"Everything is as it should be."

                                                                                  - Benjamin Purcell Morris

 

 

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Al Pacino : Top 5 Performances

 

On Tuesday of this past week (the 25th of April), the great Al Pacino celebrated his 77th birthday. Happy belated birthday, Al.

Pacino enjoying the "Scent of a Woman" on his birthday.

Pacino enjoying the "Scent of a Woman" on his birthday.

A reader, the Minnesota Kid, sent me a story about Pacino that showed him galavanting on a beach somewhere on his birthday with a bikini clad vixen forty years his junior. Apparently Pacino has fully embraced the lecherous old man stage of his life…good for him. 

Since I missed Pacino's actual birthday, I thought I'd share with you, my gentle readers, my opinion on his five best performances of his career. Pacino is one of the all-time greats. His run of success in the 1970's was staggering from an actor's point of view. I greatly admire Pacino, he is an old-school, Actors Studio kind of actor. His commitment to craft and his dedication to his life's calling knows no bounds. I recommend any aspiring actors to watch Pacino at his best and notice what he does with his hands in particular. Pacino is great at telling a story and creating a character with his hands. 

Sadly, Pacino has become a bit of a punch line in the latter part of his career with some derivative work that borders on self parody, but that shouldn't over shadow the stellar work he churned out in his wondrous earlier years. 

So sit back, relax, and enjoy my list of Pacino's best performances!!

5. GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS

Pacino had a hell of a year in 1992, winning his first and only Best Actor Oscar for his work in Scent of a Woman, and being nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar in Glengarry Glen Ross. Pacino's work in Scent of a Woman is much too showy for my liking. The whiff of performance hangs in the air during even scene he chews his way through. In contrast, Pacino's work as salesman extraordinaire Ricky Roma in Glengarry Glen Ross is a subtle masterpiece. Pacino wraps Roma in the blustery confidence of the hustling salesman, you can smell the cologne that encases him. Pacino alters his center of gravity with Roma, making him a somewhat top-heavy, chest-out type of character, who, like a predator, is always scanning the horizon for the weakest animal to separate from the herd. Pacino did not win an Oscar for his work as Ricky Roma, but he really should have. 

 

4. SERPICO

In 1972, '73, '74 and '75, Al Pacino was at the height of his creative powers. His work as truth-telling cop Frank Serpico in the 1973, Sidney Lumet directed film Serpico, is a testament to the creative roll Pacino was on back then. Serpico is a complicated character with a sense of honor, duty and loyalty, but he must grapple with whom or what he is loyal…is it to his fellow cops, or to the truth? Serpico chooses the truth, and it nearly costs him everything. Pacino once again uses his body to convey the heavy weight that bears down on Frank Serpico. As the film rolls on Serpico becomes more and more compressed in a permanent slouch, the cross of Truth he is bearing weighing down on him. Pacino was nominated, but did not win, the Best Actor Oscar for Serpico, but he was certainly worthy of that award. 

 

3. DOG DAY AFTERNOON

1975's Dog Day Afternoon paired Paicno with director Sidney Lumet once again to spectacular results. Pacino plays Sonny, a "gay" man who attempts to rob a bank in Brooklyn in the early 70's. Pacino's Sonny is as complex and complicated a character imaginable. Watching the pressure of the situation bear down on Sonny is a remarkable character study. Once again, Pacino uses his physicality to bring Sonny to life, he puts his center of gravity lower on his body, in his pelvic region, and lets that lead the way. Pacino's Sonny is desperate for validation, love and escape. He feeds off of the acceptance of others, whether they be his hostages in the bank or the crowd that gathers outside to egg him on. Watching Sonny chant "Attica, Attica, Attica!!" to the assembled crowd is one of the great iconic moments in cinema history.  

 

2. DONNIE BRASCO

1997's Donnie Brasco is one of Pacino's most underrated performances. Pacino is nothing short of brilliant as the down on his luck gangster Lefty Ruggiero. Pacino imbues Lefty with palpable desperation that seeps out of his every pore. This is, in many ways, Pacino's most profound and intimate performance of his remarkable career. Scandalously, Pacino was not nominated for an Oscar for his staggering display of genius in Donnie Brasco

 

1. THE GODFATHER I & II

It is impossible to overstate the masterpiece that is Al Pacino's work in the first two Godfather movies. Michael Corleone is one of the all-time, iconic film characters in cinematic history. That doesn't happen without the masterful work of Al Pacino. Pacino's transformation from the "good" son to the stone cold killer to the Don himself, is staggering. Pacino gives Michael a vivid and pulsating inner life that he occasionally let's pop out into the world, in explosive moments of rage at his wife Kay or his brother Tom. But even more chilling is when Michael focuses all of that power and force into a calm, collected glare. Pacino's brilliance is in making Michael Corleone a container for all of our darker ambitions while never making him into an obvious monster. Pacino's work as Michael Corleone isn't just his greatest performance, it is one of the greatest performances of all time. 

 

Happy belated birthday, Al!! I tip my cap to you for your lifetime of transcendent work!! Keep on frolicking until you can frolic no more!!

©2017

Colossal : A Review

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

Estimated Reading Time : 4 minutes 37 seconds

My Rating : 3.5 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation : SEE IT. See it in the theatre in order to encourage studios to make more films like this! 

Colossal, written and directed by Nacho Vigalondo, is a black comedy about Gloria, an unemployed, alcoholic writer who leaves New York city and returns to her suburban childhood home as a means of last resort, when all of a sudden a giant monster starts attacking Seoul, South Korea. Anne Hathaway stars as Gloria, with Jason Sudeikis playing her hometown friend Oscar.

