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The Weinstein Fallout

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Estimated Reading Time: 6 minutes 48 seconds

The Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment/abuse scandal has only grown larger everyday since the New York Times published an article on October 5th, revealing at least 8 settled lawsuits brought against the movie mogul for his predatory behavior over the years. Since then, more women have come forward with horrifying Harvey stories, more public condemnations of Weinstein have occurred and more recriminations are most certainly on the way such as the hashtag movements #metoo and symbolic stances like the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), better known as the Academy Awards/Oscar people, kicking Weinstein out. 

Even when I wrote about the Weinstein scandal last week, it garnered a tremendous response, some of which was very interesting and insightful, some of it amusing and some of it disturbing. I did receive a great deal of supportive emails and comments, and for that I am grateful, but not surprisingly I have also gotten some less than encouraging ones as well. 

Some commenters thought I was too limited in my attacks on the guilty in regards to the Weinstein case. This is a legitimate criticism and one I hope to remedy. The main reason i skipped the following entities was due to strict length limitations.

LISA BLOOM

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Lisa Bloom is a "celebrity attorney" who has made a name for herself representing women who have been harassed or abused by powerful men. Some of her clients include Janice Dickinson in the Bill Cosby sex assault case and three women who sued Bill O'Reilly for sexual harassment. She is the daughter of attorney Gloria Allred, who blazed the same trail that her daughter followed in defending women against powerful men. It is nearly impossible to turn on a television and not see Ms. Bloom or Ms. Allred at least once a week sitting next to some woman claiming to have been abused by a famous man. The only thing Ms. Bloom and Ms. Allred like more than attention, is more attention. 

The shocking thing regarding the Weinstein scandal was that Lisa Bloom, who has built her brand on shamelessly getting in front of any camera she could find to defend women, sold herself out in order to defend Harvey Weinstein. It is stunning that she would so quickly discard her (and her mother's) life's work in order to kiss the ring of King Harvey, but that is what she did. A closer inspection of the situation reveals that Ms. Bloom had a book adaptation deal with Weinstein's company. Lisa Bloom is a perfect example of how men like Harvey Weinstein prosper because both men and women toss their ethics and morality out the window when fame and riches are dangled in front of their eyes.

CYRUS VANCE JR.

Speaking of shady lawyers, it was nice to see New York County District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. involved in the Weinstein case. Vance Jr. was recently in the headlines for having scuttled an investigation into Donald Jr. and Ivanka Trump for criminal fraud. Shortly after he called his dogs off of the Trump siblings, Vance received a large campaign contribution from Trump's lawyer. Shock of shocks, it turns out Vance also decided not to pursue misdemeanor sex crime charges against Harvey Weinstein when the police brought him a witness and an audiotape containing Weinstein's surreptitiously recorded confession. This will shock you, but after Vance decided not to prosecute Weinstein, he got a large campaign contribution from Weinstein's lawyers. Vance is running unopposed for re-election this November, I hope his campaign slogan is "Cyrus Vance Jr., Corruption You Can Rely On!!"

POLANSKI AND WEINSTEIN - A CASE STUDY

I received some comments recently on a subject that a few different people asked me about which was why Harvey Weinstein was out of the Academy (MPAAS) but Roman Polanski is still in, and they asked, "what is the difference?" Brave Sir John Oliver also brought this topic up on his HBO show Last Week Tonight this past Sunday, so obviously this train of thought is gaining traction out in the world and deserves to be explored.

The answer is that there are many differences between Roman Polanski and Harvey Weinstein and their sexual scandals. One big difference between the two men is that Roman Polanski is an artist, and Weinstein is the antithesis of an artist, he is a business man. Polanski is considered a true visionary filmmaker and a few years before his rape charge he had made one of the greatest films of the era, Chinatown. This difference might explain why other artists are so much more willing to give Polanski a break regarding his crime and not Weinstein.

Another thing to remember, and this may be the most important thing of all, is it was 1977 when Roman Polanski committed "unlawful sexual intercourse" on a 13 year old girl, that is forty years ago. Polanski also admitted to his guilt and was punished for his crime, having spent time in jail as part of a plea agreement, but the judge went back on the agreement and wanted to put Polanski in prison for more time which is why he fled to France never to return. This is a rather large difference between Polanski and Weinstein.

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Also, context matters, and the context surrounding Polanski's sexual misconduct were that he had suffered a horrific, brutal and public tragedy just 8 years before when his wife, the actress Sharon Tate, was brutally murdered by the Manson gang and his unborn child was carved out of her womb. This doesn't negate the severity of the crime Polanski committed, but it does provide a contextual understanding for the twisting of his soul which could produce such abhorrent behavior. 

Weinstein, of course, is the polar opposite of Polanski in that he never created anything except profits. Weinstein is notorious for butting heads with directors, demanding cuts to their films, so much so that he earned the nickname Harvey Scissorhands. He even had the temerity to demand Martin Scorsese, yes, Martin Scorsese, one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, cut nearly an hour off of both Gangs of New York and Silence, which mortally wounded both movies. Being delusional enough to think you know more than Martin Scorsese about making movies says all you need to know about Harvey Weinstein and also why artists deplore him.

So, to sum up, Polanski's case was forty years ago, he admitted wrong doing, was punished for it and is a highly regarded artist which are all in great contrast to Harvey Weinstein's situation. Oh…and Polanski's victim, Samantha Geimer, now wants the case against him dropped, which is definitely not the case with Harvey Weinstein.

NUANCE NEED NOT APPLY

Another reader, a middle-aged woman who used to work in the entertainment business, wrote, "Weinstein, Casey Affleck, Polanski, Woody Allen…they should all be banned…I believe women always and every time!"

This sort of sentiment, which is entirely lacking of any nuance, is epidemic in our culture and sadly, is little more than a short cut to thinking. Here is the reality…women lie. You know how I know that?…because human beings lie, and women are human beings, therefore women lie. Not all women lie but not all sexual assault, harassment or rape charges are true. Some claims are true and some of them aren't.  Any sort of blanket statement that demonizes any group of people, even the most evil group of all...men, is absurd and unserious. Every sexual harassment, assault and rape case should be evaluated on its merits, not on the assumption that women never lie. For instance, the UVA rape case was a lie, as was Tawana Brawley's claim…this doesn't mean all claims are false, just that all charges must be investigated and backed up by facts and evidence. 

As for the particular charges this rather emotionalist commenter makes, the closer one looks at some of them, the less clear they become. Casey Affleck's case is a very convoluted one, with both sides disagreeing on the basic facts and the accusers choosing to still work with Affleck after the alleged events happened and then later agreeing to settle the case. This does not mean Affleck didn't sexually harass these two women, it just means that this case isn't as cut and dried as the pussy hat wearing brigade would claim it to be. 

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As for Woody Allen, his accuser wasn't a woman, she was a little 7 year-old girl. Personally, I think he is a twisted individual and a pedophile, but that is just my opinion. I have never understood Allen's success, I think he and his films, including Annie Hall, are dreadful, but actors, and famous actresses in particular, continue to work with him and defend him. Allen imperviousness to scandal baffles me, and I can't help but discount anyone who is attacking Harvey Weinstein but ignoring Woody Allen. But that is just me and the truth is if we are to "ban" people only on unproven allegations from one or two people, that means we are going to disregard logic, critical thinking and the courts and just allow for the emotionalist mob to rule. That is not something I want to happen, as I believe that it is more important for the innocent to be free than for the guilty to be punished. 

Say what you will about Polanski, Casey Affleck and Woody Allen, but the bottom line is this regarding dialogue in the age of Trump and in the aftermath of the Weinstein story…nuance need not apply. 

WHITE KNIGHTS DECLARE "HOW DARE YOU!!"

Another topic I got a lot of emails and comments on was of the "how dare you" variety. "How dare you attack the victims" was a common refrain and it was usually coming from virtue signaling men. Apparently people didn't like it that I had the temerity to expect the most powerful, connected and successful of Weinstein's victims to actually take a public stand against him back in the day and in so doing put an end to his reign of sexual terror. 

This sort of pseudo-feminist/protectionist approach infuriates me because it is so counter-productive to changing the demented paradigm that leads to sexual harassment in the first place. When the parameters of debate surrounding the Weinstein case are clearly defined that anyone who doesn't treat all of the victims with kid gloves is a beast beyond the pale, then we have calcified the structures that limit women and keep them powerless.

A friend recently sent me an article that describes how when people try to "humanize" Muslims in an effort to counter Islamophobia, they are actually reinforcing the dehumanization of Muslims. The basic premise is that Muslims are humans, so to try and "humanize" them actually and unintentionally dehumanizes them. I think a similar thing occurs in regards to women when men try and protect women they actually, on a fundamental and foundational level, make them more vulnerable.

For instance, when football player Ray Rice was videotaped knocking his fiancé out, everyone went crazy, and rightfully so. But…when Rice's then fiancé and now wife, Janay, came forward and said she had some responsibility for the physicality of the fight they engaged in and that she forgave Rice and wanted to marry him, people ignored her or worse scolded her for not being of right mind. By ignoring and scolding her they took away her agency and made the case that she, and all women, are emotionally, mentally and physically too weak to make their own decisions.

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This dynamic where women must receive special treatment and protections because they are mentally and emotionally too fragile and therefore inferior, leads to women seeing themselves as weak and defenseless. In this dynamic men are the strong ones who must protect women, and thus women willingly give their agency over to them. The more unsavory and predatory men will pick up on this weakness, and like any predator, exploit it to their advantage. Until women are given total agency and control over their lives, including the ability to make mistakes and take responsibility for them, then this cycle will continue. And the more "feminists" of both sexes try to lower expectations for women's behavior in an attempt to protect women from their own errors, the less agency they will have and the more disempowered they will become, generation after generation. 

I believe that women should be treated equally as men, that means being held to the same standard across the board. What happens in cases like the Weinstein scandal is that the foundational belief that women are fragile and delicate and therefore weak and defenseless gets fortified. When women are taught that they are weak and defenseless, they learn that they are "less than", and turn to men to protect them, which automatically makes men the superior entity in the power dynamic. Predators like Weinstein believe women are delicate and fragile, which is why he relishes abusing them, but the basic, foundational belief Weinstein holds regarding women, is the same foundational belief that the White Knights who came out decrying anyone who made the case that the more famous victims should have come forward sooner. These White Knights think they need to protect women, and in believing this they perpetuate the belief that women are less than men. In other words, White Knights are part of the problem, not part of the solution. 

Why I wrote that I felt it was imperative for Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, Mira Sorvino and Ashley Judd to have come forward when they were harassed is because they had a support system and were not powerless in the industry due to their famous families. I would not hold Weinstein's other victims to that same standard because they did not have the same support system and power. 

I think that Gwyneth Paltrow is someone who needs to be held to account for her lack of action in the face of Weinstein's harassment. Ms. Paltrow claims Weinstein harassed and tried to assault her in a hotel when she was in her early twenties. She then told her boyfriend at the time, Brad Pitt, who then threatened Weinstein. Well, Ms. Paltrow had more than Brad Pitt in her corner. She grew up in the industry, her mother is the famous, well-liked and respected actress, Blythe Danner. Her father was a well liked and respected producer, Bruce Paltrow. Her Godfather and de facto uncle is Steven Spielberg…and Spielberg may be THE most powerful person in the industry and he was partners with the two other most powerful people in the business, David Geffen and Jeffrey Katzenberg. If she had gone to her father, mother and Spielberg, they could have snuffed Harvey Weinstein out like a bug beneath their shoe. But she didn't, in fact, she continued to not only work with Weinstein by becoming the first lady of Miramax, but she ardently defended him in interviews. It is obvious that Gwyneth Paltrow's ambition was more important than any feminist values she may have held, and so she sold out other, less powerfully equipped and connected women, to be victims of Weinstein while she reaped the rewards. That may sound harsh, but it is the truth. The fact that stating that truth is considered anathema is proof that the power dynamics where women are on the weak side opposite men will continue to prevail in Hollywood and America.

WEAKNESS IS STRENGTH - THE FALSE IDOL OF VICTIMHOOD

The same is true for women like Lena Dunham who are out there asking what "men are going to do" about sexual harassment. Stop asking for men to do anything, you do not need men to protect you, do it yourself. This sort of approach by allegedly feminist women is unconsciously self-defeating and fueled by emotion.

Another form of self-defeating activity is the #metoo. This hashtag, where women simply say that yes, they have been harassed, is just another form of embracing victimhood. Embracing victimhood is a dangerous game because it can solidify feelings of inadequacy and weakness. With so many women embracing victimhood, which is quite en vogue among all sexes in our culture right now, they are fortifying the structures that keep victimizing them. 

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Actress and director Sarah Polley wrote a piece in the New York Times this past weekend which is endemic of this type of thinking. Ms. Polley lays claim to being a victim, and that Hollywood is male dominated and being a women is isolating and scary, but she refuses to name any names of the men who harassed her. That is a serious problem because Ms. Polley, and the #metoo people are embracing victimhood without going through the next, and most vital step in psychological and cultural evolution, getting your power back by confronting your assailant. 

As long as Ms. Polley and #metoo and the rest just embrace their victimhood and do not name names, then the power dynamic will not change and the cycle of abuse will continue for generations. 

Look, these women did not ask to be harassed or abused and they didn't deserve it, but the reality is they have been and they must accept that it is a test. To pass the test they must confront the dragon that they fear will devour them and slay it. It is not enough to say you are a victim, or to say dragons exist, you must pull your sword, confront the beast, and kill it. Anything less and the dragon will have won, and will make others their victims.

NAMING NAMES - NUMBER ONE ON THE ENEMIES LIST

Which brings me to my final point. A few commenters took me to task for saying I knew what Weinstein was up to, but didn't do anything about it. This is true, I did nothing. I had no first hand experience or proof of Harvey Weinstein's misdeeds and I am not exactly a person anyone has ever listened to, and no one gives a crap about, but still, my inactivity on the subject is shameful. 

With that in mind, I will share with you the name of someone who is still working in the industry who I know for a fact sexually harassed and sexually assaulted someone on a film set. I heard this story directly from the person involved right after it happened, and know that there were dozens of witnesses who did and said nothing during and after the incident because Schiff was one of the bigger names on the small project. The person who sexually harassed and assaulted a female crew member was none other than actor Richard Schiff. Yes, Richard Schiff, everybody's favorite limp-dick, mealy-mouthed douchebag from The West Wing and now The Good Doctor.

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I am willing to bet that Mr. Schiff has assaulted other women, but I can only prove he did it to one. Will Hollywood hold Mr. Schiff to account for what he did? I doubt it because it is too busy scapegoating (in the classical sense) Harvey Weinstein for all if its ills. But I can promise you this, if I ever meet Richard Schiff, I will hold him to account. See, I am a big and very, very scary guy, and if I were in a room with Mr. Schiff he would get to feel what it is like to be on the short end of the power dynamic in a hurry. Schiff would quickly find out that when you are the weaker one it is no fun because you have to rely on the kindness of the more powerful and that is rarely guaranteed. As an example of this look no further than Mr. Schiff who, just like Harvey Weinstein, did not behave with kindness when he was powerful on a movie set and instead assaulted the woman with whom he was working.

Now, I doubt anything will come of this Richard Schiff revelation, but maybe I will catch a break and he will sue me. I hope he does because discovery would be an absolute treat. Who knows, if it comes to a court case maybe that ferocious defender of feminism, Lisa Bloom, will defend me. Fingers crossed!!

©2017

Harvey Weinstein is America

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Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes 39 seconds

Harvey Weinstein’s sexual harassment scandal isn’t only an indictment of his twisted soul but of America’s as well.

The story of Harvey Weinstein, the uber-powerful film producer, co-founder of Miramax Films and major donor to Democratic politicians, who got fired from his job as co-Chairman of The Weinstein Company after the New York Times ran an article exposing his serial sexual harassment of female employees, is such a perfect storm of corruption, depravity and hypocrisy that it exquisitely encapsulates the moral decay of America.

