from Ronan Farrow at The New Yorker and Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey at the New York Times, in regards to Russia-gate the media has not exactly covered itself in glory.

CNN, The Washington Post, MSNBC, ABC and many other news outlets revealed a totalitarian level of disdain for truth and accuracy when they erroneously reported all sorts of bizarre and untrue stories over the last year including Russia hacking the Vermont power grid, Russia hacking 21 states voting systems and Michael Flynn admitting to Trump’s collusion with Russia to name just a few of the many.

Even the esteemed New York Times fell for the Russia-gate hysteria when they published an op-ed from Louise Mensch, a certifiable loon who claims that Trump is already indicted and is being replaced by Senator Orrin Hatch, Bernie Sanders and Sean Hannity are Russian agents and that Steve Bannon is facing the death penalty for treason.

In contrast, quality reporters like Jeremy Scahill and Glenn Greenwald from The Intercept and Matt Taibbi from Rolling Stone, who maintain a healthy skepticism of the as-yet evidence free Russia-gate claims, are marginalized and exiled from the bright lights of the big-time mainstream news media.

The United States is supposed to be a constitutional democratic republic that is governed by the rule of law. Sadly, #MeToo and the Russia story thus far have proven themselves to be more governed by the angry mob, with the rule of law being replaced with trial by media or in corporate kangaroo courts.

There are terrible people out there who have raped, assaulted and harassed both women and men, of this there is no doubt, but in the great tradition of American constitutional democracy, even heinous individuals, like Harvey Weinstein, Bret Ratner, Kevin Spacey and Russell Simmons, deserve due process, including the right to confront their accusers and to present evidence in their defense.

It is an unhealthy sign for our constitutional democratic republic that of the 110 men who have recently been accused of either rape, assault or harassment, none of them, not a single one, has been able to have a neutral arbiter, like a judge and jury, review the allegations and render judgment. In fact, in only 9 of those cases have police reports even been filed. Furthermore, only 14 of the 110 people accused have admitted guilt and yet 72 have lost their jobs.

In a constitutional democratic republic these people should be able to defend themselves, but in a totalitarian state, with a trial by media and innuendo, there can be no defense. America has devolved to the point where all one has to do is point the finger and scream “J’accuse” and someone’s life and career can be destroyed.

51zPF9TJp5L._SX321_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

The same is true of Russian election meddling/collusion. It is certainly possible that Russia “hacked” the U.S. election, but demanding verifiable evidence of this is not a treasonous act, it is a patriotic one. In totalitarian states the assertions of the military and intelligence community are taken on faith, but in an alleged constitutional democratic republic, assertions are not facts and evidence trumps faith.

And if Russian election “hacking” and Trump campaign collusion eventually turn out to be true, it is vital to remember that does not mean that Russians or Americans of Russian descent are somehow inherently untrustworthy or insidious.

 

#MeToo and Russia-gate both fail to live up to the standards of a vibrant constitutional democratic republic when they embrace the path of totalitarianism by conflating accusations with proven fact, embrace emotion over reason, tout guilt by association, encourage disappearing people and erasing history, and silence dissent.

The United States thinks of itself as the shining city on the hill that is a beacon for freedom and democracy, but it is fast becoming a totalitarian nation because it is a nation populated by individual totalitarians that worship power and devalue truth. We Americans have all become little tyrants looking for a balcony, and with the #MeToo and Russia-gate story we have finally found one, where we can vent our fear and loathing but at the expense of our American soul.

A VERSION OF THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON FRIDAY, JANUARY 5, 2018 AT RT.

UPDATE: 

One final irony…on the same day the above article was published at RT.com, Friday, January 5, 2018, the New York Times published an op-ed written by Daphne Merkin titled "Publicly, We Say #MeToo. Privately, We Have Misgivings." I was glad to see Ms. Merkin's smart and insightful piece in the rarified air of the Times op-ed page and highly recommend you read it. The main reason I enjoyed the piece so much probably had to do with the fact that I had, in essence, written the same thing numerous times over the last three months (LINK, LINK, LINK). It is always gratifying to be ahead of the curve…and to even predict the arc and direction of the curve (LINK, LINK). I will no doubt never get the imprimatur of the Times, an invitation to their  penthouse is unobtainable for a lowly Russian-media ghetto dweller like me. So I am left with no other alternative but to accept the fact that my lot in life is to be nothing more than the unacknowledged source material for the Times more interesting writers. There are worse fates.

©2017

Justice League: A Review

Justice-League.jpg

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

My Rating: 2.65 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation: SEE IT/SKIP IT: See it in the theatre if you are a comic book/superhero film fan, it is worth the effort. If you are lukewarm or ambivalent about comic book/superhero films then feel free to skip it in the theatre and see it on Netflix or cable. 