Colossal is a strange, original, smart, unique and ultimately insightful film that is a worthwhile storytelling venture. Writer/Director Vigalondo masterfully weaves together a story about alcoholism, misogyny, monsters, personal demons and psychological/spiritual healing to create an intriguing and ultimately satisfying movie. 

Colossal is not a monster movie, not really, the monster is a secondary device to mine the inner turmoil of Gloria, and is a metaphor for her alcoholism/psychological scars. It is impossibly clever that writer/director Vigalondo has the monster attack Seoul, or less succinctly, SOUL. It is Gloria's soul/Seoul that is under assault. Her self loathing and self-destructive behavior are born out of being a pawn, or barbie doll, in a male dominated world that is cruel, hurtful and monstrous

Hathaway is a polarizing actress, a lot of people spew a great deal of vitriol at her for her public persona. I have no opinion on her as a person, but I will say she does very good work in Colossal. Hathaway's Gloria, like Hathaway herself, smiles maybe a bit too much and seems pretty self-absorbed and disingenuous a lot of the time, which is actually a masterful way to bring the character to life. In a bit of notable artistic courage, Hathaway embraces Gloria's physical and emotional messiness, and allows herself to look her absolutely worst, which is something not every actress would do. Hathaway's Gloria (like Hathaway herself) is very likable in her unlikability, and that is entirely a credit to the actresses charm and skill.

Jason Sudeikis does a surprisingly solid job as Gloria's childhood classmate Oscar. Sudeikis is a funny guy, and he is funny here, but never too funny, which makes his Oscar a totally believable human being and keeps the film grounded. Sudeikis is the polar opposite of Hathaway in that most people generally like him, and as Oscar he uses his inherent likability to lure the audience onto his side to terrific effect. 

Both Hathaway and Sudeikis commit fully to the rather absurd scenario the film lays out for them, which makes the audience never question the legitimacy or veracity of the story as it unfolds. In some way, Colossal reminded me of the brilliant absurdist film from last year The Lobster, in regards to its rather quirky premise. Colossal isn't nearly as good as The Lobster, but it is still an interesting, entertaining and worthwhile film. 

The film may have resonated with me personally because, like Gloria, I too am an alcoholic (unlike Gloria I have a quarter century of sobriety under my belt) and have lots of demons and monsters dwelling inside me that occasionally rear their head to destroy large cities. Colossal expertly captures the relentless cycle of bad decisions and self-immolations that the alcoholic goes through while under the spell of that tantalizing Dionysian nectar. It also wonderfully captures the discomfort those around the alcoholic feel when he/she attempts to stop drinking. Even those who want the drunk to stop boozing are thrown for a loop when they finally do, and seeing that in Colossal rang particularly true for me. It is a common occurrence that people want YOU to change, but they don't want THINGS to change….which, of course, is impossible.

As a psychological exercise, Colossal is pretty marvelous, using a monster attacking Seoul and all the events that follow that bizarre occurrence as a way to tell the story of a woman's struggle to come to grips with her psychological and emotional wounds is a brilliant idea. And it is important to note that this is a WOMAN'S story, as it shows the carnage and soul crushing and suffocating damage men inflict upon the women they claim to love. Much like last years A Monster Calls, Colossal makes a monster movie the way it should be made, as a personal, intimate tale that reveals larger truths, in this instance, the personal experience of a woman trying to survive in a man's world.

Colossal is not a perfect movie, it has its flaws and its occasional sloppiness, but it is an ingenious film that tells a peculiar yet important story. As an alcoholic I can tell you that Anne Hathaway's performance in the final shot of the film is as good as it gets in portraying what life is like living with that affliction. Hope, fear and cold, hard reality all smack you in the face at once when you have reached the mountaintop only to realize you must climb all the way back down again in order to live life on terra firma. Just when you think the battle is won, you realize it hasn't even started yet. 

Whether you're a drunken booze hound or a teetotaling church goer, Colossal is worth seeing in order to watch what it is like to have your own personal monster projected out there for all the world to see. It is a superbly smart and psychologically relevant film that tells the truth, even when it lies. I recommend you spend your hard earned dollars to see it in the theatre, you never know, the Seoul you save, could be your own. 

©2017

The Lost City of Z : A Review

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

Estimated Reading Time : 4 minutes 58 seconds

My Rating : 2 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation : SKIP IT. If the film intrigues you, see it on Netflix or Cable.

The Lost City of Z, written and directed by James Gray based upon the book of the same name by David Grann, is the true story of British explorer Percy Fawcett and his quest to find an ancient lost city in the Amazon in the first part of the twentieth century. The film stars Charlie Hunnam as Fawcett with supporting turns from Sienna Miller and Robert Pattinson.

The Lost City of Z is a great story, but a sub-par film. I have not read the book it is based upon, so maybe it is more successful as a companion piece to the book, but it fails as a stand alone cinematic enterprise. 

The problems with The Lost City of Z are numerous, but the most imperative issue is that it is thematically and structurally unsound. The movie never quite figures out what it wants to be and therefore tries to be about too much and ends up being about nothing. Is it a film about colonialism? Imperialism?  Patriarchy? The suffocating rigidity of British society? The perils of chasing glory? Losing ones family by trying to save it? There are lots of choices to make, too many, and thus the film wanders from one topic to the next never fleshing any one out to any satisfactory depth. 

In terms of structure, the film's narrative is sprawling and poorly constructed which makes the movie feel interminably long and unconscionably meandering. A common pitfall for bio-pics is that the director feels compelled to show as much of the hero's life as possible, which almost always ends up a cinematic disaster. By showing everything we end up understanding nothing. No drama can take root and flourish when a film is so busy recreating events to manufacture the broadest and most vast of stories. This bewildering filmmaking decision is furthered by poor editing in which many tiny storytelling threads are revealed but none of them are pulled, resulting in a rather scattered movie going experience. 