The Times piece revealed that Weinstein has settled at least eight different sexual harassment lawsuits over the years. The Times article was just the tip of a really grotesque iceberg though, for in its wake a plethora of other claims have surfaced.

In a New Yorker article, written, ironically enough, by Ronan Farrow, son of accused pedophile Woody Allen, even more claims emerged of Weinstein’s predatory behavior. One of the many lowlights from that article include Italian actress/filmmaker Asia Argento and two other women claiming that Weinstein raped them.

The most famous women among the sea of those claiming harassment at the hands of the movie mogul are Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, Ashley Judd, Rose McGowan and Rosanna Arquette.

The odiousness of this Weinstein scandal is overwhelming, and nearly public person is going through the Kabuki theatre of denouncing Harvey and his lecherousness but this strikes me as disingenuous at best. All the movie stars, media members and politicians strongly reprimanding Weinstein now, displayed nothing but egregious cowardice during Harvey Weinstein’s grotesque reign of wanton terror.

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Many Hollywood heavyweights like Meryl Streep, George Clooney, Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lawrence, are feigning ignorance of Weinstein’s disgusting depravity, but the revelation of Weinstein’s repulsive misdeeds cannot possibly come as a surprise. Harvey, the rotund and repugnant Hollywood kingmaker, is notorious in the film industry for his petulant and imperious approach, which includes physically abusing underlings and being a lascivious beast to women. Tales of Weinstein’s bad behavior are so legion that even a complete nobody like me has heard them ad infinitum.

So how did Harvey get away with being such a gigantic creep for so long? The main reason is that he possessed the most rare talent that all of Hollywood covets, the ability to garner Oscar votes for his films. Weinstein produced films have been nominated for Best Picture 26 times in the last 28 years and have been nominated for over 300 Academy Awards overall. In other words, Harvey could make people rich and famous beyond their wildest dreams, which is why so many in Hollywood checked their humanity and ethics at the door and looked the other way when he was being such a troglodyte. To quote Upton Sinclair, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

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Blind ambition isn’t the only reason Hollywood looked the other way regarding Weinstein, political expediency played a part as well. Weinstein has been a long time supporter of Democratic candidates, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in particular, and has donated a lot of money to their campaigns.  

A perfect example of someone making a devil’s bargain with Weinstein for political reasons is Lena Dunham. Dunham, a vociferous and vocal Clinton supporter and devout feminist, admitted that she knew of Weinstein’s predatory reputation in regards to women, but still shook his hand and performed at a fundraiser he held for Clinton’s campaign. Dunham said she betrayed her feminist values because “she so desperately wanted to support Clinton.” 

Hollywood liberals were quick to denounce Evangelical Christians for supporting Trump despite his moral turpitude and misogyny, calling them hypocrites. I agree that Evangelicals are hypocrites for supporting Trump, but so are Hollywood liberals for enabling Weinstein. Both sides, Trump supporters and Hollywood liberals, need to get off their high horse and read Matthew 7:5, “You hypocrite! First remove the beam out of your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

Speaking of enabling, the Weinstein scandal brought to my mind a line from a U2 song, “if you need someone to blame, throw a rock in the air, you’ll hit someone guilty.”  When I throw my rock it often lands on the media, and so it is with this case.

Ronan Farrow published his Weinstein story in the New Yorker magazine, but only because his employer NBC news refused to go with the story. NBC is in business with Weinstein on various film and television projects, and no doubt did not want to ruffle the feathers of such a powerful and litigious man like Harvey Weinstein, so they passed on it, which means this story says just as much about them as it does about Weinstein.

Even the New York Times, which broke the Weinstein story, came out smelling less like a rose and more like a manure pile after it became known that the newspaper spiked a similar story regarding Weinstein in 2004 after being pressured by the producer and his lawyers to do so.

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The New York Times dropping the ball on an important story in the early 2000’s should come as no surprise to anyone who followed the lead up to the Iraq war or Bush surveillance, but what was shocking was who helped to scuttle the 2004 Weinstein article. Matt Damon, yes, Matt Damon, Mr. Good Will Hunting and thought-to-be good guy, called the Times reporter to defend and vouch for Weinstein in an effort to stop the story. So did everyone’s favorite Gladiator Russell Crowe. I wonder how Damon and Crowe sleep at night knowing they were complicit in thirteen more years of Weinstein’s abusing women?

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It is uncomfortable to acknowledge, but another group of people who could have stopped Harvey Weinstein but did not were the more famous of his victims, like Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, Mira Sorvino and Ashley Judd. These women did not ask to be placed in this terrible position, but they could have stopped him cold if they came forward years ago. The reason I cite them and not the other victims is because they were uniquely positioned to be able to defend themselves and to take on Harvey Weinstein, where the other victims were not. What I mean by that is that Paltrow, Jolie, Sorvino and Judd all come from entertainment families that are well-known and liked in the industry. They were not powerless because they have strong allies and deep connections in the business. These women, sans Judd, also won Oscars, giving them even more credibility and visibility to make their claims. I do not “blame” these women for being harassed or assaulted by Weinstein, I only wish they overcame their ambition and saved others from that awful fate.

 The cavalcade of condemnation for Harvey Weinstein will continue unabated for the days and weeks to come, and deservedly so, but to see him only as a target of derision diminishes his impact as a cautionary tale. Harvey Weinstein is simply a symptom of the wider disease which I call “reality show America”, which sees human beings as disposable and transactional objects whose value is measured in terms of their usefulness for entertainment or pleasure.

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The true power of the Weinstein story is not about his personal failings, but that it is symbolic of the fact that “reality-show America”, which thrives across the political and cultural spectrum, is a collection of self-serving, amoral, hypocrites who are quick to attack the failings of their enemy but slow to embrace self-reflection.

Will the denizens of “reality-show America” in Hollywood, Washington and the news media ask themselves how they have contributed to the culture that bred a man like Harvey Weinstein? I sincerely doubt it since deflection, emotional myopia and historical amnesia are as American as apple pie.

The Weinstein scandal is an opportunity, not only to see Weinstein for who he really is but also to see America for what we have become…an ethically bankrupt and indecent collection of moral cowards allergic to self-reflection and truth.

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This “reality show America”, currently starring the Trumps and Kardashians (with special guest appearance by the Clintons!) and produced by Harvey Weinstein, shows that America has devolved to the point of shameless obscenity, and regardless of how self-righteous we as liberals, conservatives, Democrats or Republicans may feel, we no longer possess any moral authority because, just like Harvey Weinstein, Hollywood, Washington and Wall Street, we are incapable of being honest with ourselves.

It is difficult to admit, but if we mustered the courage to see ourselves as we truly are, we would recognize that Harvey Weinstein is America, and America is Harvey Weinstein. Both are bloated, entitled, corrupt, bombastic, blindly ambitious bullies, full of fear and loathing, that use their outsized power to exploit the defenseless in order to indulge their darker impulses and insatiable desires. The sooner we recognize that, the faster we can try to change it.

This article was originally published on Thursday, October 12, 2017 at RT.

©2017

The Emmys Get "Spicey"!!

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Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes 37 seconds

Sean Spicer made a surprise appearance at the Emmys on Sunday night and it drove Hollywood and the establishment absolutely crazy.

On Sunday night, Stephen Colbert, host of CBS' Late Night with Stephen Colbert, hosted television’s Emmy awards, and brought along his trademark biting political comedy. For the most part, things went as expected on the show as diversity was cheered, Trump was jeered and self-congratulation dominated the evening.

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The biggest star of the night though, in absentia, was President Trump. Colbert set his sights on Trump and skewered him mercilessly throughout his monologue. Trump’s presence loomed large over the proceedings, even among the award winners, as Saturday Night Live won an award due to its comedic coverage of the 2016 election with Alec Baldwin and Melissa McCarthy garnering awards for their iconic comedic portrayals on SNL of Donald Trump and Sean Spicer, respectively.

Speaking of which, the one big surprise of the evening that has gotten tongues wagging here in Hollywood, was not a wardrobe malfunction, a big upset winner or a La La Land - Moonlight Oscar level controversy, no, the big news of the Emmy awards was the appearance of …Mr. Sean "Spicey" Spicer.

Spicer, the much-mocked former spokesperson for the Trump White House, came on stage and had a little fun at his own expense when he said, "This will be the largest audience to witness the Emmys, period – both in person, and around the world”.  

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Spicer was playing off of his famously incorrigible, bordering on incontinent, defense of Trump’s inauguration crowd size, which occurred in the first week of his job as White House Spokesmen, and set an adversarial tone between he and the press, not to mention observable reality. Spicer's display of good humor at his own expense at the Emmys was moderately well received in the room and according to reports he was quite popular at the after parties.

Not everyone in Hollywood, or elsewhere, was so enamored with the Emmys “normalization” of Spicer. Zach Braff, former star of the television show Scrubs, summed up the opinion of many when he tweeted, "I’m not ready to laugh “with” Sean Spicer. I think he is an evil, opportunistic liar, that hurt our country". Many others on twitter followed suit. 

Jon Favreau, former speechwriter for Barack Obama, tweeted, "Harvard fellowships, Emmy appearances, huge speaking fees: there’s just gonna be no penalty for working in Trump’s white house ".

I dislike Spicer and am repulsed by Trump, but I found Favreau’s anger to be grating, considering the man he worked for, President Obama, committed a plethora of immoral acts while in office and no one ever dare speak of them, never mind hold any of his underlings like Favreau accountable for them.

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For instance, after Obama ordered a drone strike that successfully assassinated Abdulrahman Al-Awlaki, a 16 year-old American boy living in Yemen, Obama’s spokesmen and Favreau’s colleague, Robert Gibbs, said that the child “should have a far more responsible father” if he didn’t want to be murdered in cold blood. What Gibbs said about the Al-Awlaki boy is decidedly much worse than anything Spicer ever said about crowd sizes or anything else, and Gibbs has faced no social penalty for that or for his boss’s unethical and potentially criminal acts while in office, and neither has indignant tweeter Jon Favreau.

And even though the mainstream media and many liberals like to brush aside these uncomfortable facts, let us not forget that besides murdering an American child overseas, and many foreign-born ones too, Obama also savaged the first amendment and freedom of the press here at home by attacking whistleblowers under the archaic espionage act, something he did more times, 8, than all of our other presidents combined. He also sold out the country, the working class in particular, when he ignored the rule of law by failing to prosecute the crooks and liars on Wall Street who, through egregious fraud, drove the economy off a cliff in 2008. Despite all of these atrocious acts, Obama and his underlings have no fear of being shunned by  “serious” people in elite circles.

And do not forget that Obama also made the cowardly decision to “look forward” and not prosecute Bush administration officials for their war crimes. Which brings us to Jeb Bush’s former spokesman Tim Miller, who proved it wasn’t just the mainstream left that were angered by Spicer’s Emmy appearance, but the establishment right as well, when he tweeted, “I know people who were offered opportunities to lie for Donald Trump and quietly declined. Harvard and The Emmys calling wrong folks”.

Anyone even remotely connected to the Bush family calling out Sean Spicer, or anyone else, for shamelessly lying is the height of hypocrisy. President Bush, unquestioningly supported by his low energy brother Jeb, lied America into a war in Iraq that killed hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people in Mesopotamia.

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Besides the war crime of preemptive invasion in Iraq, President Bush also undermined America’s legal and moral authority by presiding over a brutal torture and rendition program that violated international law and the Geneva Conventions. 

This is the same president Bush who also instituted an intrusive and unconstitutional domestic surveillance program in order to spy on the American people, and then had his surrogates lie about it to the American people.

Bush administration spokesmen, Ari Fleischer, along with Bush speechwriter David Frum, communications director Nicole Wallace and neo-con war cheerleaders Bill Kristol and Max Boot, among others, propagated the lies about WMD that convinced America to go to war in Iraq, and also dissembled the truth about domestic spying and torture and yet they now face no social stigma for their sins, but rather are celebrated by the establishment press.

In fact, if you turn on any cable news program you will be sure to see plenty of former Bush administration talking heads not just being “normalized”, but held in the highest regard for their knowledge and insight, instead of being berated for their moral depravity and ethical degeneracy. Fleischer is a regular contributor on CNN, and Frum, Kristol and Boot are all held in the highest esteem at the allegedly liberal MSNBC because they routinely assail Trump. Nicole Wallace is so adored by MSNBC, she got her own show on the network.

These miscreants should be shunned, badgered or chastised at every turn for being accomplices to the Bush regime’s crimes, but instead they benefit from the disease that is epidemic in America, political myopia and historical amnesia.

In the age of Trump, it is establishment liberals who suffer the most severe cases of this malady of myopia and amnesia, and there are no greater examples of this than the odious political comedian Bill Maher, and MSNBC host Joy Reid.

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Maher, an avowed liberal, has been waxing nostalgic for a return to the glory of the Bush years ever since Trump came to office. Apparently Maher abhors Trump’s assault on presidential “norms” so much that he prefers the good old days when the presidency wasn’t sullied by Trump’s uncouth behavior, but only by Bush’s preemptive war, torture and surveillance and Obama’s kill list, war on whistleblowers and his ignoring of Wall Street and Executive branch criminality.

Joy Reid, a devout Clinton supporting liberal, recently was quoted as saying that she has more in common with neo-cons like Frum, Boot and Kristol than she does with those on the far left. When you embrace the muscular American empire of Bush neo-conservatism and the globalist economics of Clinton neo-liberalism like Reid has, you’ve really mastered the art of bad ideas. But at least Reid is not alone with her vacuous ideology, as nearly everyone else in the mainstream media, Bill Maher included, parrot the same nonsense that she does. 

What I dislike even more than Spicer and Trump, is the holier-than-thou hypocrisy of those on both the left and the right in the political and media establishment who willfully ignore the moral and ethical depravity that infected the White House long before Trump ever did.

If the institutions of “decent society” can be so craven as to exalt the deplorable scoundrels who were accomplices to the crimes of Bush and Obama, then maybe those White House veterans, like Favreau, Wallace and Frum, who benefit from that amoral worship of power should, at a minimum, keep their mouths shut and be grateful they aren’t in prison or at the end of a rope.

But former and present Trump administration staff like Spicer, Kellyanne Conway and Steve Bannon shouldn’t fret about their post-White House careers. If they really want to guarantee themselves a high-paying, cushy job in cable news, all they need to do is convince Trump to tweet less and kill more. You see, in the eyes of the “serious people” in “polite society”, tweeting is horrifically un-presidential, but killing, torturing and spying in the name of American Empire? That’s how you get the keys to the establishment kingdom.

This article was previously published on Wednesday, September 20, at RT.

©2017

 

 

Mother! : A Review

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

My Rating : 2 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation : SKIP IT. Even the most edgy of art house inhabitants will find this film tough to swallow.

Most people don't know this about me, but due to a serious health condition (just like Christian Slater in Untamed Heart, I have a baboon's heart), I am one of those weird people who does not drink caffeine at all, no coffee, no tea, no Coca-Cola, and I almost never drink non-caffienated soda either. This is a shocking revelation, but I promise you it is true. Of the rare times I do indulge in a non-caffienated soda, it is always in the form of root beer and always when I go to the movies. One of the very few pleasures I have in my miserable life is to sit in the dark, watching a movie, drinking a gloriously oversized root beer and eating popcorn. Hell, sometimes I go to the movies just for the a taste of that bubbly brown nectar of the gods that we mortals know as the beer of root.