Justice League, written by Joss Whedon and Chris Terrio and directed by Zack Snyder (with re-shoots directed by Whedon), is the fifth film in the D.C. Extended Universe, is a sequel to Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice and is the completion of the origin story of the Justice League, which is a collection of superheroes who join together to fight evil. The film stars Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Jason Mamoa, Ezra Miller and Henry Cavill. 

My experience of Justice League was very similar to my experience of 2016's Batman v. Superman (BvS). I did not see Batman v. Superman until very late in its theatrical run, therefore even though I do not read reviews, I had seen enough headlines to understand that the film was not widely loved…or even mildly liked. With my expectations very low I went and saw Batman v. Superman and much to my shock and amazement I joined the rarest of groups, the handful of people who actually enjoyed Batman v Superman a great deal. It wasn't a perfect movie but it was certainly better than all of the negative buzz that was floating around about it.

v1.jpg

When Justice League came out last month on November 17th, I once again avoided reviews but was still exposed to a deluge of negative buzz surrounding the film before I saw it on December 19. And just like when I saw Batman v. Superman, the theatre for Justice League was deserted except for the three other people.  And…just like with Batman v. Superman, my expectations were in the gutter for Justice League and either in spite of or because of that, the movie was able to greatly exceeded them leaving me most pleasantly surprised. 

Justice League is supposed to be DC's attempt (at Warner Brothers insistence) at "lightening things up" from the dark themes and tone of BvS and being more "audience friendly". While I am not a fan of "lightening things up" in general and was attracted to the darkness of Batman v. Superman, I was not turned off by the more approachable tone of Justice League. Would I have liked a much darker version? Most definitely…but Justice League held onto enough darkness that it maintained a certain superhero gravitas that I found compelling. 

It has been my experience that while the rest of the world adores the Marvel franchise, I am more temperamentally suited for the brooding DC universe. The DC films have on the whole been pretty uneven, with Batman v. Superman, Wonder Woman and Justice League being pretty good and Suicide Squad and Man of Steel being abysmally bad. What I liked about Batman v. Superman and Justice League are that they are both cloaked in a very heavy, existential angst that regular folk may find boring and impenetrable, but which I find very philosophically intriguing and creatively courageous. In contrast, I find the Marvel films to be much too light hearted and frivolous and to be lacking in visual and narrative texture. Marvel films are made for kids while DC films, at least Batman v. Superman and Justice League, are made for tormented kids who've grown old. While Justice League is definitely not a great film, it is probably at best an average cinematic venture, but it is still considerably better than any of the Marvel/Avenger movies. 

images.jpg

Justice League benefits greatly from Zack Snyder's visual style that gives the film a distinct look and feel that the flat and cinematically dull Marvel films lack entirely. Snyder's Justice League world looks like something out of a Hieronymus Bosch hellscape, which is only heightened by its being populated  by hordes of villains, para-demons, who may very well have flown out of a Bosch painting. Snyder has always thrived when it comes to giving a film a distinguishing and original look, and so it is with Justice League.

On the other hand, Snyder has always struggled with narrative clarity and cohesion and while he doesn't excel at that in Justice League, he doesn't entirely flounder either. Justice League is more coherently structured than Batman v. Superman and flows better, that comes at the expense of dumbing things down and settling for a standard and generic approach over a more complex and challenging one.

I had a chance to see the extended directors cut of Batman v Superman and thought it added a great deal to the film and I hope that Warner Brothers releases an extended Zack Snyder cut of Justice League as well at some point as I think that Snyder can be at his best when he is free of the restraints of running length and focus groups. 

Justice League is greatly enhanced by a top notch cast that all do solid if not spectacular work. I realize I am in the minority here but I think Ben Affleck does a terrific job as Batman. Affleck's caped crusader is a grizzled, aching and aging icon struggling to keep up with his more supernaturally endowed colleagues and keep the undefeated father time at bay. Affleck is not an actor whose work I have been impressed with over his career, but his brooding Batman is second only to Christian Bale, and it isn't a distant second either.

Gal Gadot is simply sublime as Wonder Woman for the second time this year. Gadot is such a charismatic, magnetic and dynamic power it is impossible to keep your eyes off of her when she is on screen. Gadot's commanding screen presence never feels forced or disingenuous, but always feels grounded, earthy and forceful.  

Jason Mamoa and Ezra Miller do solid supporting work as Aquaman and Flash. Their roles are used to good comedic effect in Justice League (they do most of the previously mentioned "lightening up") but they could have been greatly bungled in the hands of lesser actors. Both Mamoa and Miller never push too hard and they make specific choices for their characters while never settling for half measures when bringing them to life. I don't know if Aquaman or the Flash will be able to carry a film on their own, but we shall see soon enough. 