Director James Gray is very good at making movies that SHOULD be good, but never are. His filmography is littered with noble failures and misfires. The Immigrant, for example, looked great but wasn't a great film because its story was all over the map. The same is true for all of Gray's other films. He must be phenomenal at making film pitches in studio offices, because he is not very good at making the actual films.

What struck me the most about The Lost City of Z was how poorly shot it was. The film's topic brings to mind many other much better films, like The Mission, New World and even Apocalypse Now. The biggest difference from those films though is that they were simply gorgeous to look at. The Lost City of Z's visuals are as murky and muddled as its storytelling. Gray and cinematographer Darius Khondji are never able to exploit the staggering beauty of the jungle to their cinematic advantage. When the film opens in Ireland and England, the dreary visuals are to be expected, but the transition to the Amazon never brings with it an expansive stylistic shift to a broader color palette. The films photography starts off suffocating and claustrophobic and stays that cinematically myopic throughout, which is a terrible artistic error. 

Gray and Khondji are also unable to create any sort of visual texture throughout the entire film. I kept yearning for the dazzlingly simple work of Emmanuel Lubezki in Terence Malick's New World. Lubezki and Malick were able to use natural lighting to propel their story and draw the viewer in to a visceral experience shared with the lead characters. Every slight bump in the bark of a tree or in the White men's armor was accentuated to a dazzling degree. In contrast, Gray and Khondji deliver a flat and stale picture of the Amazon, one of the most beautiful places on earth. One need only watch Roland Joffe's The Mission to see how a filmmaker can make the most of such a stunning setting. 
 

Charlie Hunnam plays lead character Percy Fawcett. Hunnam is best known for his starring turn in the FX motorcycle gang show Sons of Anarchy. Hunnam is remarkably handsome, of that there is no doubt. He certainly looks the part of a movie star, and I was definitely rooting for him heading into the film. But about mid-way through The Lost City of Z it occurred to me, Charlie Hunnam simply lacks "it". Some people have "it" and some people don't, and I am afraid Mr. Hunnam is of the latter group. This is a big year for Hunnam, as he is making his big push for movie stardom with The Lost City of Z and King Arthur to follow quickly on its heels. I think Hunnam will be unable to carry a film because he simply is not charismatic, magnetic or compelling enough to do so. He isn't a bad actor, but he certainly is not a great one. His technique in The Lost City of Z seemed to be little more than whispering most of the time. He never demands the audience watch him, and is unable to lure the viewer in to his intimate and private world. There is an artistic wall around Hunnam as an actor, and it keeps him safe and secure but cold and distant from his audience. 

Sienna Miller and Robert Pattinson play Fawcett's wife and comrade respectively. Miller is an actress I never really think about, but she is always very good when I see her in something, and The Lost City of Z is no exception. Miller is impossibly beautiful, and her bone structure is a thing of perfection, but what makes her really note worthy is the power she is able to generate in her stillness. There is no wasted or extraneous movement from Miller, just a focused stillness that brings with it a palpable magnetic force. 

Pattinson is a pleasant surprise as Costin, Fawcett's aide in his journey into the Amazon. Pattinson is unrecognizable with a giant beard covering his well known face. He creates a genuine and intriguing character that gets swallowed up by the film's epic ambitions, which is a shame, it would have been wiser to mine the Facett-Costin relationship for all it was worth. 

In conclusion, The Lost City of Z is a major disappointment. No need to waste your hard earned dollars seeing this film in the theatre, but if the idea of it intrigues you as it did me, then wait to see it for free on cable or Netflix. I have heard it said of the film that "they don't make movies like this anymore", there is a reason for that, because movie's like this aren't very good. There is a truly great film lurking in the bowels of The Lost City of Z, but director James Gray was unable to discover it. Much like the film's protagonist, we as viewers are left agitated by the dreams of glory and beauty that lie unearthed deep in the heart of the Amazon and of the film. The Lost City of Z is a lost opportunity, and seeing it would be a fruitless journey of self-deception and anguish for any who dare to begin the quest. 

©2017

 

 

 

Killing O'Reilly : Karma is a Bitch

Warning: This post contains STRONG language some a**holes may find objectionable.

Estimated Reading Time : 5 minutes 09 seconds

Bill O'Reilly has dominated cable news for the last two decades. His show "The O'Reilly Factor", has been a ratings behemoth devouring its helpless opponents. Today he was let go from Fox News for his history of sexual harassment in the workplace. O'Reilly's amazing fall from grace is only matched by his surreal rise to power. From a two-bit nobody residing in the slums of the broadcasting world at Inside Edition, to the king of cable news atop the mountain of Fox News is a stunning story, which now ends ignominiously. 

O'Reilly's epitaph will no doubt recount his bravery in defense of the Baby Jesus during the hellacious War on Christmas, and his courage on the front lines in El Salvador and Argentina, not to mention his near miss in solving the Kennedy assassination but forcing a suicide instead. This was a great man in his own mind, and a flaming asshole in the minds of every rational human being who had the dreadful misfortune of having stumbled upon his show. 

O'Reilly's staggering cable news success has always been less an endorsement of his talent, intelligence and insight than it has been an indictment of the debilitating idiocy, moral depravity and emotional debauchery of the cable news watching public. And don't be mistaken, O'Reilly himself was no genius, his painfully obtuse arguments were that of a simpleton...for simpletons, that was his magic formula. As I am fond of saying…you can't argue with an idiot, and O'Reilly is crying in his solid gold mansion right now because he was able to exploit that fact. Sadly, the self-righteous bloviator O'Reilly made a fortune feeding the dumber and darker impulses of the American beast, and he has left the culture and the country a much worse place than when he found it.