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When I trekked to the theatre to see Mother!, my usual pre-root beer sense of anticipation was heightened because the film is directed by one of my favorite filmmakers, Darren Aronofsky. An Aronofsky film and an ice cold root beer…what could possibly go wrong? Well, two things happened that would portend that Mother! would not be the stellar movie going experience for which I was hoping. The first was that when I bought my ticket I saw that the price had gone up nearly four dollars from what I usually pay. In Los Angeles, movie tickets aren't cheap to begin with, and then to realize that even though I went to the first showing of the day, because that day was not a Monday or Tuesday, I would no longer get the matinee price. So, after being forced to take out a second mortgage in order to cover the costs, I reluctantly shelled out my $16.50 for my movie ticket and then bought my overpriced root beer and popcorn. At this point I was now deeply in debt and the movie hadn't even started yet. I then entered the darkened theatre and began my movie going ritual of shutting off my phone and my mind, and settling in for a film I was excited to see. 

Then, just as the lights dimmed and the opening credits rolled, I took the inaugural sip of my root beer and….God help me…it was FLAT. Now there may be nothing worse in the entire universe than flat root beer…not famine, not pestilence, not war. Nothing!

Now, my conundrum was this, do I get up and make the mile and half death march to the concession stand to make my displeasure known, which will no doubt be followed by a lackadaisical response to my complaint by the ill tempered staff, which will then trigger a disinterested plea on a walkie-talkie to the theatre bureaucracy to change out the floppy bag from which my gallon of flat root beer was birthed. I surmised that breaking through the malaise of employee indifference to solve my flat root beer problem could take at least 15 minutes, and by that time, the entire opening of the movie would be long gone, and God knows they sure as hell weren't going to rewind the reel and let me start my cinema experience over front the beginning. 

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My other option was to, Christ-like, be a root beer martyr and just sit there and suffer the brutal indignity of taking tiny sips of the flaccid, syrupy concoction I was served. Being the good Irish-Catholic boy that I am, I made the difficult decision to endure my tonic torture and root beer brutality, and I stayed to watch the film with my gargantuan, de-bubbled companion. I should have known, all the signs were there, but my flat vat of root beer was a very bad omen indeed for Mother!, which turned out to be just as unpleasant to ingest as my 40 oz cup of flat, teeth dissolving and gut-rotting root beer. 

The basics of Mother! are this, it is written and directed by Darren Aronofsky, and the story is a sort of supernatural, psychological thriller-dramedy about a couple living in an isolated farmhouse. The film stars Jennifer Lawrence with Javier Bardem, Ed Harris and Michele Pfeiffer in supporting roles.

I am a great admirer of director Darren Aronofsky, I believe him to be a true visionary and auteur, and one of the great filmmakers of his generation, second only to Paul Thomas Anderson. Aronofsky's breakthrough film, Requiem for a Dream, is a masterpiece, and his movies The Wrestler and Black Swan are truly outstanding pieces of work . Even The Fountain, one of his least critically successful films, is a fascinating and mesmerizing movie that I genuinely adore.

Aronofsky's last film though, was the utterly abysmal Noah, which was so atrocious as to be staggering. As I said though, I am ever the optimist, so I had very high hopes that with Mother!, Aronofsky would shake off the big budget blues that plagued Noah and return to his signature intimate character study approach to filmmaking that he does so well. Sadly, with Mother!, it seems Aronofsky is still grappling with the same thematic and cinematic demons which devoured him on Noah.

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Mother! is a difficult film to categorize, some call it a psychological thriller, others a supernatural comedy and some still a religious horror film. I think it is mostly none of the above. If I am putting Mother! in its best light, I would say it is an ambitious, experimental, art house, horror-esque film. It is at times, very remotely reminiscent of Rosemary's Baby and maybe even The Shining, but then again it is absolutely nothing like those film at all. There really is no straight up comparison between Mother! and any other film I can think of, which I suppose can be taken as a compliment towards the movie. 

The trouble with Mother!, is that the first two thirds of the film are so suffocatingly monotonous, repetitious and dull that they swallow up any redeeming qualities the film may conjure in its final act. The final third of the film definitely intrigued me the most as it is Aronofsky at his most experimental and interesting. That said, even though the last act is unique, incredibly ambitious and its apocalyptic vision is certainly relevant in regards to what is resonating in our cultural consciousness at the moment, that doesn't mean it is good. While I admire Aronofsky for his bold approach in that final act, I also recognize that he failed at what he was trying to accomplish. I believe that third act is a noble failure, but it is a failure nonetheless. Unfortunately, the first two thirds of the film are so stultifying as to be cinematically fatal. I understand that the first two acts are supposed to be a sort of slow burn that builds to the chaotic, frenetic and Boschian final act, but because the first two acts are so tedious the film never generates enough interest or artistic momentum to make the final act worthwhile or artistically satisfying. 

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The film stars Jennifer Lawrence, who is as captivating and compelling an actress as we have working today, but even with her charisma and luminesce beauty, she is unable to save the banal script from itself. As I watched Mother! I marveled at how it is impossible to imagine any other current actress being able to undertake the mammoth role and responsibility Jennifer Lawrence does in this movie. She is on screen the entire film and is in close up relentlessly, and while the camera dances dizzily around her head she never fails to be magnetic. While Mother! is not a good film, and reflects poorly on its director, it is still a monument to the colossal talent and skill of its leading lady, Jennifer Lawrence.

Javier Bardem, Ed Harris and Michele Pfeiffer all struggle with underwritten and rather incongruous roles that are little more than an annoyance to behold. These characters are so irrational, illogical and unbelievable that it is impossible for the viewer to be anything but repulsed by their presence and annoyed they must be endured. All three characters feel like they have wandered in from a very poorly written off-off-off Broadway play.

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In terms of theme, Mother! is a film that uses a plethora of religious allegories and metaphors to tell a greater story than just that of a young couple living in a remodeled farmhouse. While the film is set entirely in a rather claustrophobic old house, to call the movie biblical in its ambition, if not its scale, would be entirely accurate. Aronofsky uses this house to play out the struggle of God from Genesis in the Old Testament to Christ's birth and crucifixion in the New Testament and even all the way up to our modern times and beyond. The most intriguing aspect of the film is the thematic exploration of the divine Feminine and its relationship to the divine Masculine. The Anima - Animus relationship is one well worthy of cinematic investigating, and watching the Patriarchal God usurp the Goddess is fascinating in theory, but not in execution. I was deeply enthralled by all of the philosophy, theology and themes on display in the film, but viscerally repelled by the lackluster consummation of those topics. 

Despite the intriguing third act and Jennifer Lawrence's noteworthy performance, I simply cannot, in good conscience, recommend Mother! to anyone. Watching the film felt more like an exercise in cinematic endurance or surviving creative torture than entertainment or artistic experience. I would maybe…just maybe...tell my more adventurous cinephile friends, and those who are ardent fans of Darren Aronofsky, to roll the dice and go see the film just to see if they agree with my assessment of it. But for regular folks, and even those who enjoy the art house, I say skip Mother! in the theatre and everywhere else. 

In conclusion, Mother! is similar to root beer, that delightful beverage that is infused with bubbles and a delicious pile of sugar as large as Scarface's desktop cocaine stash. Like root beer, Mother! has all the right ingredients, a uniquely gifted, visionary director in Darren Aronofsky, and a talented and alluring lead actress in Jennifer Lawrence, but just like my lifeless and insipid root beer at the theatre, Mother! never properly mixes its many desirable ingredients or infuses them with carbonated energy, and thus leaves viewers with a bitter and sour taste in their mouth once they've taken an unfortunate taste. Yuck.

©2017

 

The Media Hates Conspiracy Theories…Except When They Don't

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Estimated Reading Time : 6 minutes 38 seconds

KOOKS OF THE TINFOIL HAT BRIGADE

This week marks the 16th anniversary of the 9-11 attacks. Whenever the topic of 9-11 comes up in the establishment press, it is wrapped in the warm cloak of officialdom and protected by vociferous assaults upon "conspiracy theories" and their unhinged purveyors. What is odd is that even during the anniversary week of the attacks, actual 9-11 conspiracy theories rarely rear their head anymore, only the denunciations of them from authority figures in the media who over time have become all the more fervent and ferocious in their attacks upon them. At this point, the sight of the anti-9-11 conspiracy crusaders pontificating in the media is akin to watching a straw man tilting at windmills.

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The anti-conspiracy forces in the press don't just deride 9-11 conspiracies but all "conspiracy theories", reshaping the term into an epithet meant to belittle and mock anyone who dare believe in such nonsense as a "conspiracy". Without fail, every year, the establishment news puts out an article that "scientifically" proves that anyone who believes in a conspiracy is a loser and kook who eats his own boogers and maybe other people's boogers too. Google "why do people believe in conspiracies" and you can see the same article repackaged year after year in different media outlets. NPR, Time, Newsweek, The New York Times, Scientific American, CNN, Business Insider, Research Digest and the Washington Post all have articles reinforcing the belief that anyone who believes in a "conspiracy theory" does so because they are uneducated, lack control in their lives, are emotionally and psychologically unstable and are also inherently more violent and dangerous. 

This belittling approach to conspiracy theories by the establishment press has been very effective, for anyone who wants to be allowed entry into the Kingdom of Those Who are Taken Seriously, knows not to "peddle in conspiracy theory". A friend of mine, a man in his seventies, is so indoctrinated by this thinking that whenever any sort of "conspiracy" is even remotely alluded to he simply says "now you're talking conspiracy theory" and abruptly ends the conversation. He is not alone, as I have had more conversations than I care to recall with people of all ages where people simply refuse to consider something because they label it a "conspiracy".

"SERIOUS PEOPLE" VS. CONSPIRACY THEORY AND MAGICAL THINKING

Kurt Andersen followed the pattern of these dismissive and presumptuous articles when he wrote a magnificently awful, bias confirming, self-aggrandizing piece titled, "How America Went haywire", in last month's The Atlantic magazine where he bemoaned America's descent into non-rationality and conspiracy theory. The piece is taken from Andersen's book on the same subject and if you don't want to read it I'll give you a quick summary, Andersen majestically gets on his pristine high horse and doesn't just tell kids of this generation, but kids of ALL generations, to get off his impeccably groomed, rational and science based, lawn. Andersen's thesis is basically that he and anyone enlightened enough to agree with him, like his establishment liberal friends in the media, are the smart, rational and noble ones who are caretakers of all knowledge, and aren't fooled by idiocies like conspiracy theories or, God-forbid...religion. 

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Adam H. Johnson, did a thorough and wonderful job of eviscerating Andersen's lazy, lackluster and thoughtless piece, and I encourage you to go read his article before, or instead of, reading Andersen's insipid Atlantic piece. As I read Andersen's article I was struck by many things, and then when I read Johnson's takedown of the piece I recognized that he and I both had nearly identical thoughts about Andersen's screed. The first thought I had was…why did Andersen start his timeline for when things really went off the rails in terms of conspiracy theory and magical thinking, after the Iraq invasion without ever mentioning that debacle? This struck me as odd because the Iraq war was a gigantic moment when a conspiracy theory and magical thinking came together and were peddled to the American public as fact by those in authority in the government and the press. It seems to me that the Iraq war was a key moment in destroying the credibility of the news media and authority in the eyes of Americans, which made the public more likely to disbelieve "official stories" and start to believe "alternative stories". But then Adam Johnson enlightened me as to why Andersen skipped the Iraq war altogether in his jeremiad…Andersen's editor at The Atlantic, Jeffrey Goldberg, was a key player in the spreading of those false conspiracy theories regarding Iraq and 9-11, and is a neo-con who pushed hard the magical thinking of American empire in the middle east. In other words, Andersen sold out to his paymaster in order to get his piece published in The Atlantic, which will now act as a commercial for his new book. Needless to say, Andersen's credibility and intellectual integrity are entirely scuttled by his decision to ignore some of the more glaring examples of conspiracy theories and magical thinking in recent times.

It isn't just the graveyard of the Iraq war that Andersen whistles past, what about the other real conspiracies that happened in the same time frame that effected us all, like when Goldman Sachs and the other too big to fail banks conspired to defraud their customers and the country, along with mortgage lenders, ratings agencies and the regulators? And while we are on the topic, what about the magical thinking of trickle-down economics? Or the fed re-infalting bubble after bubble? Or neo-conservatism as an ideology? Apparently, according to the King of Rationality, Kurt Andersen, neo-conservatives are not like those foolish rubes who worship an invisible man in the sky. No, neo-cons, just like Kurt Andersen, worship the right God…namely, the dollar and American Empire, neither of which are targets of Andersen's lazy, shallow, pompous and self-serving diatribe. 

THE SCIENCE IS SETTLED

"Serious person" Kurt Andersen reminds me of another self-serving, self-styled rationalist of his same, decrepit generation, Little Bill Maher, who just like Andersen, despises religion and worships "science". The trouble is that Andersen and Maher's faith in science is fundamentally flawed. An example of this occurred a few months ago when Maher was arguing with a guest on his show about the Scooby-Doo/Russian story, and his guest said that there is no evidence to support the conspiracy claims, and Maher vociferously retorted, "The science is settled!! All 17 intelligence agencies say so!!". Little Bill, as always, was talking out of his ass, as "all 17 intelligence agencies" did not sign off on Russian interference, four of them did, and they only claimed that they were "asserting" this to be true, but did not provide one iota of evidence.

Maher's phrase, "the science is settled", stood out to me. Science is rarely, if ever, "settled". The fact that it was lost on Maher that science is always evolving is ironic, considering his admiration for Darwin. What Little Bill and his equally arrogant comrade Kurt Andersen also mis-understand about "science" is that just because something cannot be replicated in a laboratory doesn't mean it is impossible or isn't true, only that it has never been replicated in a lab. Science is, at its heart, fueled by the humbling acknowledgement that we as a species have very little understanding about ourselves, our world and our universe. Maher and Andersen's presumptuous vision of science is one of a near omnipotent force that has figured out just about 99.9% of everything that is knowable in the universe. The reality is that mankind knows next to nothing about itself, its world and this universe, but the adherents of scientism, like Maher and Andersen, are too enamored with their delusions of superiority to ever fully contemplate or grasp that inconvenient truth. 

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In terms of conspiracy theory, Little Bill is no better than the rest of the establishment media. On a show this past spring, Maher was talking with former CIA operative, Malcolm Nance, about the Scooby-Doo/Russia story, and Little Bill proclaimed that the intelligence community had Kennedy killed because he had a "pussy problem", meaning that Kennedy was vulnerable to blackmail because he was such a philanderer. This statement was remarkable for a few reasons, the first of which is that it went completely unchallenged by the former CIA agent, Nance, with whom Maher was talking, which would indicate that he too agrees with Maher's assessment of Kennedy's assassination, which is an extraordinary revelation. The second interesting thing about it is that Maher, ever the rationalist, is a strident opponent of 9-11 conspiracies because of his hatred of Islam, so his aligning himself with not only the Russian conspiracy, but a JFK one as well, was noteworthy in that it was a glaring intellectual inconsistency. 

Of course, what was really happening was that Little Bill was willing to set aside his usual adherence and allegiance to "facts and science"  in order to confirm his bias against Trump and the Russians, and in a round about way, be in support of the intelligence agencies. Maher wasn't saying that the intel community assassinating Kennedy was a bad thing, he sounded all for it, and in so doing he came across like he was encouraging them to do the same thing to Trump.

Little Bill's exercise in confirmation bias is, just like Maher himself, entirely unremarkable, as it is standard operating procedure in the institutional press and media. Just watch the intellectual contradictions fly on cable news or in the newspapers without any mention of the obvious moral, ethical, political and mental gymnastics required to ignore the glaring hypocrisies hiding in plain sight. 

CONSPIRACIES DON'T EXISTEXCEPT WHEN THEY DO

What I find interesting about this approach on all things conspiracy, is that it is entirely emotionally driven and so transparently vacuous as to be absurd. The reality is that a "conspiracy theory" should not automatically be dismissed simply because it claims a conspiracy occurred. The truth is, conspiracies happen all the time. I am not saying Bigfoot shot Kennedy or that Hillary Clinton is a Lizard Person (…although..I believe that he probably did and she more than likely is…), but conspiracies do not just live in the realm of fantasy, but flourish right here in reality. For instance, people are routinely charged with and convicted of "conspiracy" to commit one criminal act or another all the time here in America. So when people automatically and instinctively label anything a conspiracy false, simply because it is a conspiracy, they are not only taking a shortcut to thinking, they are denying things that are observably true. 