As for my biggest issues with Justice League…the first and most pressing issue was that the CGI seemed to be rather sub par. Steppenwolf was the arch villain in the film and instead of using a human actor, they made him entirely of CGI. The CGI simply did not look real or believable and so it felt like the members of the Justice League were fighting a really evil cartoon character. 

cavill_trans_NvBQzQNjv4BqVkR74_kydjgeTPIib1rsJ6x30VG81Iu4g0V5oSrMhqQ.jpg

Another example of bad CGI is such a remarkable tale it demands retelling. The opening scene of the film shows a flashback of Henry Cavill as Superman being interviewed on a video phone by some local kids. Cavill, who is impossibly handsome, looks very...weird in the scene. I couldn't place it at first, but there was something wrong with his face. As I looked closer I could see his mouth was deformed. I started wondering if Henry Cavill in real life had an accident or been sick and was left with some sort of facial paralysis or something. I noticed the same issue at other points in the film featuring Cavill as well and was completely distracted by it every time. When I got home I searched the internet and found out the story behind the bizarre look of Superman. 

The story goes that Cavill was signed on to shoot Mission Impossible 6 (God help us all) once he wrapped shooting Justice League. Justice League director Zack Snyder stepped away from the film in post-production due to the death of his daughter and Joss Whedon stepped in to replace him. The studio wanted Whedon to do a plethora of re-shoots to change the tone of the film which they feared was too dark like Batman v. Superman. Whedon complied and did a great deal of re-shoots to the sum of $25 million. Bringing back Cavill for Superman was tricky though because he was currently shooting MI6 and had grown a mustache for his role and was contractually obligated to not shave it off for the duration of that shoot. So Warner Brothers, the studio of Justice League, which had a budget of $300 million, was at the mercy of Paramount, the home studio of Mission Impossible, in regards to their star Superman. Paramount, not surprisingly since they are not in the business of making life easy for their competition, wouldn't let Cavill get rid of the mustache. So billion dollar company Warner Brothers, who was spending $300 million on Justice League, was not allowed to walk down to CVS and get a Bic razor for 99 cents in order to shave the face of the star of their movie. The movie business is completely and utterly insane. 

images-1.jpg

Superman and Steppenwolf's faces aren't the only missteps in Justice League. The enormity of the plot was a bit burdensome as well. All of these superhero movies now revolve around end of the world cataclysms that seem to me to be overkill. Whether it is the Justice League or the Avengers or anyone else, the threat of global annhilation is so overplayed as to be ridiculously redundant. And as much as I think Steppenwolf in theory is an excellent villain (although as stated he didn't look right in the film) and his minions the para-demons are quality Miltonian/Boschean foils, the scenario presented by their assault on Earth felt much too similar to The Avengers plots with Loki or Ultron. In execution I think Justice League pulled that scenario off better than The Avengers, but that doesn't make their lack of originality any less of a creative sin. 

The political subtext of Justice League is pretty interesting. Steppenwolf is a Putin-esque, power hungry warlord who begins his quest for total world domination in what is alleged to be a small Russian town but looks an awful lot like Chernobyl in Ukraine. Justice League accurately captures the divided mess that is our current world as we stagger and stumble from a uni-polar world protected by Superman/U.S. to a multi-polar world reigned over by God knows who, that acts like a bi-polar world. 

The Justice League itself is obviously a metaphor for the United Nations or the defunct League of Nations, in which the good guys protect the globe from the bad guys. Of course, life is never as clearly defined as that, and in our world it is becoming more and more difficult to discover who is good and who is bad. To Justice League's credit, the good guys aren't always so good and they struggle to find their place in the world.

images.jpg

After seeing Justice League I did something I rarely do, which is go read other reviews of the film. Critics have savaged the film with an unabashed glee and seem to have a pre-disposition against the movie. While it was never stated, I think that predisposition to critical displeasure with Justice League (and Batman V. Superman) may have to do with critics subconsciously comparing the film to the last "Batman" movies which were Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy which are a far, far superior collection of films. Any superhero films compared to the Dark Knight Trilogy will pale in comparison as Nolan has raised the superhero bar beyond anyones reach with those phenomenal films. To be extremely clear, Batman v. Superman and Justice League are not The Dark Knight series, not even remotely close, but that doesn't mean they are completely devoid of any redeeming value.

The mythic and archetypal energies at the core of all of these these superhero stories, be they DC or Marvel, is the same, it is just the window dressing that changes. The core archetypes at the heart of superhero stories are what resonate with our collective psyches. Just as the Greeks told stories of their Gods, we tell stories of our mythic gods…Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman and Flash. These comic book characters and the Greek gods are the same archetypes but are only wearing different masks. 

In conclusion, I found Justice League to be a pleasant surprise of a movie that wasn't great, but was certainly better than its buzz would indicate. Justice League is a solid companion piece to Batman v Superman and in fact enhances that film a great deal in hindsight. If you love superhero films then I recommend you go see Justice League in the theatre while it is still there. If you are lukewarm or ambivalent about superhero films then you can definitely skip it in the theatre and catch it at your leisure on cable or Netflix. And finally, in this holiday season when we anticipate a bounty of gifts beneath the Christmas tree, let Justice League be a lesson to us all, that low expectations are the golden key to a happy existence. 