O'Reilly didn't just poison the well of America by playing the pugnacious host of the "The O'Reilly Factor", he also did so by writing some of the most atrocious "history" books with the worst titles imaginable. First there was "Killing Lincoln", then "Killing Kennedy", "Killing Jesus", "Killing Patton" and finally "Killing Reagan", which I assume is a book about old age. O'Reilly's "history" books can be broadly titled "Killing History, Logic and the English Language".  

Those are just the "history" books, he also had a plethora of cultural commentary books that he ejaculated upon an unsuspecting nation. With titles like "Culture Warrior", "Whose Looking Out For You?", "A Bold, Fresh Piece of Humanity" and "Old School : Life in the Sane Lane", O'Reilly raked in the cash while slaying straw men, beating dead horses and stroking his own…"ego".

Sadly, O'Reilly's departure from Fox won't stop him from vomiting more awful books onto the public square, and he might yet get another tv gig somewhere else down the line, so we aren't rid of this self-important, blowhard twat just yet. That said, there is the delicious smell of schadenfreude in the air as Fox drops the axe on its iconic front man, and there can be no harm in a little taste of that scrumptious dish if just for a moment. 

Bill O'Reilly may surface again somewhere, but it won't be the same Bill O'Reilly, who like his presidential buddy The Donald, conned a nation (or a portion of it), into thinking he was something he is not. O'Reilly, like Trump, is a hollow man, a fake tough guy who has never been in a fight in his life. He is, like most of his viewers, impotent with rage at the shadows dancing on his wall or bogey men who live under his bed. O'Reilly is also, like his orange haired chum, a fraud, a clown and a boorish, sad little tyrant.

The No-Spin Zone is now tossed into the dustbin of history, it will not be missed…speaking of history, I have a great idea for Bill-O's next "history" book… how about "Killing O'Reilly". 

To mark O'Reilly's Fox firing, I have compiled a collection of scenes from gangster films. Why? Well, there is no moment in life that cannot be made better with film clips from Goodfellas and The Godfather movies. Here is a quick collection that show the O'Reilly firing in all its mythical and archetypal grandeur. ENJOY!!

GODFATHER II - DON FANUCCI

In this scene, Bill O'Reilly is Don Fanucci, the vain, arrogant, ultimately weak, corrupt and stupid mafia boss. Bill O'Reilly has always been Don Fanucci, even though he thinks he is Don Corleone. Robert DeNiro's Vito Corleone is karma…and the light just flickered back on.

GOODFELLAS - MORRIE

In this scene Bill-O is Morrie, the annoying, loudmouthed asshole who bugs the shit out of everyone and "never shuts the fuck up." Well, when karma appears in the form of Joe Pesci's Tommy DeVito, O'Reilly finally "shuts the fuck up". 

GODFATHER III - JOEY ZASA

Not surprisingly, O'Reilly is the camera hungry bully and faux tough guy Joey Zasa, a coward who runs at the first sign of trouble. Karma rides a horse and comes to our rescue. "ZA-SA!!"

GOODFELLAS - TOMMY DEVITO

DeVito, like O'Reilly, is a braggart and impulsive bully, but also like O'Reilly he gets his comeuppance for his assholery. Karma is two to the back of the head. Oh…and Robert DeNiro plays O'Reilly's douchebag lap dog Jesse Waters upon hearing the news his mentor is no more.

GODFATHER - HELLO CARLO

Carlo is a two-faced prick of a bullshit artist who treats Connie like shit and gets Sonny killed on the Causeway. Bill O'Reilly is Carlo. Bill O'Reilly has always been Carlo. The delightful music of the phrase "Hello Carlo" is spoken by Clemenza, but it is really karma working its magic through him. 

 

CASINO : NICKY AND DOMINIC SANTORO

And finally, Bill O'Reilly and his buddy Roger Ailes are Nicky and Dominic Santoro who get their comeuppance for a lifetime of unconscionably thuggish behavior in a corn field in the middle of nowhere. Karma is a baseball bat….and O'Reilly, after watching his buddy Ailes get brutalized, is being buried while he's still breathing. O'Reilly, and Ailes, both got what was coming to them, and learned the hard way that karma is indeed, a real bitch.

And thus ends the dance of the schadenfreude that is Bill O'Reilly's firing from Fox News. It couldn't have happened to a nicer guy. From me to you Bill, from the bottom of my heart, I say to you...

©2017

Theatre of the Absurd : Road to Damascus Edition

Estimated Reading Time : 6 minutes 12 seconds

 

CIRQUE du TRUMP AND THE MEDIA CLOWNSHOW IN FULL EFFECT

It was just a little over a week ago when reports, followed by horrific images, of a chemical weapons attack in Idlib, Syria danced across our television sets here in America. Since then, of course, we have seen our brave and noble media search long and hard in a righteous quest for the Truth of this sad story...Oh…wait…no we haven't…quite the contrary in fact, we have seen our mendacious media shovel lie after lie onto the furnace of our war loving culture.

Trump's reactionary and retaliatory lobbing of cruise missiles onto an airfield in the middle of nowhere Syria a few days after the chemical attack was like a double shot of Viagra for the chronically flaccid "liberal" media, who quickly stood at attention and saluted their brave Commander in Chief and the "beautiful weapons of war" he unleashed. Does this sound absurd to you, well it should, because it most assuredly is.

This same media has been ranting since the election that Trump is unfit to serve as President, and is unhinged and dangerous, if not compromised by the Russians, but the second he uses force and kills people he magically becomes presidential? What the hell is going on here? The short answer…the media is in the tank for the deep state in all its forms (the military industrial complex, the surveillance state, Wall Street, the corporatacracy, etc.), and Trump got played by the Deep State's national security wing and now they have him securely in the boat - hook, line and sinker.