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9-11 conspiracy theories, in particular, seem to really rile the mainstream media and those in authority a tremendous amount. Any 9-11 theory that deviates from the "official story" as compiled by the 9-11 Commission, is deemed a threat to the establishment order and treated as such with attacks and ridicule in the form of the demeaning slur of "conspiracy theory". The problem with this approach, for anyone who cares about language or…God-fobrid, Truth, is that the "official story" of 9-11 is actually...a "conspiracy theory". According to the 9-11 Commission, Osama Bin Laden and his cohorts in Al Qaeda, CONSPIRED together in a cave in Afghanistan, to have 20 hijackers fly planes into various U.S. landmarks, killing thousands of Americans. When two or more people conspire to commit an act, that is a conspiracy, and in the case of 9-11, if you subscribe to the official story, then you are subscribing to a conspiracy theory, but you will never hear the media call the official 9-11 story a conspiracy or conspiracy theory.

The truth is most people just use the term "conspiracy theory" as a way to bludgeon a disquieting set of facts or ideas that are contrary to their ideology or worldview. There is a very clear example of this dominating the headlines and talk shows on cable news this very day…the Russian Election Meddling Story. Most people I know unquestioningly believe this story, that the Russian government colluded with the Trump campaign and interfered with the U.S. election, to be absolutely, 100% true, and it may very well be true, but people are believing it without ever even reading the Intelligence report that is the foundation from which all of the stories about the subject are based.

If the Russians did collude with Trump and interfere in the election, than that is most definitely a...conspiracy, but interestingly enough, the news media are very careful to not ever call the Russia story a "conspiracy". The establishment has so systematically and thoroughly degraded the word conspiracy that they cannot even use it when they are alleging an honest to goodness conspiracy in which they themselves actually believe. 

RACHEL MADDOW LOVES SCOOBY-DOO

A friend of mine, the incorrigible Johnny Steamroller, calls the Russian "meddling story" "The Scooby-Doo Story", because "meddling" is an amorphous, weasel-word term that lacks much needed specificity, and that in the old Scooby-Doo cartoon tv show, Scooby and his gang would always solve some crime and the perp would tell the cops he "would've gotten away with it if it weren't for those meddling kids!!" The Scooby Doo/Russian meddling story is interesting in terms of conspiracy theory because it is an "official" conspiracy theory and not an "alternative" conspiracy theory. That is the key to understanding the establishment media and their loathing or loving of a conspiracy theory. As gatekeepers for officialdom, the mainstream news will not counter any official conspiracy theory, but will eviscerate any alternative conspiracy theory. 

As a result of the distinction between official and alternative conspiracies, we get Rachel Maddow whole-heartedly embracing the Russian election conspiracy theory to the point that she makes Glenn Beck look like Walter Cronkite and Sean Hannity look like Edward R. Murrow. Maddow sees Russians behind every single thing that happens and furiously reports it as though she's found the Lindberg baby in the arms of Jimmy Hoffa. This should not be surprising though, as when it comes to the "officially" sanctioned Russian conspiracy theory, anything goes. Even the most stodgy of old school media entities have embraced the most batshit conspiracy peddlers in regards to the Russian story, one need look no further than the New York Times op-ed page where the certifiably insane Louise Mensch was allowed to write a pieceas proof of that.

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Maddow may end up being totally right about Russia, and everything she is reporting true, but there has not been any solid, tangible evidence put forward to date to corroborate the claims of Russian interference she embraces. None. There was an Intelligence Report, that I wholeheartedly encourage people to go read (that Ms. Maddow tells her viewers to only read from select sections and not get bogged down in the details) that makes assertions that the Russian government tried to influence the 2016 election, but even that official report is completely devoid of evidence. That doesn't mean the story isn't true, it just means the story hasn't been proven to be true with corroborating evidence.

But that said, if you believe, as Rachel Maddow does, that the Russian government "meddled" in the election and colluded with the Trump campaign, then you believe in a conspiracy theory, that as of right now, has as much solid proof behind it as 9-11 being an "inside job" or the CIA assassinating Kennedy. Again, that doesn't mean those things didn't happen, it just means this things haven't been proven to have happened. 

EMOTION AS A WEAPON

Contrast Maddow's approach to the Russia conspiracy, an officially sanctioned conspiracy, to her approach to the Seth Rich murder - alternative conspiracy theory. Rich, a DNC staffer, was shot and killed at the height of the election season last year. The case is unsolved and what happened and who did it are unknown. Regardless of the void of information regarding the Rich case, Maddow, and the rest of her cohorts at MSNBC, are so opposed to any notion of a conspiracy in the Rich story that they are physically repulsed by it. The thread running through all of the anti-Seth Rich conspiracy reporting in the establishment press is that anyone who dare consider a conspiracy in the case is being cruel and vicious to the Rich family. These types of pleas to emotion by the media are giant red flags in terms of their credibility. Why should the media care if the family's feelings are hurt by people investigating the very mysterious death of Seth Rich, a case where no one knows what actually happened and who was behind his murder? And why is considering a conspiracy something that should never be contemplated ever again just because the family finds it offensive?

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The same appeal to emotion occurred in regards to 9-11, when Maddow, in particular, and the establishment media in general, consistently claimed that anyone talking of conspiracies were being disrespectful to the memories of the fallen and their families. Even in the case of the JFK assassination, considerations for the Kennedy family were said to be of paramount importance to those in power and so if anyone asked why so many standard operating procedures were ignored, the establishment used the delicate feelings of the Kennedy family as an excuse for deviations from standard, or to hide documents or even destroy them (the autopsy notes etc.). 

The truth is that people may say they don't believe in conspiracy theories in general, but they will believe in a conspiracy theory as long as it acts as a piece of confirmation bias for their belief system or helps to alleviate their cognitive dissonance. If a conspiracy is useful to them, they will give it more credence than if it challenges their ideology. For example, the Scooby-Doo/Russia story is a conspiracy theory that confirms the bias of a lot of people on the left and in the establishment in regards to Trump's election victory, and may also help to reduce their raging cognitive dissonance. Being able to blame Russia for Hillary's defeat isn't just a salve for Mrs. Clinton, her adamant supporters or the media, all of whom have a great deal of humiliating egg on their faces, but it also allows all of these folks to avoid doing the thing we as human beings least like to do…namely, admitting we were wrong or that we made a grievous mistake. 

The Russia interfering in the election causing Trump to win narrative means that America isn't a nation that has lost its mind, Hillary wasn't as atrocious as she always has been and democrats weren't idiotic to have nominated her, and Clinton supporters and the media's instincts weren't as spectacularly wrong as they obviously were. Russia is a very convenient scapegoat for those looking to blame everyone but themselves for the election disaster that brought us President Trump. 

THE LADY DOTH PROTEST TOO MUCH, METHINKS

As I previously said, the Russian election conspiracy may very well be proven true. There is a long history of foreign governments meddling in other countries elections, the problem is that the country doing the meddling is usually the U.S. This is an inconvenient fact for those in the establishment, and is usually ignored or glossed over as "whatboutism" or "moral equivalence", two terms in vogue at the moment used to shut down debate. 

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That said, there have been previous cases of election meddling in the U.S., but these examples are also uncomfortable to the institutional press because they undermine the narrative of the establishment and American democracy as being above reproach. One noteworthy example was when Nixon sabotaged LBJ's Vietnam peace talks in 1968, in order to keep the war going and increase his chances of winning the presidency. What is interesting about this bit of election meddling is that the establishment media is only talking about it now in order to equate Trump with Nixon. 

Another example of U.S. election meddling is one that the mainstream press will deride as a "conspiracy theory", but which is in reality a conspiracy fact, and that is Reagan's treasonous deal with Iran to keep the U.S. hostages imprisoned until after Reagan won the 1980 election. Go read Robert Parry's outstanding work on this topic as it will surely help you to see Reagan's America, and the media's adulation of him, in a new light. It will also help to give context to this past year's election and the possibility of Russian interference.

CONCLUSION

In conclusion, Official media go to great lengths to belittle conspiracy theories because they are seen as a threat to them and the established order they are committed to defending. The gatekeepers in the media are little more than stenographers to those in power, so when citizen journalists start stepping on their toes with questions those in authority would prefer not to hear, then the media kick it into high gear asserting their control over debate.

Just because something is a conspiracy, does not make it false, nor does it make it true. Each case should be studied and judged on the merits of the actual evidence. When judging the probability or possibility of a conspiracy, it is vital that we acknowledge our own personal predisposition's and biases and take them into account just as we take the veracity and amount of evidence into account. Know this, conspiracies happen, and the truth is that the most reliable theory of history is conspiracy theory, not the coincidence theory that the establishment hoists upon the public. 

The best bet regarding the current conspiracy du jour that the media won't call a conspiracy, the Scooby-Doo/Russian election story, is for the buyer to beware, not because the Russians are saints and Trump is a beyond reproach, but because the establishment and their shills in the media has been proven to lie over and over and over again…trusting them is a sucker's bet.

Regardless of whether a conspiracy has the imprimatur of officialdom or originates from an alternative source, it is imperative for us to demand clear-cut evidence and proof for or against whatever assertions are being made when people are trying to convince us of anything, especially when we are predisposed to believe what they are selling. Now…in that spirit, please go read the entire intelligence report on Russian election interference, especially the sources and methods section…you may find it very enlightening.

©2017

 

The Whitewashing Controversy Part Two : A Response

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Estimated Reading Time : 5 minutes 02 seconds

I am a very lucky man, and one of the reason I am so lucky is that I have the best readers for which anyone could ever hope. I consistently receive quality correspondence from readers across the globe who bring tremendous insight to many of the issues about which I write. I am always grateful to receive such correspondence as it helps to elevate not only me and my quest for understanding, but the conversation or debate that I think is necessary for growth, both personal and collective. 

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In keeping with my lucky streak concerning thoughtful readers, yesterday I received an email from a longtime reader of my blog in response to my "Whitewashing Controversy" article that I posted the other day. The reader, who I'll call Tiny Dancer, is a very talented, successful, working Asian-American actress. I have always found Tiny Dancer to be an astute and discerning person with a very insightful perspective on things, and her email to me regarding the whitewashing issue is more proof of that.

I thought Tiny Dancer's email would be useful in broadening the discussion about whitewashing and may help bring the issue into a more clear focus. For that reason, I share it with you now. Here is the email...

"Thank you for writing this and sharing it. It’s a great article, well thought out with a definitive POV which I so appreciate.

Below are thoughts I had that, most likely, are more addendums to your article. I view them as spring boards for interesting dialogue we can have.

1. Thank you for pointing out the difference between white washing and yellow face. Important distinction and not one many people think to make. Salient.

2. The statistics you bring up are important to highlight and I’m so glad you published them: Blacks and Asians are being appropriately represented, and thank god. However, and maybe people aren’t consciously thinking of it this way, I think people are responding to the amount of RELATABLE STORIES being told that don’t span the ethnic statistic. So, while actors are being statistically represented in TV / movies, the stories themselves are not statistically represented. Sure, stories are human stories. But most likely a White person wrote it, another White person is the show runner, the writers room is White, the grips, the sound crew, the key, the camera operator, are White. yes that’s from the very limited Hollywood perspective, but look how close I am to it, and it looks like that. Ok, so now I’m someone outside of the industry sitting down to watch a show about a family drama, or a work show comedy….  and even though 12% of my population is being repped, are they people in the foreground with lines? Or are they in the background with no lines, but they COUNT as a statistic b/c technically they’re SAG so they’re on the payroll. And even if they are being seen, and speaking, is the story being told from THEIR perspective? Or does their opinion count as only 12% important to the story? 

OK so then, we ask: is this the responsibility of the White/Jewish/male that currently runs the studio/network? One would, smartly argue, of course not. ANYBODY is welcome to write a story and broadcast it. well, then WHY aren’t these stories being repped by said ethnic groups? Are they not writing / creating them? hmmm… So THEN we wonder: maybe they are writing them, but they're not being given the opportunity/power to greenlight these projects? Does this turn into an affirmative action work place, larger than Hollywood, American, global issue? Maaaayyyyybeeeee.

3. Chloe Bennett: I don’t know her, never met her, but….Crying Racist aside, she’s not ENTIRELY wrong. I had been advised to change my last name many times when I was younger, and because I was from a different generation, I chose NOT to give in to the social media pressure of white washing and proudly clung to my birth name. 

The truth is….It has sort of gotten in my way.

Not because I can’t face the fact that sometimes I’m just not the right person person for the role, but because sometimes your name is just on a list. Initially. And sometimes you just get cut from the list. Because when someone doesn’t know who you are, and your name is all they’re staring at in a sea of names in an email, and it reads “ETHNIC”, you’re cut. When they're looking for a lead, chances are better with “Bennett” over “Wang”. Because you have to understand that…still….to this day, if the breakdown doesn’t mention “open to any ethnicity” then EVERYONE will read it as “WHITE GIRL”. Wong or Wright, that’s the way it is. 

4. Reverse Racism: Yes, yes I hear you. Salient point and will likely be a topic I continue to wrestle with/think about for the rest of my life.

5. By virtue of the fact that you write movie reviews, I think you’d agree that everybody views talent through a subjective lens. When you investigate what is subjective, you can't help but see that it’s all driven by Emotion. This irrational component called emotion that dances through your White Washing article isn’t evil, but also isn’t exalted. Like it or not, we are driven by it when we watch movies and TV shows through the lens of personal experience. So then why wouldn’t it be fair for a casting director/producer/director to do the same? Why can’t they view an actor in the room through their own personal lens of history, privilege or lack thereof, economic status, or if that someone reminds them of someone they love or loathe etc…. I cannot believe I’m taking that POV at the moment, because I’m mostly on the receiving end of their emotional preference. Which means not working most the time. But I, like you, am interested in all angles and find it’s fair to look from their perspective as well. 

So, if it’s fair for one as a critic to respond with a personal opinion, then it’s fair for that person casting a movie and it’s fair for Chloe Bennett and it’s fair for on and on and on…..

Like a fun house mirror that goes back and back... Sifting through "Why Was This Person Cast" will never have a satisfying answer. We'll never know if an Asian / Black / Latina actor would be better off in the role written "ethnically ambiguous" or if the White person that gets cast really was the best actor in the room. Emotion wins. 

Which brings us to...Your last statement: Hollywood is equal parts shitty. 

Ok. So how does it get fixed?

MAYBE by someone like Ed Skrein stepping down and starting this conversation between us, and others……

I would love to keep talking about this. None of this was said with judgement and written with the hope that we can keep dialoguing. 

You’re a smart AND compassionate human, first and foremost. Your compassion drives you to write beyond boundary and political correctness which is always applause worthy. I’m so curious if you’ll get responses on this, please share if you do."

I thank the Tiny Dancer for sharing her thoughts and encourage anyone else who has them to do so. 

Another piece of information worth contemplating was in an article in the Hollywood Reporter on Tuesday of this week that states that the film Flash Boys will not go into production because Hollywood either can't, or won't, find an Asian actor for the lead role. Flash Boys, in case you do not know, is a book written by Michael Lewis, the author of Moneyball, The Blind Side and The Big Short, all of which were turned into very successful films. Prior to all the focus on whitewashing, Flash Boys would have just cast a well-known White actor in the role of the Asian character and not thought twice about it. But now that the issue is under such scrutiny, that is not an option that casting people and producers can take.

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Flash Boys not being made due to an inability to find an appropriate Asian actor for the lead is another pivotal piece of information about this issue, but one that is very difficult to solve. At the moment, there are simply no Asian actors in Hollywood in that age range with sufficient star power and acting credibility to be able to not only financially open a film, but creatively carry one.