©2017

 

Star Wars: The Last Jedi - A Review

The-Last-Jedi-Movie-Poster.jpg

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

My Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation: SKIP IT. Not worth seeing in the theatre. Don't feed the Disney corporate beast. Save your money and see it for free on Netflix or cable.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi, written and directed by Rian Johnson, is the second film in the Star Wars sequel trilogy and the 8th film in the Star Wars saga. The film stars Daisy Ridley as Rey with Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher reprising their roles from the original films as Luke and Leia, along with Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Laura Dern and Benicio del Toro. 

I have a friend who, in order to protect his identity, I will call "Doug". "Doug" is a huge Star Wars nerd, absolutely loves the stuff. "Doug" is a very successful Neil Diamond impersonator and he spends all of his considerable money on every new Star Wars movie and piece of merchandise.

Just the other day I was contemplating going to the movies and was wondering what to go see. On my list of potential films were a plethora of art house type movies and high end dramas. I also knew The Last Jedi was in theaters so in passing I asked Doug if he had seen it and if he liked it. He responded vociferously that I should definitely, without a doubt, go see it. So, against my better judgement, I heeded Doug's advice and switched my plans from the art house to the cineplex and went and saw The Last Jedi

images-6.jpeg

I should mention at this point that the reason I chose to give my friend…correction…former friend, the name of "Doug" was because I have never known anyone named Doug who wasn't a complete a**hole. It is a fact, backed up by dozens of peer reviewed scientific studies, most notably the Stanford University "Correlations Between Doug and A**hole Syndrome" study of 1992, that anyone who is named Doug is an incorrigible and irredeemable a**hole. If you are named Doug and you are reading this right now thinking, "Hey, my name is Doug and I'm not an a**hole!", well…I have bad news for you…you are an a**hole, you are just such a gigantic a**hole that you are entirely unaware of your a**hole-ness…which ironically enough makes you an even bigger a**hole than I thought your were. 

Anyway, back to the matter at hand. I listened to my now former friend "Doug", I went and did my American duty by paying my Disney tax and saw The Last Jedi. My thoughts on the film can be boiled down to this…the movie is a two and a half hour shitshow. A total mess. I have vowed to punch "Doug" squarely in the ear if I ever see him again in retaliation for his Last Jedi recommendation.

The failure of The Last Jedi is baffling on many levels. I am at an advantage when it comes to seeing Star War's films because I am not a Star Wars fanatic which means I do not take it personally if a Star Wars movie is no good. It also means I am also able to enjoy Star Wars films and appreciate them on a mythic level even when the filmmaking is less than stellar.

Unknown-13.jpeg

With that said, with The Last Jedi it feels as though the rich and complex myth at the core of the Star Wars saga no longer resonate with the collective consciousness (and unconsciousness) of today. That failure to resonate could simply be a result of poor writing and filmmaking on the part of The Last Jedi's director Rian Johnson, or it could be the inevitable result of a franchise that has gone creatively bankrupt through overuse and saturation due to being on its eighth go around. Regardless of who or what is to blame, it is striking to me that this once intricately layered and spiritually vast mythological universe has now been rendered so emaciated and meager in The Last Jedi.

One of the major issues with The Last Jedi is that it suffers from a really unwieldy script that lacks narrative and thematic focus. Combine that with a cavalcade of poor performances and a plethora of logical inconsistencies and you end up with the literal mess of a movie that is The Last Jedi.

To be fair, there are some bright spots, namely Mark Hamill, who always seemed rather underwhelming as Luke Skywalker in the original films, but in The Last Jedi gives a powerful and fully grounded performance that is noteworthy. The film would have been wise to give us more Luke Skywalker and less of everyone else…most notably Rey, Finn, Kylo Ren and Leia.

the-last-jedi-poster-04.jpg

To its credit the film also has some pretty interesting politics running through it. It is undeniably an anti-empire movie and goes to great lengths to show the moral, spiritual and economic corruption at the heart of empire that corrodes the humanity of all who touch it. That said, the film also felt to be very reactionary politically. The use of the term "resistance" throughout the movie certainly seemed to be speaking to our current political climate and anti-Trumpism. Some films thrive because they are ahead of the curve when it comes to the collective unconscious and political sentiments (as the Isaiah/McCaffrey Wave Theory teaches us), but The Last Jedi's politics come across as entirely reactionary, thus making them feel forced, contrived and manipulative which severely cripples the dramatic authenticity of the film. 

To Rian Johnson's credit, there are two cinematic gems in The Last Jedi that were very impressive. One sequence of note occurs in a battle outside a salt mine where Johnson wisely uses the color red and it really makes for some stunning visuals. The other is when two large Destroyer/Cruiser ships collide, which results in the best visual sequence of the film and maybe the entire franchise. 