The result of this will be that we will see more muscular military interventions in Syria and we may see a large military action, if not full out war in North Korea in the very near future. The Deep State beat Trump like a drum, he was the proverbial guy who brings a ham sandwich to a chainsaw fight, and now they will use him to get everything they want…more war, more empire, more surveillance, more tyranny, more globalism. 

LACK OF EVIDENCE

The Syrian chemical weapons attack was certainly gruesome, and the blame for it was quickly assigned to Syrian leader Bashar Assad, and then, conveniently, Russian President and Assad ally, Vladimir Putin. The problem with that is that there has been zero evidence or proof shown that Assad or Putin were behind the attacks. The US says it has undeniable proof, but won't share it, which is a pretty strong indicator the evidence is either weak or non-existent. Take a quick read of the Intel report on the subject and try not to hurt yourself looking for anything substantial. Talk about Theatre of the Absurd!!

As is the custom regarding these types of things, the MSM conveniently avoided or ridiculed anyone who questioned the "official" narrative of Assad and Putin being to blame for the Sarin gas attack in Idlib. Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell's assistant during his infamous 2003 Iraq WMD presentation at the U.N., went on All In with Chris Hayes this week and questioned the official story, saying it was nonsense and spoke openly about a false flag attack by anti-Assad rebels trying to lure the U.S. into the Syrian civil war. Wilkerson knows of what he speaks, as he has openly admitted being an unwitting aid in the hoax that led to the ill-fated U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. Hayes was silent during Wilkerson's Syrian false flag claims and never follow up on the topic and quickly changed the subject. Once Wilkerson was off air though, Hayes told his next guests that Wilkerson was way off target and totally wrong, it was unquestionably Assad who is to blame for the sarin atrocity. This was a cowardly and cheap trick by Hayes to avoid having to answer tough questions about the chemical attack claims being made by the U.S. government. Hayes should have jumped all over Wilkerson and had a thorough going over of the case, but he didn't, probably because he knows the case is paper-thin if not non-existent. Hayes' failure to cross examine Wilkerson was cowardly, and his back stabbing him when he wasn't there to defend or debate was the height of cheap shots. 

Another bit of absurdist disinformation put out there by the deep state and its national security wing, was when former presidential candidate and CIA agent, Evan McMullen, claimed on Bill Maher's HBO show that Assad isn't fighting ISIS, but rather is allied with ISIS. This is a typical maneuver out of the deep state playbook, muddy the waters and obfuscate the truth to such a degree that up is down, and reality is impossible to discern. McMullen is, like his sleepy-eyed Intel agency cohort and MSNBC darling, Malcolm Nance, a complete and total bullshitter.. McMullen and Nance play the roles of serious men, but they consistently spout nothing but absurdities, be wary of everything either one of them claims.

HISTORY OF FALSE FLAGS BY SYRIAN REBELS - EXHIBIT A

There is a lot of mention in the corporate media of a 2013 chem attack in Syria as further proof of Assad's guilt in the most recent attack, but there is never any mention of the facts about that 2013 attack, which are very different than the MSM would have you believe.

The 2013 attack was the one that "crossed the red line" that Obama had set about Assad using chemical weapons. Then, as now, the media were quick to jump on the flimsiest of Intel assessments that stated that the Assad regime was to blame. The problem with using this 2013 attack as proof of Assad being guilty now is that the opinion about who is to blame for the 2013 attack has shifted away from Assad and to the rebels due to investigative reporting (Links HERE , HERE , HERE , HERE). The U.N. representative investigating the 2013 claim believes that anti-Assad rebels used Sarin gas in order to draw the west into the Syran civil war. Not a bad plan…and it almost worked…and it might even work this time since we are much more primed for war with Syria and Russia by our repugnant press.

Seymour Hersch was the one who really broke the 2013 story wide open. I highly recommend you read his piece about that attack and where the chemical weapons came from, it would be highly insightful in understanding the current Syrian situation. 

The key take away from Hersh's reporting is that the 2013 chemical weapons attack was a false flag attack by Turkish intelligence and the anti-Assad rebels. This is pretty important information to have if you want to understand what is happening now. Of course, the MSM and the Establishment will ridicule and belittle anyone who says such things, even rising star congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, and label them as "unserious" or worse still, "conspiracy theorists", but that doesn't mean they are wrong. 

A big clue as to what the Establishment is up to is that no one ever mentions the 2013 attack as a false flag. It is either held up as proof of Assad's depravity or it is ignored. This is a glaring red flag that we are being sold a "Gulf of Tonkin" level bill of goods regarding this recent chemical weapons incident. 

HISTORY OF FALSE FLAGS BY SYRIAN REBELS - EXHIBIT B

Another intriguing topic that gets no mention in regards to this current attack and the Syrian rebel forces, is the Richard Engel false flag kidnapping. If you are not aware of the story, which wouldn't be surprising since the MSM wants you to not be aware of the story, it is a remarkable one. The short version is this, NBC foreign correspondent Richard Engel, was kidnapped in Syria and his captors said they were Pro-Assad Shiites. The brutalized him and his compatriots and then a group of anti-Assad Sunni rebels saved him. Engel went on NBC continuously and told the story of his brutal Iranian trained, Shiite captors and his heroic Sunni rebel saviors. The only problem was…it was all a ruse. Engel, PROBABLY wasn't in on it and was the dupe, but it turns out the anti-Assad rebels kidnapped him and made it look like Assad forces did it. it was a propaganda piece, from start to finish…and Engel, NBC, and America bought it. Doesn't this Engel kidnapping, combined with the Sarin false flag attack in 2013 give ample evidence to at least question the "official story" of this most recent chemical weapons attack? Wouldn't the most prudent thing to do is BE SKEPTICAL? 