As Tiny Dancer points out, maybe Ed Skrein backing out of Hellboy is the first step in changing the fundamentals of Hollywood so that more Asian actors will get opportunities earlier on, and from those opportunities maybe an actor of great talent and star power will emerge in order to fill the void that currently exists regarding Asian actors. I certainly hope so. 

Which brings me to a discussion I had with another reader who thought I was "racist" because I stated in my article that, "Merit is why he (Ed Skrein) was chosen, not race, and replacing him with an ethnically "appropriate" actor who was not as good, will reduce the quality of the film". To clarify, what I was saying in that quote was that Skrein was deemed to be the best actor to have auditioned...by the producer. What my accuser interpreted that sentence to mean was that I believed that Asian actors simply cannot be as good as White actors because of their ethnicity. I prefer to chalk this misunderstanding up to my weakness as writer more than anything else. 

In the light of that misunderstanding, I feel it necessary to state the most painfully obvious thing about this issue, and that is, that there is no question that Asian actors are capable of being truly great actors and movie stars. Proof of this fact is that some of the greatest actors and movie stars the world has ever known were Asian. 

A great example is Bruce Lee, who was a victim of whitewashing himself back at the start of his career, when he created the concept for the television show Kung Fu, and then had the idea and the show stolen out from under him by Warner Brothers. Warner Brothers promptly cast David Carradine, a White actor, to play the role of the mysterious Shaolin monk, Kwai Chang Caine that was originally intended for Lee. Bruce Lee had to go all the way to Hong Kong to get his big break in movies, and once that opportunity arose he made the most of it by becoming the biggest movie star in the world before his untimely death. 

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A different type of example is Toshiro Mifune, one of the greatest actors to have ever lived. Though Mifune never rose to the heights of Bruce Lee in terms of Hollywood stardom, that had more to do with his limited English language skills, and not his tremendous acting ability. In fact, Mifune is one of the actors I consistently show clips of to my clients and students in order to teach them about acting and approaches to character and physicality. In my mind, he was truly a master and is on the Mount Rushmore of Greatest Actors of All-Time.

The reason I bring up Bruce Lee and Toshiro Mifune, two of my favorite actors, is to squelch any absurd and offensive notion or misinterpretation, that Asian actors are somehow less capable of being great or accepted by wide audiences simply because they are Asian. Mifune and Lee are just two of many examples that prove that mis-guided notion wrong.

In conclusion, whitewashing is a very complicated and nuanced issue, one that can lead to either a civil and productive discussion, or one that can lead to a passionate argument. In my experience, it takes two respectful people of good will to have a civil discussion, but it only takes one emotion-fueled jackass to have an argument. I truly thank Tiny Dancer for adding to the whitewashing discussion by sharing her thoughts and experiences, and for not assuming me to be the aforementioned jackass. I hope this is a first step in a long and fruitful conversation.

©2017

 

The Whitewashing Controversy

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Estimated Reading Time : 5 minutes 18 seconds

HELLBOY IN HELL

Last week, Ed Skrein, an up and coming actor best known for his work as the villain in Deadpool, dropped out of the role for which he was cast in the remake of Hellboy, after charges of "whitewashing" were made against the producers of the film on social media. You may be asking yourself…what is whitewashing? Well, whitewashing is when White actors are cast in traditionally non-White character roles. In the case of Hellboy, Ed Skrein is a White actor and his character Ben Daimio is Japanese-American in the original comic book source material. 

Once the Hellboy whitewashing uproar gained some steam on social networks, Skrein dropped out of the role stating, “I accepted the role unaware that the character in the original comics was of mixed Asian heritage. There has been intense conversation and understandable upset since that announcement, and I must do what I feel is right.”

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Skrein continued, “Representation of ethnic diversity is important, especially to me as I have a mixed heritage family,” he said (Skrein is of Austrian-Jewish and English descent). “It is our responsibility to make moral decisions in difficult times and give voice to inclusivity.”

From a public relations standpoint, this is a masterstroke by Skrein. He turned a story that was potentially damaging to his career into one that makes him out to be the hero. As for the repercussions of Skrein's decision on the wider world in general, and Hollywood in particular, I am skeptical that his kowtowing to the anti-whitewashing mob is a positive maneuver. 

THE WITCHES OF WHITEWASHING AND MICKEY ROONEY SUCKS

Whitewashing has been a hot topic in Hollywood of late, as a string of high profile White women have been cast in Asian roles or that had Asian women in the source material. The three most notable were when Scarlett Johannsen was cast as the lead in Ghost in the Shell to play a character that was Asian in the source material, Tilda Siwnton was cast in a role that in the comic book was a male Asian guru in Dr. Strange, and Emma Stone was cast as a woman who was 1/4 Hawaiin and 1/4 Chinese in Cameron Crowe's Aloha.

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Whitewashing is not to be confused with "yellow face", which is when a White actor plays an Asian character and wears make up to simulate Asian characteristics. Yellowface is to Asians as Blackface is to Blacks, it is a highly offensive and aggressive way to demean and diminish a minority through caricature and stereotype. The most famous instance of yellow face is Mickey Rooney's cringe-worthy performance in Breakfast at Tiffanys, but other famous actors, including Marlon Brando and Katherine Hepburn, have done it as well. And it wasn't just back in the 50's and 60's either, as recently as 1992 Jonathon Pryce starred on the London stage wearing yellow face in Miss Saigon.

HISTORICAL CONTEXT AND STATISTICAL REALITY

In terms of whitewashing, the theory behind people's resistance to it is entirely understandable. As long as Hollywood has been in existence, the majority of roles have been for White actors, and for a good portion of that time minority actors were systematically discriminated against, so casting Whites in potentially minority roles doesn't sit very well with some people. That historical context is important to keep in mind when addressing the whitewashing issue, and it easily explains the perception that White actors are still cast at disproportionately high rates compared to minority actors. That being said, while the conventional wisdom is that there is an imbalance towards Whites in casting, the statistical reality does not match up with that perception.

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Whites are certainly cast in the overwhelming majority of roles, but that isn't due to racism, but more likely because Whites make up the overwhelming majority of the U.S. (and English speaking world's) population. Some statistics jump out at me in regards to casting and population in terms of race and ethnicity. For instance, an Annenberg study found that Asians are cast in 5.1% of roles in film and television, which doesn't seem like much, but, according to the American Community Survey in the 2010 U.S. Census, Asians make up 5.1% of the U.S. general population. This shows that Asians are not under represented in casting, but in fact, are perfectly represented. The same is also true of Black actors, who are cast in 12.2% of roles and make up 12.4% of the U.S. population. These statistics show that contrary to popular opinion, Asian and Black actors are not under represented. 

In addition, a further look at the Annenberg study shows that White actors are not over represented according to their population percentage, but slightly under represented. According to the Annenberg study, Whites are cast in 71.7 % of roles and the census tells us that Whites account for 73% of the population. This seems counter intuitive to many people, but it is accurate, at least according to the Annenberg study and the census.

REVERSE RACISM? SO WHAT!

The question remains though, do any of these statistics matter in regard to the whitewashing controversy? The casting pendulum, so long on the White side of things, has swung away from White dominance in the last few decades, and now casts people (at least Asian, Black and White people) at relatively the same rate as their population percentage. This is a positive thing, but the fact that some people still perceive an imbalance towards Whites creates an atmosphere where whitewashing accusations resonate. 

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The problem with claims of whitewashing, is that they push the pendulum beyond the center sweet spot of equality, with its embrace of a meritocracy, to a position of identity/inclusivity, where an actors ethnicity or race trump questions of talent and skill. This identity/inclusivity approach is just as unfair as a White dominated approach, and is ultimately cancerous in the wider culture as it brings with it a backlash in the form of White resentment and in some cases, even White supremacy. 

Many people would say, "so what?" to charges that identity/inclusivity angers White people because it is a form of reverse racism. Some people I have spoken to on the subject tell me that White people are racists or have an inherit privilege, so they deserve to be shortchanged for once. I get the sentiment, I do, it is entirely understandable in historical context, but the problem with that kind of thinking is it is entirely emotionally driven and not rational. Shortchanging White actors because they are White may be emotionally rewarding in the moment, but in the long run it is not only unfair to White actors, but undermines talented minority artists and diminishes artistic quality across the board.

IS WHAT IS GOOD FOR THE WHITE GOOSE, GOOD FOR THE MINORITY GANDER?

An example of this can be found in the Skrein case where, according to the producer, he was cast not because he was White, but because he gave the best audition. Merit is why he was chosen, not race, and replacing him with an ethnically "appropriate" actor who was not as good, will reduce the quality of the film. But for those crying "whitewashing", merit has no appeal in casting decisions, only identity/inclusivity matters. Again, this approach may feel emotionally gratifying at the moment, but it is intellectually incoherent, and ultimately counter productive for minority actors when taken to its logical conclusion. For instance, if, as those crying whitewashing wish, we base casting decisions solely on the identity of the character in the source material, then no minority actor would ever be able to do classical theatre like Shakespeare (with Othello being the notable exception), Chekhov or Ibsen and Arthur Miller, Eugene O'Neill and Tennessee Williams would be off the table as well.

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Identity casting is much like identity politics, it is a double edged sword. When democrats make politics about identity, then not only will minorities respond to that siren's call, but White people will embrace their identity as well, and like it or not, White people are the overwhelming majority of America. In casting, this slavish embrace of identity can, and most likely will, come back to haunt those who celebrate it. An example of this was seen when Edward Albee's estate refused to let a theatre company do a production of Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf? with a Black cast member. People were outraged by this decision and charges of racism soon followed, but Albee's argument (through his esate, Albee died in 2016) was that the play is about White people, and a Black actor would distort the meaning of the play. This is the flip side of the same argument that the whitewashing crowd uses against Scarlett Johannsen playing the lead in Ghost in the Shell

The reality is that many minority actors have gotten jobs not despite of their ethnicity, but because of it. Many theatre companies are compelled to use diverse casts in order to get grants and funding and it is in their best interest in some cases to eschew a more talented White actor in favor of a less talented minority actor, in order to get that funding. The same is true of tv shows and films, because contrary to what "whitewashing" critics think, networks, studios and producers desperately want diverse casts. This leads to minority actors actually having a slight advantage in the casting process, not a disadvantage, due to their non-White identity.  

The bigger problem, beyond claims of whitewashing, is the mania and hysteria brought on by our current addiction to identity, be it in casting or politics. This hysteria showed its face with the vapid #OscarsSoWhite campaign over the alleged racism of the Academy Awards. Just like claims of whitewashing, claims of Oscar racism are emotionally driven as well, and are proven false by statistical analysis. (see that statistical reality here).

CRY RACISM, AND LET SLIP THE DOGS OF WAR

Another story from last week that highlights the corrosive effect our current identity/inclusivity mania and hysteria has on Hollywood and our culture, was when actress Chloe Bennet, best known for her role on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., played the role of victim when she said that Hollywood is racist. Bennet, whose real last name is Wang, is of Taiwanese descent, and when someone questioned her for changing her Taiwanese last name, her defense was that she changed her name because "Hollywood is racist." This episode is a wonderful study in how identity politics and casting will devour those that cling to them. 

To start with, Ms. Bennet was smart enough to sense that she was going to be the victim of the same mob that attacked Hellboy and Ed Skrein when asked about her name change. The left is great at eating their own, and Ms. Bennet knew to throw them some red meat or she would be the next meal. In order to avoid the consequences/shame of her name change, Bennet took the cheap and cynical way out by crying racism, which seems to be the only way many liberals can argue these days, and claimed she never got cast in anything until she changed her name. Of course, the charge is vacuous at best, and insidious at worst.

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Are there racists in Hollywood? Sure, there are racists in all walks of life. But did Ms. Bennet not get cast prior to her name change because of racism? To think that anyone would care if an actress had the last name of Wang as opposed to Bennet is the height of absurdity. Casting people don't give a rat's ass about your last name, usually only your fame, talent and your attractiveness. Ms. Bennet did not become more or less attractive or talented with a different last name. Ms. Bennet basically admitted her reasoning was circumspect when she said, "Changing my last name doesn’t change the fact that my blood is half-Chinese, that I lived in China, speak Mandarin, or that I was culturally raised both American and Chinese". Yes, her name is different but she still looks exotic and not pasty White, so if Hollywood was racist they would discriminate against her for how she looked, not her last name. 

Ms. Bennet's cries of racism, besides being self-serving, were counter productive, not only in Hollywood, but in America. It is statistical fact that Asians are cast at exactly the same rate that they make up the population, so there is no casting bias against them. Yet by crying racism, Ms. Bennet diminishes the power of that charge, and undermines and belittles the struggles of people who are truly suffering under the torment of racism and injustice in the real world. 

THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. STRANGE

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An example of the intellectual inconsistencies of the anti-whitewashing crowd was also on display when Tilda Swinton was cast in Dr. Strange. Swinton's character, the Ancient One, is a Tibetan man in the comic books, and the reason the producers cast a White, middle-aged woman in the role was because they explicitly wanted to avoid any racial stereotypes, such as the Fu Manchu - Asian man, stereotype. The anti-whitewashing crowd got up in arms about it anyway. Apparently Asian men are higher on the victim scale than White woman, which will come as a terrible shock to many of the White women I know in Hollywood who proudly wear the hat of victimhood like a crown. 

Further making the Dr. Strange case intellectually incoherent, was the fact that in order to have a more diverse cast, the producers cast Chiwetel Ejiofor, a Black actor, in a role that was a White character in the original source material. Apparently, slavish adherence to source material only matters when White actors are cast in minority roles and not vice versa.

BREAKING NEWS: THE BRITISH ARE PASTY WHITE

The identity/inclusivity mania and hysteria was even on full display this summer regarding the film Dunkirk. The film, set in 1942, tells the story of the British army and their emergency evacuation from Dunkirk, France in world war two. The cast of the film is almost entirely White, which is completely in keeping with the historical facts of the story, yet controversy swirled around the film for not having a diverse cast. USA Today's reviewer, Brian Truitt, commented about the film's lack of minorities in his review by writing, “the fact that there are only a couple of women and no lead actors of color may rub some the wrong way". Not surprisingly, right wing writers had a field day at Truitt's expense, turning what some thought was a molehill of a comment into a mountain of political correctness. 

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In response to the right-wing backlash against Truitt's review, Jason Wilson, a writer at the Guardian, wrote a piece decrying the right wing outrage as being manufactured nonsense because no person in their right mind would be bothered by Dunkirk's racial make up. Wilson's piece makes pains to point out that the right wing is itching for a culture war over Dunkirk, but none exists. Then a week later, Sunny Singh, a writer at the Guardian, wrote a piece directly in contrast to her compatriot Wilson by decrying Dunkirk's unabashed whitewashing and lack of Black faces. The cherry on top of the unintentional comedy of Singh's article is that Dunkirk actually does have some Black faces in it, the same ones she longs for in her piece. 

The whole Dunkirk episode, and most of the cries of whitewashing or racism, are exhausting because they are so bloated with the wine (or is it whine?) of emotion, and are thirsting for even a drop of the rational. But sadly, in this emotionalist age in which we live, this is the nonsense that captures our imaginations. 

LIBERTE, EGALITE, FRATERNITE

In a perfect world, we would live under the rule of equality, where meritocracy reigns supreme, and as Martin Luther King Jr. dreamed, people would be judged by the content of their character, or in this case, their ability, talent and skill, instead of their ethnic or racial identity. I certainly hope that we get there one day, but I am not nearly as optimistic as Dr. King. If history and human nature is any guide, with our current pendulum swing beyond the center where equality lives, into the deeper realm where cries of whitewashing and imaginary racism are not only accepted but encouraged, then the inevitable swing back away from that will go into even darker and more perilous waters than I care to consider. 