Besides those two sequences the film looks and feels rather flat. The characters and the dialogue are as thin as gruel and embarrassing at times. There are many cringe-worthy moments in the movie but the lowest of lowlights occurs when an injured character gives a heartfelt speech where she says, "we shouldn't fight what we hate but save what we love", then kisses a guy and collapses to much raucous laughter from the audience in the screening I attended.

The performances of most of the cast are pretty abysmal. Daisy Ridley (Rey) has certainly improved from her uneven performance in The Force Awakens but she is still not a very compelling or magnetic actress. Oscar Isaac is simply dreadful as a hot headed fly boy and I know it is blasphemous to say so, but so is Carrie Fisher as Leia, who is as wooden as can be in her final role. 

Adam Driver's success as an actor is one of the great mysteries of life. His appeal as an actor has always completely eluded me and he kept that streak alive in The Last Jedi as bad guy Kylo Ren. Driver's performance is little more than an imitation of Hayden Christensen's excruciatingly abysmal work as the tormented Annakyn Skywalker in Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith

John Boyega gives a thoroughly lackluster performance as well and feels entirely out of place as the character Fin. I have a friend who is a big shot Hollywood movie director who I call Mr. X. Mr. X said to me, "Fin may be the most worthless character I've ever seen in a movie before".

Mr. X also said to me in relation to The Last Jedi, "I think the art of directing is dying", and "if you can cast anyone in a Hollywood film why cast such horrible actors?" Mr. X ended our conversation by saying "It's like they don't know how to make movies or even tell stories anymore."  As usual, I agreed with the Hollywood big shot Mr. X.

Unknown-14.jpeg

To be fair, I actually did not hate The Last Jedi, it didn't make me angry or fill me with rage. At the end of the day The Last Jedi actually left me feeling absolutely nothing, which is about as damning a thing as you can say about a movie. At this point it feels like the Star Wars saga has devolved to the point where it is completely devoid of any genuine drama or mythological insight. The Star Wars films now seem to exist for no other reason than to justify their own existence and to fleece the movie going public in order to fill Mickey Mouse's already overstuffed coffers. That is disappointing to me because while George Lucas certainly had his flaws as a director and producer, it never felt like he was milking his precious Star Wars creation in order to become even more filthy rich than he already was. 

Ironically, considering The Last Jedi's politics, the Star Wars Saga is now part of the Disney Empire, which, like all empires, corrodes the humanity of all who touch it. Luke Skywalker, Yoda, Obi Wan Kenobi, Han Solo, Princess Leia and the rest have had the "force" and the archetypal insights that went with it, sucked out of them by the "Doug" of movie studios... Disney, which is a mouse that roars like a giant. As a result, the Star Wars universe will never be the same again. Disney is a like a creative counterfeiting ring that drains the life and meaning out of what was once a very artistically, spiritually and psychologically insightful piece of mythic art for no other reason than to print their own money and expand their decadent and destructive empire even further.

In conclusion, Star Wars: The Last Jedi felt like a two and half hour corporate commercial for itself, and for its inevitable sequel. If you are a huge Star Wars fan you will see the film no matter what, but if you are a casual fan, I would recommend you skip seeing it in the theatre and catch it for free on Netflix or cable. That way you can check out the movie and not have to feed Mickey Mouse's voracious appetite for your money while you do so. To you my dear readers I will finish by saying, May the Force Be With You…but not with you, Doug, you can go straight to hell, or Jestafad, you Ewok and Porg loving son of a gun!! 

©2017

#MeToo Wildfire Rages Out of Control (Updated Version)

 

Estimated Reading Time: 4minutes 54 seconds

As firefighters were struggling to contain the wildfires ravaging Southern California, the firestorm of the #MeToo movement burned out of control across America from Hollywood to Washington, D.C. with no end in sight.

This week wildfires fueled by the hot, dry, and at-times hurricane force Santa Ana winds, raged across numerous locations in Southern California. Ventura County, which is just north of Los Angeles, has been hit particularly hard as over 230,000 acres have been scorched with more than seven hundred homes destroyed thus far. Other serious wildfires also broke out in Bel-Air, Santa Clarita, Santa Barbara, Sylmar, Riverside and San Diego and devastated those areas as well.

There were times this week when portions of the Los Angeles resembled a scene out of Schindler's List with black, acrid smoke filling the air accompanied by white ash gently falling to the ground like snow. Air quality was so poor across the city that most schools and parks were closed for the week.

Synchronistically, just as this devastating wildfire was ravaging Los Angeles, another inferno that got its start in Hollywood was wreaking havoc across the country and in Washington D.C., in particular. The out of control wildfire of which I speak is the #MeToo sexual harassment panic that is torching everyone in its path and leaving in its wake a pile of ash where careers used to be.

images-7.jpeg

The #MeToo wildfire started back in October with the revelations of film producer Harvey Weinstein's decades long reign of sexual terror upon the movie industry. The explosion of rage at the diabolical behavior of Weinstein was gargantuan and only gained more intensity as a cavalcade of more women came forward. That blaze of anger quickly spread to other egregious sexual offenders in the movie business like director/producer Bret Ratner, director James Toback and actor Kevin Spacey who all felt the ferocious heat of the #MeToo fire. 