In one of the more remarkable exchanges that highlight the absurdity of msm coverage of this situation, NBC's Brian Williams, who is a well known liar who has no business being on television or reporting on anything, interviewed Richard Engel. Of course, Williams, his trousers still tented from the "beautiful" missile strike by US forces against Syria, never mentioned Engel's false flag experience in Syria, they both just traded smiles and serious looks about how guilty Assad and Putin obviously were.  If Brian Williams were a real journalist, he may have asked something along these lines..."Richard Engel, you were the victim of a scary kidnapping that was a ruse in order to drum up support in America for the Anti-Assad rebels, is there any chance this chemical weapons attack and the subsequent news coverage out of that area, are a similar disinformation campaign meant to stir the west in general, and the US in particular, to act on behalf of the down trodden rebels?"  Instead we got little more than hot and heavy breathing about our presidential leader and the brave men and women lobbing missiles from hundreds of miles away at an enemy they will never see. Typical soft-serve bullshit from Brian Williams and the impotent gang at NBC.

LACK OF CONTEXT

Two final points you won't hear discussed by the MSM regarding Syria that are a dead giveaway that they are shoveling nothing more than disinformation and propaganda. The first is the complete lack of any historical context. Like the fact that Assad, who every talking head says is a monster, was our ally in the war on terror. Did you know that? Did you know that we sent prisoners to him to be tortured? Assad is certainly a monster, but he has been our monster, and to try and pretend like our hands are so clean regarding this guy is outrageous. And it is even more despicable when we take the moral high ground in regards to Putin and Russia and their support of Assad. You hear a lot of "how could they?" from the dipshits populating cable news. Maybe we should look in the mirror to answer that question. 

And finally, along the same lines, there has been an evolution in the Syria chemical weapons attack story that is entirely predictable…that it is all Putin's fault. Putin has become the scapegoat for everything wrong in the world. It is beyond absurd, and our getting high and mighty about it is the height of hypocrisy. Does anyone remember Iraq and Saddam Hussein using chemical weapons on his own people, the Kurds, and in his war with Iran? Do we all suffer from such a severe form of historical amnesia? Saddam, our ally, used our chemical weapons, with the aid of our Intelligence agencies and military, to gas his own citizens and Iranians. We had no problem with it back then, but apparently now we are horrified by such outlandish behavior.

Of course, years later the MSM and establishment conveniently forgot the details of the Saddam situation and only highlighted his use of chemical weapons. That worked out well for them in deceiving the ill-informed public and successfully making the case to invade Iraq in 2003.

Our newfound horror at middle eastern tyrants using chemical weapons, and our anger at nations who support those tyrants, is the most historically illiterate and obnoxiously hypocritical stance imaginable. This doesn't strengthen our standing as a moral and ethical beacon for the world, it only highlights how full of shit we are. 

By the standards that we blame Putin for Syria, we ourselves are to blame for the innumerable atrocities taking place in Yemen right now at the hands of the Saudis, where millions are on the verge of starvation and have been subject to the most heinous of war crimes. Will we hold ourselves to the same standard we hold Putin and the rest of the world? of course not, because we are absolutely, 100% full of shit. 

WHAT IS REALLY HAPPENING HERE?

What I think is really going on in Syria is something you will never hear anywhere in the establishment media. What I think is actually happening will be ridiculed as being "unserious" and "conspiratorial", which is fine. But here is my assessment of the situation. 

The Syrian civil war is a proxy-pipeline war. Russia and Iran want an Iranian gas pipeline to go through Syria into Europe, while the U.S., Israel and Saudi Arabia want a Saudi pipeline to go through the Syria in to the European market. Russia and Iran want to weaken Saudi Arabia and the U.S., and the U.S. and Saudi Arabia want to weaken Russia and Iran. It is a geopolitical and business chess game. 

Secondly, and this definitely gets me labelled "unserious", but I think that the U.S. created ISIS in order to attack and bring down Assad and wreak havoc in the middle east. Our war on ISIS is little more than Kabuki theatre. We trained, armed and supported them from day one. If we had really been trying to destroy them, they'd be destroyed. Russia entered the Syrian civil war to defeat ISIS and shock of shocks…they are actually doing it. The whole "arming moderate rebels" routine was a total charade, and that seems very obvious to me. We are fighting a war on terror and yet we are allied, arming and supporting both ISIS and Al Qaeda in their holy war (Sunni vs. Shia) against Assad. 

I think the Deep State is not going to let Syria go. We are going to get more and more involved in that war, and will try and lure Russia into even deeper involvement. The Deep State wants to destroy Putin and Russia at any cost. They started a coup in Ukraine and a civil war in Syria in order to distract and drain the Russians. It might very well work. 

This is what I think is going on in that part of the world. I realize some, if not most, people will think that is batshit crazy. That's ok. Who cares what I think, right? The reason I come to this conclusion is that when you understand the script the deep state plays by, you can see how they try to manage and manipulate the masses to get what they want. Syria and the chemical weapons attack is a great example…and frankly, so is the Russian hysteria sweeping the globe. 

Whatever the Truth is, we will probably never know for certain, especially since we are little more than slack-jawed fools sitting by, watching in awe as a Theatre of the Absurd production unfolds before our eyes. The best thing we can do, regardless of whether the topic is Syria, Russia, North Korea, China or anything else that comes up, is keep our eyes and minds open, and to always and every time demand proof of the claims that those in authority make. Do not trust, but verify. Every. Single. Time. 