In our current age of emotionalism, people of all races and ethnicities do not value merit, or talent, or content of character, as much as they care about identity and instant gratification. This rise of this Church of Identity brings with it dangers, and one of those dangers now resides in the White House. If we are going to make things about identity, then we can expect to feel the wrath of the majority identity in America…White people. The resurgence of White identity, and White supremacy, is a direct result of the emotionally-driven, factually unsubstantiated claims made by those decrying White privilege where no privilege exists. As the Annenberg study and the census proves, this is the case in regards to the casting of television and film. 

When viewed within the troubling historical context of White domination in casting and the vicious arrogance and repulsive racism of yellow face, it is understandable that some, if not most, Asian actors and their supporters, would find the story of a White actor, like Ed Skrein, losing a job simply because he is White, emotionally satisfying, but that doesn't mean it is logical, rational, fair or right. Sadly, the whitewashing controversy is just another sign of our troubled and troubling times.

Don't get me wrong, I am not saying Hollywood is a wonderful place filled with rainbows and puppy dogs where people are treated kindly and fairly…it isn't and they aren't. Make no mistake, Hollywood is an absolutely awful place where people are routinely and systematically dehumanized, diminished, exploited and victimized. That said, it is apparent to me that  Hollywood, with its unquenchable hunger for money and power, treats everyone, regardless of race or ethnicity, equally like shit.

 

©2017

 

Logan Lucky : A Review

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

My Rating : 1 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation : SKIP IT. No use seeing this clunker anywhere or at anytime. 

Logan Lucky, written by "Rebecca Blunt" and directed by Steven Soderbergh, is the story of Jimmy Logan, a down on his luck West Virginian from a perpetually unlucky lineage, who decides to pull off a heist of a NASCAR race with his family and friends. The film stars Channing Tatum, and features supporting turns from Adam Driver, Daniel Craig, Seth MacFarland, Katie Holmes and Hillary Swank.

David Lee Roth and Elvis Costello

David Lee Roth and Elvis Costello

A few years ago, director Steven Soderbergh announced he was retiring from directing movies. I know people who hold Soderbergh in the highest artistic regard, they would place him on the Mount Rushmore of American filmmakers alongside Kurbick, Scorsese, Malick and Altman (or whatever filmmakers you may choose for such an honor), so when he retired they were downtrodden.  I have never disliked Soderbergh, but I have never held him in such high esteem either. Soderbergh is worshipped by critics, which, considering my tepid opinion of him, always makes me think of what Van Halen's frontman Diamond David Lee Roth said in 1984 about another critical darling, Elvis Costello, who is the musical equivalent of Steven Soderbergh. Roth said, " I think music critics LIKE Elvis Costello, because they LOOK LIKE Elvis Costello". I believe the same can be said of Steven Soderbergh. 

Steven Soderbergh

Steven Soderbergh

I think Soderbergh is a very skilled director, but if I am being honest, I think his greatest talent is in elevating otherwise mundane material into moderately above average films. Even his great films (meaning most successful financially and critically) like Traffic, Erin Brockovich and the Ocean's Eleven trilogy, are anything but transcendent. Traffic is arguably Soderbergh's best film and won him a Best Director Oscar, and while it is certainly an interesting film, it never rises to be a truly great one. 

 

That said, I did enjoy Sex, Lies and VideotapeTraffic and Che (maybe my favorite Soderbergh film), and was even entertained by the technical proficiency of the Ocean's Eleven franchise, so when I heard Soderbergh was returning from his self-imposed exile, I thought I'd go check out the fruit of his labor. 

The thought that came to my mind while I sat through the first third of Logan Lucky was…Steven Soderbergh came out of retirement for this? At the half way point of the film, the thought I had was…Soderbergh definitely should've stayed retired. In the final third of the film, it occurred to me…he did.

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Logan Lucky is a derivative, repetitive, manipulative and painstakingly dull movie with no redeeming value whatsoever. The film is an homage to Soderbergh's Ocean's Eleven films, and even self-consciously describes itself as Ocean's 7-11, a play on the fact that it is a heist movie featuring hillbillies in West Virginia and not professional thieves in Las Vegas. The question remains though, were people clamoring for a redneck Ocean's Eleven? And why would Soderbergh return to moviemaking with such an insidiously frivolous and insipid film that, even giving it every benefit of the doubt, has no artistic purpose to it and is devoid of any greater meaning? I understand that not all movies have to "mean" something, and I readily accept that Logan Lucky is meant to be nothing more than pure entertainment, but that still doesn't explain why it would be Soderbergh's comeback vehicle.

In terms of entertainment and fun, Logan Lucky fails in the most conspicuous way because it contains absolutely zero laughs. The continuing and only punchline in the film are the hillbillies who inhabit it, which makes Logan Lucky feel uncomfortably like a modern day version of Stepin Fetchit set in Appalachia meant to belittle and demean working class White people. Everyone in the movie is a one-dimensional idiot and a walking caricature and if they were a racial or religious minority would undoubtedly be considered extremely offensive. 

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Another huge issue with a heist movie populated with idiotic bumpkins, is that it makes the heist seem totally unbelievable. In the Ocean's Eleven films you had professional thieves concocting elaborate schemes to rob a casino, and those films certainly strain credulity, but they are able to maintain a tenuous grasp upon reality because they have set up the premise of an all-star group of sophisticated con men attempting to pull off the job. In Logan Lucky, the exact opposite occurs, the set-up for the film is that everyone is a moron with "Born to Lose" tattooed in their chests, yet they are somehow able to conceive, coordinate and then pull of this complicated and convoluted heist in the most improbable way. The film suffers from this detachment from any sort of believability also because of its own disgust with the culture and people it portrays. 

The other problem with having a cast of characters that are all nitwits, is that you never connect with them, you only laugh at them. What this does is eliminate any sort of suspense or drama when they are trying to pull off the heist. You don't care if they get caught because you don't care about them. It is impossible for an audience to care about characters when the filmmaker doesn't, and in Logan Lucky, Soderbergh is holding up the rednecks for ridicule, not reflection. 

It doesn't help that uniformally, the cast does a second rate job of acting. The accents are all too big, too showy and hit too hard to be even remotely considered believable. And it seems everyone, with the notable exclusion of Channing Tatum, turns their character into a quirky  eccentric for quirkiness and eccentricities sake. The film is so stuffed with whacky, unreal characters it feels more like an homage to Hee-Haw than Ocean's Eleven.

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Sadly, the film also boasts what may be three of the worst performances I've seen this year. Seth MacFarland, Hillary Swank and Katie Holmes are so bad in this movie it is staggering. MacFarland is so atrocious he should be banned from ever appearing on any screen, anywhere, ever again. Holmes  strains so hard to be her "character", I was afraid she was going to have a stroke. And Hillary Swank makes the unbelievably poor decision to try and imitate Clint Eastwood with her performance as an FBI agent. I am not kidding, she looks like a third-rate Rich Little trying to impersonate Clint, with everything from her voice to her posture mimicking the iconic tough guy. Not surprisingly, it comes off as amateurish, unreal and frankly embarrassing. 

What made the Ocean's Eleven films successful were that they were efficiently made, beautifully shot, and they allowed the audience to feel like they were hanging out with the biggest movie stars in the world. Men got to project themselves onto George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and company, while women got to project themselves with George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and company. At their core though, what the Ocean's films really did, was give the celebrity worshipping audience an opportunity to watch good looking famous people have more fun than they ever would, at a party they could watch but weren't invited to enter. 

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Why Logan Lucky fails is that, while efficiently, but certainly not exquisitely, made, it gives the audience an opportunity to hang out with people with whom they would never choose to be around. It gives male audience members no one to project themselves onto, and gives female audience members no one to swoon over. At Logan Lucky's most basic level, it is an utter failure. The blame for that rests on Steven Soderbergh, and on screenwriter Rebecca Blunt, who may or may not be a real person, and may be a pseudonym for Soderbergh himself. I can see why Soderbergh would want to hide behind a fake name for churning out the piece of excrement that is this script. 

In the final analysis, unlike say Detroit, which was an awful movie about an important topic, Logan Lucky is a meaningless movie about nothing, so it being as dreadful as it is didn't make me angry, it just made me bored. I had no interest in anyone or anything in this movie. I was daydreaming and even considered leaving, but I figured, if nothing else, I'd sit in the air condition and enjoy the full two hours of cool darkness. That said, even if you are desperately attempting to avoid sun stroke or dehydration, don't do it by sitting through Logan Lucky. I recommend you embrace your heat induced hallucinations rather than waste your time and money sitting through this dead on arrival piece of detritus. And even if you stumble across it for free on tv, skip it, life is too short to spend two hours of it watching something as inconsequential and moribund as Steven Soderbergh's latest, and hopefully final, film.
 

©2017

Mayweather, McGregor and the Heart of Darkness

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Estimated Reading Time : 6 minutes 32 seconds

Many moons ago, in my mis-spent youth as a tortured Catholic high school student, I had to do a book report on Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness for my English class. I was a deplorable student, ranked last in my class, so having to get up in front of everyone to give an oral report on a book I didn't want to read was something that filled me with dread. 

Luckily for me I discovered that my favorite movie at the time, Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now, was loosely based on Conrad's novel. This gave me an in with the book and actually inspired me to read it, which was a big deal for me at the time as I almost never read books. I ended up really loving Heart of Darkness, and was so glad that Apocalypse Now was my rough guide to the book. 

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As I prepared for my oral report, the newspaper (Unlike books, I did read the newspaper, well…at least the sports section) was filled with stories on the build up to a prizefight between Sugar Ray Leonard and Marvelous Marvin Hagler. I had been a huge boxing fan since I was a little kid, watching fights on Saturday and Sunday when the regular networks would air them. It was a golden age of boxing back then, at least for the lighter weight classes, and as I devoured the fights of some of the greats, Leonard, Hearns, Hagler, Duran, Argeullo, Pryor, Mancini etc., I developed an appreciation not only for the art of boxing, but for it's mythic and archetypal power. 

The mythic and archetypal power of boxing was on full display in the Leonard - Hagler match up. Hagler was the undisputed middleweight champion of the world and considered one of the baddest men on the planet. Leonard, the golden boy, was an Olympic gold medal winner and a multiple time welterweight champion and was coming off a three year retirement in part due to an eye injury.

Hagler and Leonard were very different fighters and people. Hagler was an ominous and foreboding, no nonsense fighter with a shaved head and perpetual scowl, whereas Leonard was an athletic, flashy, handsome, charming, and camera friendly fighter who said and did all the right things. 

I was a Leonard fan, I loved the way he fought and how he carried himself. To me, Hagler was overrated, having fought in a weak weight class (middleweight) and, unlike Leonard, never having the courage to step out of his comfort zone to find top flight talent in other divisions to fight. I lived in Boston at the time of the fight and Hagler was from Brockton, Mass. so I was surrounded by Hagler fans, and as anyone can tell you, there are no more obnoxious fans than Boston sports fans, and I was mocked continuously for my support of Leonard.

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In the lead up to the fight, there were stories in the paper about how awful Leonard looked in his training camp. He looked off, and old and out of shape. He got knocked down repeatedly in sparring sessions and Boston sportswriters openly worried that Hagler may really hurt Leonard, so much so that they worried for his life. I didn't believe those stories, I had a hunch that Leonard was working an angle and was getting into Hagler's mind, but I did find that  "his life may be in danger" narrative intriguing. The idea that Ray Leonard was going into the ring to literally (and mythically) fight for his life against this superior, seemingly invincible opponent, one that is symbolic of his psychological shadow, made me think of Heart of Darkness and its protagonist Charles Marlow who goes up the river deep into Africa to face Kurtz, who embodies Marlow's, and mankind's, shadow.

So now that I had not only my favorite movie, Apocalypse Now, but my favorite fighter, Ray Leonard, to draw on for inspiration, I wrote up my book report and prepared for my oral presentation. To me the hook was pretty simple, that the story of Heart of Darkness was not some remote thing to look back upon, but was integral in people's lives today, in the here and now. We are all Marlow/Willard/Leonard who must make the journey up the river or into the ring to face our shadow.

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The Leonard - Hagler fight was on a Saturday night, I gave my presentation the following Monday morning. I was beaming because I had been right in my prediction of a Leonard victory, with Sugar Ray winning a "marvelous"  12 round split decision, and my classmates were fuming and pretty angry about it. As I gave my presentation I felt their wrath as they laughed at me and mocked me unmercifully. To be fair, as I said, I was not the sharpest knife in the drawer, so whenever I did anything in school it was expected that people would laugh at me, but still, this time it really stung because I was so invested. As I finished my report I still felt pretty good about what I had written, I thought it was easily the best thing I had ever done, and I was proud of the amount of work I had put into it and the fact that I had the insight to  "crack the code" of Heart of Darkness and make it relevant even to the lives of the dopey kids in my class. While my classmates mocked me, I thought my teacher would see my genius, or least be appreciative. 

After I finished, my teacher, a middle aged crone of a woman whose name I thankfully cannot remember (my psyche no doubt protecting me), came up and sneered to the entire class that she couldn't believe I brought up "that stupid fight" and how "maybe I should stop watching movies and read a book" for once in my life. I was crestfallen, but as is my nature, I was not made mournful by my teacher's rather mean-spirited criticism, instead I let the rage inside of me grow and pulsate to such a degree that, like my mythical Irish forefather Cuchulainn, I must've been burning a bright fiery red that no cold sea could douse.

The teacher, in all of her academic wisdom, gave me a "D" for my paper, no doubt deciding giving me an "F" may very well result in a life-threatening incident that just wasn't worth the risk. What made me the most angry about this situation was not my grade, or the teacher's insults or my fellow students belittling laughter, what bothered me was that I had written a piece that was actually quite brilliant, if I do say so myself, and well beyond my teacher's limited intellect and mind. She thought I was a moron, and maybe rightfully so, but the truth was that she didn't understand my report not because I was a fool but because I was speaking in a language, that of myth and archetype, of which she was illiterate. Despite a "D" being vengefully written in red ink on my paper, if I had the sense to have kept it, it would be something that I am sure I would be proud to this day.  

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You may be asking yourself, "what the hell does your 'stupid' book report and the Leonard -Hagler fight have to do with anything?" Great question. What it has to do with is that this Saturday night Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor square off in a boxing match in Las Vegas, and the build up to this fight has reminded me of that time back in 1986 in the lead up to the Leaonard - Hagler fight. While I think  Mayweather - McGregor is a cynical money grab, so much so that I, a big fight fan, will not be watching it, preferring to save my hard earned money for the much more worthy Canelo Alvarez - Gennady Golovkin bout next month, that doesn't mean that Saturday night's fight has no mythic value at all, it does, you just have to look really hard for it.

In the fight on Saturday, we have a great fighter, Floyd Mayweather, who is 49-0 as a boxer and is considered one of the best, if not the best, boxer of his era, taking on Conor McGregor, a man who has never boxed professionally and is treated by boxing professionals like the novice that he is. McGregor is an overwhelming underdog, and every boxing expert is picking Mayweather to destroy him, much like Hagler was the big favorite in 1986 and Leonard the afterthought.

McGregor has never boxed before but he is no joke as a fighter, for he has made a name for himself fighting and winning titles in Mixed Martial Arts with the UFC. McGregor is a champion MMA fighter, and if this fight were in an octagon or in the street, Conor would beat the living hell out of Floyd in no time at all, but sadly for McGregor, this fight is in a boxing ring.  

All of that said…there is one thing intriguing about this fight. Mayweather is such a heavy favorite, and deservedly so, that the narrative surrounding the fight has a familiar ring to it. There is talk of McGregor being in danger of getting really hurt, of how he has zero chance to win and how this is all a sideshow and Mayweather is unbeatable. Sound familiar? To me, it sounds exactly like the build up to the Leonard - Hagler fight. Although, to be fair, the similarities between Leonard and McGergor are nonexistent, as Leonard was one of the most accomplished boxers of his time before squaring off with Hagler, but the mythic narrative being set up for Mayweather - McGregor is somewhat reminiscent of Leonard - Hagler.