The magnitude of the anger directed at Weinstein was so intense that it sustained the #MeToo conflagration as it spread to other tertiary celebrities like actors Jeremy Piven, Dustin Hoffman and Jeffrey Tambor along with comedian Louis CK.

The #MeToo wildfire was not contained to just Hollywood, it spread to newsrooms as well. Today Show host Matt Lauer and CBS This Morning host Charlie Rose were two more well-known logs thrown onto #MeToo fire. They joined MSNBC contributor Mark Haplerin, New York Times reporter Glenn Thrush and NPR Senior VP of News Mike Oreskes, Chief News Editor David Sweeney and most recently New Yorker reporter Ryan Lizza and PBS host Tavis Smiley as formerly respected newsman who have had their careers and reputations go up in smoke over sexual harassment allegations.

The #MeToo firestorm also spread to Washington where democratic Congressman from Michigan, John Conyers , Arizona republican, Trent Franks and democrat Senator Al Franken all resigned amidst sexual harassment allegations. Then this week Alabama Senate candidate, Roy Moore, lost his election after allegations surfaced that Moore had a predilection for teenage girls when he was in his thirties.

While many celebrate the success of the #MeToo bonfire at bringing down these high profile men who have used their power to assault or harass their victims, I am less enthused about the direction of the blaze. The problem with the #MeToo campaign is that it is not a controlled burn and is more akin to the wildfire of a sex panic or hysteria.

A “controlled burn” is when, in as controlled a manner as possible, the detritus on the forest floor is burned away in order to avoid a larger, uncontrollable conflagration at a later date. The righteous fury of the #MeToo wildfire means that it not only torches the sick and rotted trees but the healthy ones as well, and has no interest in making any differentiation between the two.

images-9.jpeg

An example of the uncontrollable nature of the #MeToo fire is that it refuses to make any distinction in severity between rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment, groping or lewd and boorish behavior. For example, Al Franken (who as both a politician and a comedian I am not a fan of), is alleged to have "groped" or given unwanted kisses to four women and is lumped into the same category as Harvey Weinstein who is accused of raping and sexually assaulting over 80 women and has paid out millions to settle sexual harassment lawsuits. Another example is Emmy award winning actor Jeffrey Tambor, who denies allegations that he made lewd comments toward two transgender women working with him on his show Transparent, is placed in the same category as Kevin Spacey, who is alleged to have sexually assaulted or harassed dozens of young men, some as young as 14. 

As it is with all panics and hysterias, the #MeToo campaign has officially banished nuance from any discussion and embraced a draconian zero tolerance. New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand made that perfectly clear this week when in a speech calling for Al Franken to step down said,

"When we start having to talk about the differences between sexual assault and sexual harassment and unwanted groping, we are having the wrong conversation. We need to draw a line in the sand and say none of it is okay, none of it is acceptable."

The emotionalist raging wildfire of #MeToo also does not allow for any semblance of due process, and the burden of proof falls entirely on the accused and not on the accuser. For instance, Senator Franken, who denies the charges against him, asked for a Senate ethics investigation into the allegations in order to best unearth the truth, but in perfect democratic party circular firing squad, self-immolation style, Franken’s colleagues demanded he step down instead, due process and search for truth be damned.

images-10.jpeg

Another foundational belief of the #MeToo movement, which just won Time's Person of the Year Award, is to “Believe All Women”, the end result of which is that the word of every women is sanctified and proof is never a necessity. Just like the L.A. wildfires, the #MeToo sexual harassment hysteria is designed to be indifferent to guilt or innocence and is ultimately only meant to perpetuate its own existence and voracious appetite by blindly devouring anything or anyone that opposes it.

By creating this environment where alleged victims are deified and can never dare be doubted, #MeToo has all but guaranteed that allegations of a sexual nature will be weaponized by those who wish to destroy men whom they deem to be their personal, professional or political enemies, regardless of the guilt or innocence of the targeted men. Just this week Senator Chuck Schumer was lucky to avert an attack by weaponized sexual harassment allegations.

Gillibrand’s takedown of Franken is a perfect example of how #MeToo is a political weapon in what is starting to look like a gender war, where men are taken down by women and replaced by women. Like an arsonist torching a bankrupt business for the insurance money, Gillibrand put the fire to her potential democratic presidential hopeful rival Franken, in order to elevate her political profile and thin the field in the hopes of a presidential run in 2020. Her maneuver paid off as she is now hailed as the democrat’s bravest and best hope to topple Trump.