UPDATE 4/14/17 : A great piece from top-notch reporter Robert Parry published just this morning is worth reading as it further fortifies my argument against the conventional wisdom regarding Syria. 

UPDATE 4/18/17 : An MIT weapons expert is claiming that the Syrian chemical weapons attack was staged on the ground and did not come from an air assault. He also says that the White House report contains "no evidence", both points further buttressing my argument against the "official narrative".

©2017

Personal Shopper : A Review

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

Estimated Reading Time : 4 minutes 52 seconds

My Rating : 4 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation : SEE IT. See it in the theatre, but be forewarned, it is a "French" film in style, rhythm and pace, but not language. If you want more Hollywood fare, skip Personal Shopper.

Personal Shopper, written and directed by Olivier Assayas, stars Kristen Stewart as a young American woman working in Paris as a personal shopper for a French female celebrity. 

Personal Shopper is a difficult film to categorize by genre, as it is part ghost story, part psychological thriller, part intimate character study all rolled into one. At its heart though, the film is really a meditation on grief. As I watched the film I kept thinking of Joan Dideon's insightful book on grieving, "The Year of Magical Thinking". Another story that kept popping into my head was Hamlet, and how his run ins with ghosts and mysticism were a way to propel the plot and the narrative forward in Shakespeare's masterpiece. 

Grief in this film, and in real life, can be an equally disorienting and enlightening experience. The grief stricken are able, and often forced, to dig deep into themselves and to see the world from a much different perspective than they are used to, which puts them distinctly at odds with the world around them. I remember, years ago, sitting on a subway train in New York City a few weeks after my best friend had been killed in a car crash. I was thinking of him and silently weeping, tears streaming down my face, and then I remembered a particularly funny moment we had shared and I laughed uncontrollably at the memory, and then cried again because I realized that those memories were all I had left. At some point I had a brief realization of where I was aware of my surroundings and noticed that people on the train were looking at me in horror, and probably thought I was a crazy person. Grief will do that to you. Hamlet is great example of this, people think he has gone mad…but he hasn't, he is simply grieving. Grief knocks you out of the everyday rhythm of the world around you, and in so doing makes you seem entirely out of sorts to those still in sync with the "normal". 

When you are grieving, the veil between the worlds thins and all sorts of magical things occur (Ms. Didion might say "all sorts of magical things seem to occur"). Signs, symbols, and messages are everywhere you turn, and you are attuned to notice them. The most mundane of things can take on the most profound of meanings. The grief stricken ache for connection with the departed in order to not only confirm the depth of their feelings, but to validate both the dead and the living's existence.

And so it is with Kristen Stewart's character Maureen in Personal Shopper. She is waiting for a sign from the netherworld, and even when she gets it, it is not enough to convince her. Proof of afterlife connection only heightens her confusion, and her knowledge of what was lost in the here and now. This is the conundrum at the heart of Personal Shopper, everything is possible, but nothing may be real. And that is also a perfect summary of what it is like living with intense grief. 

This is Kristen Stewart's second film with Assayas, the first being Clouds of Sils Maria, which was a film I thoroughly enjoyed. Assayas use of metaphor and symbolism allows for him to tell stories on multiple levels, which makes for an extremely rich viewing experience. He is a confident and skilled director who never fails to surprise and intrigue.

Kristen Stewart is phenomenal as Maureen, the melancholy and morose woman trying to make sense of it all. Assayas brings out the best in the enigmatic actress, as she was also particularly good in Clouds if Sils Maria.

I remember the first time I ever saw Kristen Stewart in a film, it was in Sean Penn's Into the Wild. Her performance was absolutely electric and she jumped off the screen. She had such a smoldering presence and a visceral ache to her in Into the Wild that it was impossible to take your eyes off of her. I had a conversation with a very famous actress friend of mine after seeing the film and we both said, "who IS that girl?". My actress friend and I both marveled at Stewart's innate ability and undeniable presence and were excited to see what came next in her career. And then came the Twilight garbage and the suffocating and stultifying fame that accompanied it. 

Stewart is a luminous talent who possesses a gravitas and magnetism that permeates her every scene in Personal Shopper. Escaping from the artistic black hole that was the Twilight septic tank is no easy feat, but Stewart is going about it in exactly the right way. Doing art house and European films will not only restore her credibility but her creative spirit. She is simply too brilliant a natural talent to get swallowed up by the Hollywood shit machine. If she stays on her current trajectory, she can return to Hollywood for specific parts that invigorate her artistic soul, not just her bank account. 

I think it is not a coincidence that Stewart has teamed twice with Assayas to play someone in service to a woman who is a creature of fame. Fame nearly strangled Stewart's sublime creative gifts in the cradle, so she has a very intimate knowledge of its toxic effects. The fame game is a soul-crushing endeavor, and if undertaken by a sensitive artist like Stewart, can be a deadly one as well.  In Personal Shopper, as in The Clouds of Sils Maria, Stewart is playing with her public persona by playing off of it. Her performances in those films are like watching the actress do an active imagination gestalt with her famous alter ego in a Jungian therapy session, and it makes for remarkably compelling cinema. 

Coincidentally, today is Kristen Stewart's 27th birthday, and my birthday wish for her is that she continue to make the films she wants to make, and that speak to, and feed, her artistic soul, and not the crap that Hollywood wants her to make. She is young enough, and talented enough, to recover from the trauma of the Twilight saga, and become the great actress that she is meant to be. I for one, am rooting for her.

As for Personal Shopper, it is best described as a walk through the minefield that is our own graveyard. It is a strange and at times incredulous film, but it never veers from the path Kristen Stewart's powerful work steers it down. Director Assayas is remarkably effective in heightening the tension and drawing the viewer into the world of Maureen. It feels effortless how Assayas tightens our stomachs as we walk through a creaky old house. Every knock, every bump in the night, forces another twist of your innards. This is, at times, a horrifying film, but it is also an enlightening one, especially for those who carry the scars of grief. 