The similarities between Mayweather - McGregor and Hagler - Leonard strain and crumble under closer inspection, but there is another competition that has a mythic narrative around it that is eerily reminiscent of the Mayweather - McGregor fight...the presidential election last November between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. 

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One of the things this fight and the election have in common is that there is no hero, as both the participants, Mayweather and McGregor, are pretty loathsome individuals, just like Hillary and Trump. This is not one of those classic, Ali-Foreman, good vs evil type of stories, so much as it is an evil versus evil story. If the villain from Rocky III, Clubber Lang, and a cross between the villain in Rocky IV Ivan Drago and Rocky V villain Tommy Gunn fought, then this would be its equivalent. The loud mouthed, woman beating, money hungry Mayweather fighting the loud mouthed, untested, money hungry McGregor is not exactly a fight that will pique the archetypal impulse in the collective.

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Of course, somewhat like the election with its gender battle, with this fight there is the race factor as Mayweather is Black and McGregor White. But again, while a Black man fighting a White man is usually good for tapping into mankind's uglier instincts, in this case there is no "good guy" to cling to on either side so it is much less compelling as a racial drama then say, the Jack Johnson - Jim Jeffries "Great White Hope" fight in 1910, or even the Larry Holmes - Gerry Cooney "Great White Hope" fight in 1982. As we learned in the Clinton-Trump election, naked appeals to gender, or in the case of this fight, race, just don't cut it when both combatants are so terribly unlikable. 

And finally, this fight is similar to the election because one of the participants is a neophyte. McGregor has never boxed professionally just like Donald Trump had never run for elected office prior to running for president. McGregor and Trump's inexperience led experts to conclude that for their opponents, the consensus establishment picks Hillary and Mayweather, victory was inevitable. Well, in Hillary's case her victory certainly was inevitable, until it wasn't.

Every boxing expert I have read, and every person I have talked to, believe Mayweather will win easily. On paper he certainly should have an easy go of it on Saturday. Mayweather is as smooth, skilled and precise a fighter as we have seen in this generation. His technical proficiency is beyond question. He most definitely SHOULD win easily. But as Hillary Clinton learned last November, SHOULD ain't got nothing to do with it.

Conor McGregor has a tiny thing going for him heading into this bout…he is the unknown. No one knows if he can actually box, or if he can even withstand a single round with Mayweather, who it is doubtful has the ability to knock him out, but most certainly does have the ability to carve him up and humiliate him.

McGregor also has one other thing going for him, he has nothing to lose. If he loses this fight, and even if he is embarrassed, he just collects his money, says "hey, I'm not a boxer, but I am rich" and goes back to MMA. Floyd on the other hand, simply cannot lose. If Floyd loses, his ego and self-image are destroyed, his Self is annihilated. Floyd cannot even contemplate losing this fight, it is too great a fear for him to ever touch upon it. In this match-up, much like Hillary in the election, Floyd is the psychologically brittle one, and this is why I think the fight will not go the way the experts think it will.

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My years of watching, studying and training in boxing and martial arts tell me that Floyd Mayweather should trounce Conor McGregor…BUT…there is something in the air, the same thing that was in the air on April 6, 1987 when Leonard beat Hagler, and in the air in February of 1990 when Buster Douglas beat Iron Mike Tyson, and when in June of 2016 Brexit stunned the UK and last November when Trump shocked the world.  The impossible is now possible, anything can happen, just last year the Cubs won the World Series and the Patriots came back from the largest defect in Super Bowl history (down 25 points in the 3rd quarter) to win the Super Bowl. In our current time, up is down, left is right, Donald J.Trump is president and cats and dogs are living together. Crazy things are happening and I think some crazy things are going to happen Saturday night in Las Vegas (besides the usual crazy things that happen in Las Vegas).

In the turbulent age in which we live, we must expect the unexpected, which is why I think Conor McGregor wins the fight Saturday night. I think that either Conor McGregor knocks Floyd Mayweather out in the most stunning fashion imaginable, or the fight goes all 12 rounds and Mayweather wins on points. But even if Mayweather gets the decision, it will be Conor McGregor who will have "won" the fight just by going the distance. 

God knows Conor McGregor is no Ray Leonard, nor is he Charles Marlow or Captain Willard, but just like Floyd Mayweather he is going into the heart of darkness Saturday night, and while both men will face their shadows, I think Mayweather, like Hillary Clinton, is psychologically unprepared to come face to face with the deepest and darkest fear that dwells within him. McGregor will overcome his shadow, and Mayweather, and teach us once again that we know nothing, especially those of us who consider ourselves experts. 

I know, I know, it's crazy for me to pick the underdog McGregor against such overwhelming odds, but just like Conor McGregor, I have absolutely nothing to lose (except the mortgage payment and maybe getting a "D" on this blog post), which is the exactly why he will win. 

UPDATE : I was wrong.

GRADE : D-

©2017

 

The Tragedy of Charlottesville and the Age of Identity

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Estimated Reading Time : 8 minutes 13 seconds

I attempted to write about the whole Charlottesville situation last week but found I just didn't have the heart to do it. As I am sure it does for others, the entire episode depresses me no end. My depression does not come from the knowledge that there are neo-Nazi's and racists in America, I've known that for a long time. What has depressed me so much was that I was forewarning about this exact type of conflagration for some time and no one heeded my alarm and now a young woman, Heather Heyer, is dead. 

My depression has only gotten worse since the murder Saturday, August 12, because of the strategically inept, emotionally driven, intellectually vacuous and politically self-defeating response to it by those on the left and in the media. 

Even though I know it is a fruitless endeavor, I will once again throw out some thoughts the I hope people will consider if they really, truly want to succeed in overcoming the darker aspects of American politics and culture. Do I expect anyone to listen to me or heed my warnings? Of course not, but goodness knows that has never stopped me before. 

PUNCHING NAZIS AND PANDORA'S BOX

Let's start at the beginning, I have written more articles than I care to remember about the subject of violent political language leading to political violence . I have written ad nauseam about how when you give yourself the right to punch Nazi's because they are terrible people, you open a Pandora's Box of violence and self-aggrandizing righteousness that can never be shut and will ultimately be used against you. 

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For one example, at the end of May I wrote a piece titled, Greg Gianforte, Punching Nazi's and the Absence of Moral Authority where I lay out the case that giving yourself permission to punch bad guys only gives the bad guys permission to punch you back, or to preemptively punch you first. Punching Nazi's may feel like a fun thing to do, but the problem with punching Nazi's is that they will definitely punch back, and last Saturday they punched back with a Dodge Charger killing Heather Heyer and wounding dozens. It is easy for liberals to scream about there being "no moral equivalency" between the Nazi's and Antifa, but that doesn't mean that Antifa, liberals and the left don't bear some responsibility for the conditions which led to Ms. Heyer's death. Here are some other examples of where I made the same argument and warned against violent language leading to violence. Link, Link, Link, Link.

THERAPEUTIC VS. STRATEGIC

This past week the New York Times ran an interesting piece by Moises Velasquez-Manoff about how to counter Nazi protestors and, not the least bit surprising to me since I've been saying this all along, the best way to do so is to not confront them physically. Confrontation is oxygen to neo-Nazi's, when you attack them you are giving teeth to their tiger. This quote from the Times piece echoes what I have been saying non-stop on the subject.  

I would want to punch a Nazi in the nose, too,” Maria Stephan, a program director at the United States Institute of Peace, told me. “But there’s a difference between a therapeutic and strategic response.” The problem, she said, is that violence is simply bad strategy."

As everyone's favorite Nazi, Hans Landa, would say…"That's a BINGO!!"

"Violence is bad strategy". I have said that over and over and over again but to no avail. And still in the wake of Charlottesville, the left is doubling down on this strategy and holding up Antifa as a noble resistance movement. It isn't, it is a collection of the self-indulgent having tantrums for personal reasons wrapped in the political.

More from the Times...

"Violence directed at white nationalists only fuels their narrative of victimhood — of a hounded, soon-to-be-minority who can’t exercise their rights to free speech without getting pummeled. It also probably helps them recruit. And more broadly, if violence against minorities is what you find repugnant in neo-Nazi rhetoric, then “you are using the very force you’re trying to overcome,” Michael Nagler, the founder of the Peace and Conflict Studies program at the University of California, Berkeley, told me."

Another BINGO!! Mr. Nagler is correct, but the majority of the left and the media are in a bizarre emotionalist hysteria at the moment where reason and self-reflection are anathema. If those resisting Trump and the neo-Nazi's truly want to succeed in their endeavor, they would step back from their emotionalism and embrace a calm, cool and calculating strategic approach to do so.

More from the Times...

"Most important perhaps, violence is just not as effective as nonviolence. In their 2011 book, “Why Civil Resistance Works,” Dr. Stephan and Erica Chenoweth examined how struggles are won. They found that in over 320 conflicts between 1900 and 2006, nonviolent resistance was more than twice as effective as violent resistance in achieving change. And nonviolent struggles were resolved much sooner than violent ones.

The main reason, Dr. Stephan explained to me, was that nonviolent struggles attracted more allies more quickly. Violent struggles, on the other hand, often repelled people and dragged on for years.

The broader issue, in her view, is this: Why do oppressive regimes and movements invest so much in fomenting violence? (Think of our president and his talent for dividing the country and generating chaos.) Because violence and discord help their cause. So why would you, she asks, “do what the oppressor wants you to do?

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A triple BINGO!! What frustrates me no end is that people on the left are so hysterical that they never answer the most important question of all…why are you acting emotionally and violently (including language) when that is exactly what your oppressor (Trump et al) wants you to do? The left may be too lost in their echo chamber to realize this, but Trump won Charlottesville and the aftermath. Polling from NPR/PBS clearly shows this. And Pelosi and the democrats overreach regarding the taking down of confederate statues is unpopular with a majority of Americans and Black Americans (44% -40% think confederate statues should remain), and will only empower Trump and weaken them further. And the greater problem of liberal overreach is that there has already been vandalism of and calls for removal of statues that aren't confederate, with examples being Joan of Arc, St. Junipero Serra and Christopher Columbus. As a friend of mine, an independent voter in a blue state, said to me the other day, "I hate to say it because he is such a disgusting person, but Trump is right about the statues." "Regular" people can be repulsed by neo-Nazi's and still not want statues to be removed, this nuance is lost on democrats and it is a trap they should avoid.

Regardless of statues, the larger problem is that we live in a culture, and the politics of both the left and right are reflective of this, that demands instant self-gratification. As the Times piece points out, and as I have been saying for ages, punching Nazi's may be therapeutically useful in the moment, but ultimately it is strategically asinine and self-defeating. Many on the left do not care about the long term political effects of this self-sabotaging strategy, only that it assuages their personal psychological discomfort in the moment. 

IS THERE ANY POINT TO PROTESTING?

The New Yorker ran a piece by Nathan Heller on August 21, 2017 titled "Is There Any Point To Protesting?"  that discussed the efficacy of protests. The piece pointed out that most protests simply don't work. For instance in the lead up to the Iraq war millions of Americans, myself included, marched and protested against the war, but the war happened anyway. The piece points out that the effective protests are the ones born of a strong leadership structure and precise strategic and tactical goals and objectives. The civil rights protests led by Martin Luther King, Jr. being the prime examples. 

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Besides the strategic, tactical and moral genius of King, the civil rights movement also displayed what the Times piece, and I, advocate, non-violence. Civil rights protestors maintained their dignity and their righteousness by exposing the moral and ethical deviancy of their opponents. What shocked America, and white America in particular, into siding with the civil rights protestors was that the chaos, anger and violence were only emanating from those fighting for discrimination and segregation. The moral strength of the civil rights activists was what deeply moved white Americans, who chose King's spiritual strength against the physical strength wrapped in moral weakness of the segregationists.

TARGETING THE ACLU AND THE FIRST AMENDMENT

The current strategic idiocy of the left is not confined to just the failure to embrace non-violence. In the wake of Charlottesville, liberals have decided to attack the ACLU. The ACLU is a crucial bulwark for the left in the battle against Trump, but liberals want to hold them accountable for daring to fight for the 1st amendment right of Nazi's to rally and march. This is the most self-defeating approach imaginable for the liberals. If liberals want to succeed, they better start understanding that the constitution is the only way they will be able to defeat Trump and Trumpism. This is something I wrote about immediately after Trump's election in my strategic guide to defeating him, but I was ignored then too. I promise you that the left will come to rue the day they failed to embrace the first amendment unabashedly because their enemies will use that as a weapon against them. 

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Speaking of which, I saw the founder of Black Lives Matter, Patrisse Cullors, on television last week and she was saying that "hate speech is not protected by the first amendment." You know who would really be shocked to hear that? The founding fathers who wrote the constitution. Of course hate speech is protected by the first amendment, and Ms. Cullors should be very happy about that. Yes, it allows Nazi's to march, but is also allows Black Lives Matter to march. What Ms. Cullors and many on the left fail to understand is that if you water down the 1st amendment, or any other constitutional rights, those weakened rights will be used as a weapon to destroy you. Lots of people out there think what Black Lives Matter advocates is hate speech, which means Black Lives Matter needs the first amendment and the ACLU in order to exist, they would be wise to act accordingly. I seriously doubt they will. 

HATING HATE AND THE HATERS WHO HATE

Which brings us to the word "hate". I've heard the word hate a lot these last few weeks, and I have to say that "hate" is a losing battle for liberals as well. Any protest that wants to be successful need not only be non-violent, it desperately needs to have a very clear objective. The civil rights protests of the 50's and 60's had an overarching objective of civil rights for Black Americans, and specific objectives to each locality, for instance the ending of segregation on buses in Montgomery etc.  The current protests have no clear cut objective. What they say they are against is "hate". They want to stamp out "hate", and carry signs saying "No hate!!". Well, the bad news is that hate is an entirely natural human condition. It has been around ever since we've had sentient beings on this planet, and it will be around when the last man breathes his final breath. You cannot stamp out hate anymore than you can stamp out love, and trying to do so is a fools errand of Quixotic proportions.  

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Targeting hate sounds like something a 1st grader would wish for, right after Legos and action figures. Hate is a state of mind that you cannot police because people will just bury it in their psychological closet when in mixed company. In that psychological closet, hate doesn't diminish, it grows in strength and power so that when it does rear its head it will have grown into a very potent force indeed. On the other hand, if people are "allowed to hate" in thought, but not allowed to discriminate in action, then you are on the path to find that delicate balance where disparate people can live side by side without killing each other in a democracy. So being specifically against "discrimination" or "segregation" or whatever specific goal you choose, as opposed to against an amorphous "hate", is the way to go if you want to politically succeed in the long run. 

And just like fighting against the first amendment, fighting against "hate" will easily be used as a weapon against those trying to stamp it out. For instance, people on the left "hate" Nazi's, or "hate" Trump, so they themselves "hate" and feel comfortable doing so. You see, decrying hate is a loser's game because everyone hates something. Just because you think you hate the right things doesn't mean your hate is righteous, only that you're a hypocrite for pointing out other people's hate and being blind to your own.  

NOT-SEEING THE NEO-NOT-SEES

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My friend, the inimitable Jungian Falconer, often talks to me about the psychology of Nazi's and the Nazi impulse within us all, but he makes the point that "Nazi" is really "Not-See", meaning the Nazi/Not-See does NOT SEE the humanity of the other. Obviously white supremacists and neo-Nazis and the like do not see the humanity of those different from them, but maybe not so obviously, those on the left are also guilty of this same bit of Not See-ism. These Not-Sees are not interested in searching for Truth, only in confirmation bias and the warm embrace of the echo chamber.  They adamantly avoid the hard work of  exploring and discovering anything new about the world or themselves, they just want to FEEL good and self-righteous right now.

Not See-ism is ascendant in the world right now. This is just a fact of where we are on the historical cycle/wave. To stop it we don't need marches or "pussy-hats" or righteous indignation, what we need is self-reflection, introspection and the hard work of making ourselves conscious of the demons that dwell and work inside of us all. 