Despicable men in public life are being held to account for their depraved sexual behavior over the years, and that is a long time coming and they certainly deserve it, but in the vengeful, scorched-earth fury of the #MeToo movement, innocent men will have their names besmirched and their careers annihilated as well.

Some people will say, “who cares” if some innocent men are caught up in the #MeToo flames. That is an understandable feeling to have considering the history of men in positions of authority using their power for sexual means, but it is an ultimately self-defeating one.  The reality is that this current sex panic will end, sooner or later. No matter how hot it burns, no wildfire can last forever. And when this current #MeToo wildfire burns itself out and the fever is broken, there will be a terrible backlash against those who cynically misused it for their own purposes.

As intoxicating as it can be to get caught up in the whirlwind of righteous vengeance pulsating at the heart of the #MeToo, the shaming and punishment meted out in cases like Franken, Tambor and Smiley does not seem to fit the alleged crime.

It is deeply disconcerting that supporters of the #MeToo are so blinded by emotional fury that they are incapable of stepping back, letting their white hot emotions subside and allowing the cool waters of justice to flow.

Unknown-15.jpeg

It would be a much wiser and more rational course of action for #MeToo to follow the wisdom of one of America’s Founding Fathers, Benjamin Franklin, who echoed Blackstone’s famous formula, when he said, “Better that 100 guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.”

Considering that in the #MeToo panic, rational thought is in short supply and wild-eyed emotion rules the day, it is a near lock that Ben Franklin’s sage advice will be entirely ignored because it is emotionally unsatisfying in favor of torches and pitchforks. In fact, if Ben Franklin were alive today there is little doubt he would be labeled a #MeToo heretic by his enemies, or worse yet, tarred as a sexual predator himself, and tossed by the mob into the flames of the #MeToo bonfire to the raucous chant of “Burn Baby Burn”.

UPDATE: Matt Damon is in trouble today for saying pretty much the same thing I say in this article which caused the outrage machine to go into hyper-drive. Alyssa Milano also had a "fierce" diatribe against Damon as well. Ms. Milano is a survivor of sexual assault, so her emotional reaction to the subject is understandable, but as is always the case when emotions run high, logic is in short supply. The reaction to Damon's comments are proof that #MeToo is a panic, or maybe better described as a hysteria (which comes from the Greek word Hystera meaning "womb"), where not only does emotionalism reign but rational thought is chastised and despised. Panics/hysterias, like the Red Scare or the Salem Witch Trials, never look good in hindsight…at the end of the day, #MeToo will end up being viewed in the same way. 

UPDATE #2: Right on schedule…the #MeToo panic further jumps the shark with an op-ed from Kathy Lally in the Washington Post. In the article Ms. Lally proudly declares #MeToo!! The one problem though is that Ms. Lally was not raped, sexually assaulted or sexually harassed…no...her claim is that she was #MeToo'd by Matt Taibbi because he made her feel bad by making fun of her in his writing her twenty years ago. Seriously. He didn't even make fun of her in person. Good grief. The allure of #MeToo for women desperate to belong and who crave the identity and power of victimhood is apparently overwhelming, Ms. ally being proof of that. Ms. Lally's declaration is frankly offensive and should be taken as an affront to women who have actually been raped and sexually assaulted. Ms. Lally should be ashamed of herself.
 

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

©2017

Perversion and the Religion of Self

Matt_Lauer_Fired_61855-c6491.jpg

Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes 38 seconds

There is something about some of the recent sex harassment/assault cases involving Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, Louis CK and James Toback that I have had a hard time understanding. For the life of me I just cannot understand these men who are compelled to expose themselves and masturbate in front of their victims. Look, I'm no prude, truth is I am as much a pervert as the next person, but I am entirely incapable of grasping, no pun intended, the allure of exposing and gratifying myself in front of an unwilling victim. 

Obviously sex assault and harassment has to do more with power than with sex, I get that, but that only seems to be a pretty shallow psychological interpretation of the issue. What interests me is what is occurring on a much deeper psychological level, dare I say a mythical level, for this type of act to become a "thing" and rise to public consciousness. 

I had a conversation on this topic the other day with a friend of mine, a wise man I call The Falconer. In the course of our discussion, The Falconer and I came up with some speculative conclusions on this issue that I thought I'd share. Here they are….

At the most basic level, sex is a primal instinct. Rape or sexual assault is an aggressive and abnormal expression of that primal need. But when a man exposes himself and masturbates in front of an unwilling victim, he is not using that person's body to satiate his sexual needs, something else is going on. 

images-6.jpeg

As Nietszche tells us, God is dead, and in our current culture that is certainly true at least in terms of the Abrahamic God of the old religions. The old religions are no longer capable of containing the modern man and his pulsating Id, and yet there have, as of yet, been no worthy replacements for those old religions. Mankind is thus in a state of disorientation because we are no longer oriented to the old religions and are yet to be oriented to an adequate new religion that we desperately yearn for to hold all of our expanded selves.