THE RELIGION OF SELF AND THE CHURCH OF IDENTITY POLITICS

On the subject of historical waves, there is one large issue that most seem to be unaware of that plays a vital role in the current clash between Not-See Left and Neanderthal Right, that issue is religion. In the long arc of history, the religions of the world that have held cultural sway for the last two thousand years are in decline and collapse in the west. Just because religion is in decline does not mean that people no longer have a religious impulse. Studies show that humans are hard wired for religion, so what happens when the old religions die? New religions get born. The new religion of our time is The Religion of Self, and one of its most powerful denominations is the Church of Identity Politics. This new Religion of Self and its Church of Identity was born after the Century of the Self where advertising and public relations primed humans to respond to their personal unconscious wants and desires before contemplating community or anyone or anything else.

Identity Politics, of both the left and the right, is personal and psychological and fills an unconscious need for the faithful and feeds the narcissism of our time. On the left the identity politics movement fulfills people's need to feel of worth by valuing them based upon their individual identifying markers…race, sexual orientation, gender etc. On the right the same principle is in practice, with white power and white supremacy being the most malignant forms of right wing identity politics. What both the left and right versions of the Religion of Self and the Church of Identity Politics share is that they are both ruled by the quest for sanctity in the form of Victimhood. Victimhood is held up as the highest marker of value and worth and achievement.

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The religious impulse of the current Identity era is similar to the religious impulse of the Christian era in that it gives its adherents a sense of purpose and meaning. In addition, its doctrine and dogma is based on faith and feelings, not logic and reason, and it is also infused with a heavy dose of intoxicating self-righteousness and the prestige of exclusivity, which gives the faithful a psychological release of powerful psychic and emotional energy through the use of scapegoating, shaming and exiling of those who do not conform to the dogma being preached. This is true of disciples of the Religion of Self and the Church of Identity Politics on both the left and the right.

On the right, the impulse is to brand heretics with everything from RINO, Republicans in Name Only, to Cuckservative, the clever and effective meme that at once eviscerates and emasculates any political opponents who don't adhere to the proper dogma. Shouting "Cuckservative" is to the right as crying "racists/misogynist" is to the left. Two sides of the same coin in the collection plate at the Church of Identity Politics. 

With the democrats, you see a similar thing when the members of the Clinton Cult attack, shame and exile non-compliant leftists by calling them racists and misogynists for daring to disagree with the Identity Dogma which demands people be judged by their race, gender, sexual orientation and position on the victimhood scale and not by the content of their character or their ability. 

Right before the horrors of Charlottesville there was a great example of this dogmatic impulse when centrist democrats wailed about racism from "Bernie Bros" who don't support California Senator Kamala Harris, a Black woman, for president in 2020. The centrist attack was transparently ridiculous, but it was undertaken with all of the fervor of the Inquisition. The blindness revealed by the Clinton Cult regarding Harris and her opponents alleged "racism" is staggering. Calling Bernie Sanders supporters and those who dare to question Kamala Harris "racists and misogynists", means that the multitude of people of color and women who support Bernie Sanders and question Harris are treated as if they are invisible by the centrist democrats, which is exactly what the Clinton Cult claim Sanders supporters do to women and minorities. Add to that the fact that some of the most effective spokespeople for the progressive ideology that fuels the leftist movement (and Bernie Sanders) today are Tulsi Gabbard and Nina Turner, two powerful women of color, and you can see how Clintonistas have earned the moniker of Hillary Hypocrites.

PRAY FOR YOUR ENEMIES

Speaking of church, the civil rights movement which was so very successful at protest, was grounded in Christianity, which gave it a built in moral authority and common ground with even its most ardent adversaries. As previously stated, the time of Christianity in the west has passed, but none of the new religions, The Religion of Self and the Church of Identity Politics most especially, have been able to fill that moral void or accentuate community through common experience.

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I read an interview last week with the Eagles of Death Metal lead singer Jesse Hughes. To refresh your memory, Hughes and his bandmates survived the horrific Bataclan terrorist attack in Paris back in November of 2015 where 90 people were slaughtered in a concert hall. In the interview, Hughes spoke of how he reached out to Ariana Grande, the young signer whose concert in Manchester, England was targeted by Islamic terrorists in May of this year. Hughes recounted how he has tried to handle the psychological and emotional tumult brought on by his brush with death two years earlier. Hughes advice to Grande was "you've always got to pray for your enemies". I truly believe that and try to practice it, and that means praying not only for Heather Heyer, but for James Fields, the neo-Nazi who killed her, who is desperately in need of solace from  the torment in his lost soul regardless of the heinous atrocity he committed. But I am aware that to advocate for prayer now, in the wake of Charlottesville and in the Identity Age, I would only, at best, be laughed at and ridiculed. And I understand that is because calling for prayer in this day and age is in itself seen to be a divisive act in this time when the Religion of Self reigns supreme.

The reality is that this is the post-Christian western world we live in. The philosophical and psychological container of the old religions cannot hold the New Man, and the old religions have earned the public's disillusionment with corruption and hypocrisy on an epic scale. The collective is currently disoriented because they no longer have a foundational orientation to the old religions, and are struggling to re-orient to a new religion that can adequately contain the New Man in all of his complexity. 

What we need at this time are new versions of Martin Luther King, Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day, Thich Naht Hanh, Gandhi and Anthony DeMello, but with no viable new religion with which to re-orient ourselves, civilization is left with underserving religions, like the Religion of Self and the Church of Identity Politics and its sacred Victimhood, which are unable to contain the New Man in his entirety and therefore not fertile ground from which any new great men and women can grow and flourish. Instead, from our disorientation from the old religion and failure of the new religion, we flail about and embrace the false prophets and idols on the left like Black Lives Matter, The Clinton Cult and their emotive neo-liberal cohorts in the media, and on the right like Fox News, the Confederacy, Chris Kyle and Donald J. Trump. 

THE ROUGH BEAST IN WINTER

I wrote last June that a beast was awakened and slouching towards Bethelehem. I wrote last month that winter isn't coming, winter is here. Both of these things have been proved by the events of the last year and last month to be entirely true. There is no way to stop the historical wave we are on that is, like a tsunami, gaining strength and power every moment of the day. Delusional liberals believe removing Trump will stop it. It won't. Fighting against "hate" won't help. Protesting won't help. The dye is cast, the conclusion inevitable. Our only wise course of action now is to accept the inevitable, embrace our disorientation, and prepare for impact and the aftermath of the crash. 

This is the world we have built, these are the politics we deserve. If we cannot pray at all, never mind pray for our enemy, we are no better than our enemy, and we will be engulfed by the same flames that devour him. Our blindness is no excuse, our ignorance is no excuse, our arrogance is no excuse. We deserve Trump, for he is a mirror reflection of us and our narcissism, intellectual vacuity, self-defeating strategies and crumbling empire. The darkness is upon us, all of us, and until we realize that, we are doomed to remain without light. Know this, things are going to get much, much worse, before they get any better.

©2017

Colossal Warning on Korea

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****WARNING - THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE FILM COLOSSAL!! YOU'VE BEEN WARNED!!****

Estimated Reading Time : 5 minutes 12 seconds

The other night a young lady friend of mine, the esteemed Lady Pumpernickle Dusseldorf, wanted to "spend some time" with me, and she decided that the best course of action was for the two of us to watch a movie together. Ever the gentleman, I accepted her invitation and added that she should pick the entertainment for the evening. The Lady chose Colossal, the off-beat art house movie starring Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudeikis. I had already seen Colossal back in April when it was first released, but when a vivacious, pretty, young lady wants something, I am in the practice of always obliging, so we sat down on the couch at a respectable distance from one another and watched Colossal. 

The first time I saw the film I enjoyed it a great deal, so I was more than happy to watch it again. Colossal isn't a perfect movie, but it is definitely an original and unique work of art. Both Hathaway and Sudeikis turn in solid performances and writer/director Nacho Vigalando was always a step ahead of me with his storytelling. 

The reason I mention Colossal now, after my second viewing, is that when I watched it this time I watched it through the prism of escalating tensions on the Korean peninsula between the U.S. and North Korea. Watching the film as potential prophesy made the movie even more compelling to me the second time around, although it also made it slightly less entertaining. My Isaiah/McCaffrey Wave Theory©®™ uses, among many other things, the myths and archetypes of films as a trend analysis and prediction tool, so I am very conscious of movies as a means to reading tea leaves. That said, Colossal has not, at least not yet, reached certain artistic and popular benchmarks demanded by the Isaiah/McCaffrey Wave Theory©®™ to be considered an "Indicator" film. What that means is that the film is unlikely to be of high value as a trend analysis or predictive tool, but to be clear, unlikely to be of high value doesn't mean it has zero value, which is maybe why I was unsettled by what I observed hiding in plain sight in the film and how it relates to our world at the moment.

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The similarities between the Colossal and the current Korean situation are pretty fascinating. Let us start with the players. The film's lead character Gloria, played by Anne Hathaway, is a psychologically wounded, self-destructive narcissist New Yorker in a state of perpetual adolescence. When Gloria gets mugged by her unconscious (in her case by getting really drunk), a giant monster, the manifestation of her psychological wound, appears in Seoul, South Korea and starts demolishing the city. 

In regards to our current Korean crisis, does the description of Gloria as a "psychologically wounded, self-destructive narcissist New Yorker in a state of perpetual adolescence" sound like anybody else we know? It seems relatively obvious to me that Gloria is a much prettier, ultimately more self-aware version of Donald Trump. 

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The main male character is Oscar, played by Jason Sudeikis, who is a psychologically wounded, love starved, desperate, self-destructive, at first passive-aggressive and then aggressive-aggressive, control freak with some extra spicy misogyny thrown into the mix. To give you a glimpse of Oscar's darker impulses, in a pique of jealousy and anger he sets off a gigantic firework in the bar that he owns and operates, which is a family owned business he inherited, which results in setting the place ablaze, all just to prove to Gloria and her ex-boyfriend how Oscar is the one in power and complete control. Similarly to Gloria, Oscar also comes to discover that his psychological wound manifests itself in Seoul leaving death and destruction in its wake, but unlike Gloria whose demon takes the shape of a monster - a living organism with feelings (albeit unconscious ones), Oscar's demon takes the shape of a robot, symbolizing his total lack of connection with any emotional self.

To me, Oscar sounds an awful lot like Kim Jong-un, the "psychologically wounded, love starved, desperate, self-destructive, at first passive aggressive then aggressive aggressive, control freak" leader of North Korea who "inherited the family run business" of leadership of his country and who seems very capable of igniting a "gigantic firework" that lights the family business on fire.

Watching Colossal as primer for a potential Korean conflict was a bit unnerving, which is the main reason why I found it less entertaining the second time around. To me, it is entirely believable that the two stunted children grown large, Trump and Kim Jong-Un, would use the people of Seoul as their playthings and ultimately sacrifice them at the altar of their egos and personal psychological deficiencies and wounds.

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If it meant proving a point about how powerful and virile they both are, I have no doubt that these impotent fools would gladly fire some phallic missiles at one another. The brunt of the damage of any conflagration on the Korean peninsula would fall on the city of Seoul, where 25 million people live in the crosshairs of North Korean artillery. Most power-hungry people who become presidents and leaders of nations are little more than sociopaths if not outright psychopaths, but Trump and Kim seem beyond the pale of even the ordinary madmen who rule supreme on this earth. Both of them appear to me to be craven enough to not even consider the fate of the people in Seoul or anywhere else in the world if their fragile psyches and delicate masculinity were on the line. Just like Gloria and Oscar, Trump and Kim only care about themselves and their own insatiable and relentless wants and needs.

As I mentioned in my original review, the fact that Gloria's monster appears in Seoul, as opposed to Tokyo or Beijing, is no coincidence. Seoul, or more accurately, SOUL, is the battleground where Gloria must reclaim her Self and heal her psychological wounds. If she fails in the task of psychological evolution and integration, then Seoul/her soul, will be destroyed. The same is true of Trump, that if he is unable to restrain his most base desires, which for him are to gain power and control and to avoid embarrassment and humiliation, then Seoul will be forced to pay the heavy price that his ego demands. 

The same is true of Kim, but in a slightly different way. Kim's life is on the line in any resurgence of Korean hostilities. Kim's self-preservation instinct is currently all that is keeping the entire Korean peninsula from armageddon.  For the narcissist, the survival instinct is very strong, as the need for love and approval can be a powerful fuel to get them through life. But as strong as the survival instinct is for the narcissist, there can be a turning point, a sort of emotional/psychological event horizon, beyond which there is no turning back. The narcissist will not only do anything for love and control, but for spite…and Kim could certainly get to the point in the Korean situation where he simply must act in order to maintain his delusion of self-worth and identity, which will have dire consequences for his people, the people of South Korea, and the U.S. military men and women serving in the area. 

In the end of Colossal, Gloria gets sober, thus giving her control, not over others, but over herself and her unconscious, which frees her to do the hard work of self-discovery and self-healing that she desperately needs in order to evolve beyond her childhood trauma and into adulthood. Gloria saves Seoul and defeats Oscar by putting herself directly in harms way and taking responsibility for her life and her choices. Obviously, this is where the Gloria-Trump comparisons come to a screeching halt. Trump, the 71 year old man-child, is not going to change now, and so the people of Seoul will have to live on the razors edge of his erratic psyche until he is no longer in office. 

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There is a line in Colossal where Gloria says to Oscar, "you've lost your mind…you know that, don't you?", to which Oscar replies, "The important thing now is that you don't lose yours". Kim Jong-Un and his father and grandfather, have always been described as madmen by their adversaries here in America. To be fair, the U.S. ALWAYS describes their enemies as crazy, so that epithet isn't unique to the ruling family of North Korea. That said, for the first time in my lifetime, it appears that America has a true-blue lunatic of their own leading our nation in Donald Trump. So in the near future we may be dealing with an equation in which Kim Jong-Un has potentially "lost his mind" and we are forced to rely on Donald Trump "not losing his" mind. If that becomes the case then we are in some very deep shit. 

In the final analysis, Colossal is a unique film worth seeing that I hope is just a nice piece of original entertainment and not a doomsday prophecy. Although, if I am being honest, I have to admit I have a sinking feeling that in the long run, Colossal will end up being much too prophetic for my comfort. The sad truth is, when two men with twisted souls like Trump and Kim square off, we all might end up losing our Seoul. 

©2017

 

 

Eternal Darkness of the Artist's Mind

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Estimated Reading Time : 4 minutes 03 seconds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©2017

Wind River : A Review

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

My Rating : 4.5 out of 5 stars

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©2017

Detroit : A Review

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

My Rating : 0 out of 5 stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©2017

Dunkirk : Random Thoughts

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

Estimated Reading Time : 6 minutes 39 seconds

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

BREXIT STAGE LEFT

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

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

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

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

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

THE OLD ORDER IS DEAD

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

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

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

THE WINTER OF OUR DISCONTENT

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

THE CENTER CANNOT HOLD

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

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

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

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

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

APRES MACRON - LE DELUGE

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

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

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

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

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

THE #WOKE ARE #SOUNDASLEEP

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

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

OUR LAST, BEST HOPE

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

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

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

©2017

 

 

Dunkirk : A Review

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

My Rating : 4.5 out of 5 stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©2017

Has the Fear of Putin Seized Hollywood?

Estimated Reading Time : 5 minutes 04 seconds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

©2017

 

Lady MacBeth : A Review

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

My Rating : 2 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation : SKIP IT.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©2017

War for the Planet of the Apes : A Review

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

My Rating : 4.8 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation : SEE IT NOW!!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©2017

 

A Ghost Story : A Review

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

My Rating : 4 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation : SEE IT IN THE THEATRE.  A warning : This is an art house film, if your tastes run to the more conventional, you will probably hate this movie. You've been forewarned!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©2017