As we wander around trying to reorient ourselves to something expansive enough, we are like hermit crabs searching for a new shell to call home. In the age in which we live, the shell we have stumbled into is the religion of Self. The religion of Self is an inevitable outgrowth of the Reformation and has evolved and morphed over the centuries into a theology where the Self is not only the center of the universe but is the entire universe.

From reality television to Facebook to selfies, it is easy to see how the religion of Self manifests in our current culture. Just like the old religions, our current version of the religion of Self is not strong enough to contain our Id and its accompanying sexual appetites, and therefore conjures up the unique  kind of aberrant sexual behavior seen from the likes of Weinstein, Toback, Lauer and CK.

In the Old Testament, Adam and Eve were told by God to "cover themselves". When Weinstein, Toback, Lauer and CK expose themselves they are jettisoning aside the God of the last few thousand years and are arrogantly replacing Him with themselves. 

Weinstein, Toback, Lauer and CK expose themselves because in their psyches, they are the new god, and the admonition of "cover thyself" applies not to gods but to mortals. Thus the unfortunate women who had to witness the unveiling of the genitals of these men - became tools to sustain their belief in their own superiority and divinity. 

Unknown-13.jpeg

In many ways, by exposing themselves the way they did, Weinstein, Toback, Lauer and CK committed an act of near Luciferain defiance in the eyes of God. These men weren't just sinning against those women, but against the God of the last age, thus declaring their place on his vacant throne. These egregious acts of malignant narcissism are a result of the inability for these men to even consider the idea of humbling themselves (or their sexual desires) before the altar of any other god. Like all narcissists, Weinstein, Toback, Lauer and CK reveal that it isn't an abundance of self-love that generates deviant behavior, it is a paucity of a true Self and love for that genuine Self. 

Of course, all of these psychological machinations occur on the level of the sub-conscious and are fed by the void left by God and the resulting disorientation among the collective unconscious .

In the Weinstein, Toback, Lauer and CK scenario, they also elevated themselves in to the position of god by not being touched or touching the women involved. A god cannot sully themselves with the flesh of a mortal, and so the women who suffered this abuse were deemed to be so beneath these god-men that they could only be forced to watch their sexual exploits from a distance.

images-7.jpeg

In the case of Weinstein and Lauer, they exposed themselves in the course of demanding sexual favors from women, and when those women said no, they would masturbate in front of them as a sort of divine punishment. This is also an attempt to elevate themselves to the status of a god. When Weinstein and Lauer exposed their genitals, the women were supposed to kneel before them in awe, as if in prayer, as they serviced their holy erections. These men were demanding the women worship their erections as talismans of their religion of Self. 

If the women failed to accept the request of the god (Weinstein/Lauer), then these men would force them to face the humiliation and denigration of god. As the men masturbated and ejaculated, they were unburdened, and they shifted that burden onto their victims, who Christ-like, had to carry the burden of that cross with them for the rest of their life. The act of ejaculation in these situations was a jettisoning of the shame and sin of these men onto their victims who then had to carry that shame and sin for them. 

One of the most striking things about this situation is the complete lack of shame on the part of these men. In the old religion where God told Adam and Eve to cover themselves, exposing one's genitals would generate great shame on the part of the exposer. In the religion of Self, it is the exposer who feels no shame and the witness who carries all the shame. 

images-8.jpeg

One more point regarding Harvey Weinstein. I read a piece in the New York Times which reveals that Harvey suffered from erectile dysfunction and needed injections in order to get an erection. This would support the notion that the erection for Weinstein is a talisman of his religion of Self. Weinstein's erections were a miracle of modern medicine and were like the mysterious transformation of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. The fact that Weinstein was unable to get an erection without medical aide also speaks to the malformed masculinity that drives a person like that and reflects that at his core, he is a hollowed out and vacant man. 

Weinstein, Toback, Lauer and CK have all had their religions of Self exposed, no pun intended, for the frauds that they are. The Catholic Church went through the same sort of fundamental crisis with the sex scandals of the last few decades. I say this as a Catholic myself, but the Catholic church was mortally wounded by the child sex scandal, and that scandal was symbolic of the death knell for all the old religions. 

The religion of Self, at least in the case of Weinstein, Toback, Lauer and CK, is going through a similar existential crisis. It took the Catholic Church 2,000 years to implode under the weight of its hypocrisy and degenerate behavior, but it has only taken the religion of Self a few decades. 

The Catholic Church and the Abrahamic religions will continue to exist for the foreseeable future, as will the religion of Self, but none of them are big enough to adequately contain all that is the modern evolving man. For good or for ill, all will be jettisoned to the ash heap of history…it is simply a matter of time, be it decades, centuries or millennia. What replaces them is anyone's guess, but whatever it is, it will only survive if it can hold the entirety of our spiritual, psychological, emotional and sexual drives. 

©2017