I recommend people see Personal Shopper, but to do so knowing that it is a film out of sorts with Hollywood movie making. Like someone grieving, Personal Shopper has its own rhythm, pace and view of reality, that may seem odd to those not accustomed to it. If you give the film a chance, and go along for the ride, it can be a highly entertaining and fascinating journey, and is well worth your time and effort.

©2017

 

T2:Trainspotting - A Review

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

My Rating : 3 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation : SEE IT. If you absolutely loved Trainspotting, like I did, then see T2 for nostalgia purposes. If you were lukewarm on the original, then you can see T2 on cable or Netflix.

T2: Trainspotting, is the sequel to 1996's Trainspotting and just like the first film, T2 is directed by Danny Boyle, and is written by John Hodge based on the books Trainspotting and Porno by Irvine Welsh. The film returns the same actors who starred in Trainspotting as well, with Ewen McGregor (Renton), Ewen Bremner (Spud), Johnny Lee Miller (Sick Boy) and Robert Carlyle (Begbie) reprising their iconic roles. 

Trainspotting is one of my favorite films of all-time. Part of the reason for that is that I am the son of a Scottish immigrant and consider myself to be a Scots-phile of the highest order. The film also resonated with me because the chaos and mayhem of it rang familiar to the madness surrounding my own struggle with substance abuse a few years before the film came out. Another reason I loved the film so much was because it was such a revolutionary and inventive work of cinema. Director Danny Boyle brought a unique and distinct style and perspective to the story of junkies languishing in Edinburgh, that it felt like a whole new wave of film was being born with Trainspotting

Boyle has gone on to have a very good, but frankly, not great and often uneven career. Although Boyle is unquestionably a remarkably skilled filmmaker, he has not turned out to be a  revolutionary director, and that's ok. But part of the appeal with Trainspotting was that it felt like cinema might be on the cusp of something very big and transformative. With T2, that air of possibility is deflated and long gone, and in a certain ironic way, that benefits the theme and tone of the film tremendously. 

T2 is nowhere near the film Trainspotting was, but with that said, it is a serviceable sequel, entertaining and even insightful at times. Boyle's bag of cinematic tricks was spent on the first Trainspotting, but to the sequel he brings a self-assured and high quality craftsmanship. The chaotic and powerful energy of the first film is missing, but in its place is a proficient and calculated middle-aged desperation.

Ewen Mcgregor became a star as Renton in Trainspotting, and much like his director Boyle, McGregor has never become quite as big a star as that first major role promised. But the fact that both McGregor and Boyle have never hit the heights that seemed to be their destiny, is a wonderful backdrop for a film about lads in Edinburgh who never seem to get out of their own way or to have lived much of a life at all.

The undercurrent running through T2 is that of impotence and emasculation. All of the main characters are either incapable or disinterested in sex with women. Begbie can't get it up, Renton is sterile, Spud has lost his kids and Sick Boy hasn't closed the deal with his hot Bulgarian girlfriend. Add to that the school principal whose dirty little secret is that he likes to get banged in the ass by an attractive woman with a strap-on, and you've got a recurring theme…the deterioration and desecration of the archetypal Scotsman.

In T2, the Scotsmen have lost their balls and can only wallow in nostalgia for a time when they had them, be it 1690 or when Georgie Best ruled the world. This Scottish impotence is highlighted by the fact that the women dressed in Scottish garb greeting people at the airport are actually Eastern European. The Scotland of old is dying out and Renton, Spud, Sick Boy and Begbie are dying with it. The Scottish male is an endangered species and the existential crisis that rages at their core is why they so often turn to booze (Begbie) or drugs (Spud, Renton and Sick Boy) to medicate themselves.

The American working class is suffering through the same existential crisis as the Trainspotting crew went through twenty years ago. Opiates are killing Americans in record numbers, and there is no end in sight. The soul crushing aimlessness that festered in the soul of Edinburgh twenty years ago is now devouring an entire generation of working class Americans and whole swaths of America. In twenty years America's lost generation will be just as impotent and eternally flaccid as the T2 gang are in their sequel. 

Some of the Trainspotting crew, like Renton, have cleaned themselves up since we last saw them, but addiction is a spiritual disease and "not using" is a step in the right direction, but it isn't a cure. The spiritual ailment at the core of the Trainspotting lad's woes remains, so without some sort of emotional/spiritual/mythical catharsis, relapse is inevitable. While the machinations of the plot of T2 are a bit mundane, this sub-text is what I found fascinating. Only Spud is able to be "re-born", both literally (the vomit scene) and figuratively (as a storyteller), into a person who can find catharsis from his existential malaise. Begbie is little more than a pre-historic id searching for a skull to bash, but in the end even he is able to find a deeper meaning to his otherwise savage life through his relationship with his son. But Renton and Sick Boy are both so narcissistic and adolescent that they are incapable of any true growth and are sentenced to a lifetime hating/loving each other.

It also fascinates me that T2 is a film about nostalgia, that is itself, a form of the same nostalgia that it comments upon. The lads all think about the good old days, which weren't very good, and can barely keep up with the present, never mind consider the future. And the fact that T2 even got made at all is a tribute to the susceptibility we all have for nostalgia. We all feel the pull of either the past, or the future, anything but the terrible here and now. 

I know I enjoyed the nostalgic effects of T2, and that feeling of possibility that came along with the original Trainspotting. Like listening to Nirvana in the early 90's, Trainspotting made you feel like something was shifting artistically, and anything was possible. Cold, hard reality reared its head in the form of Kurt Cobain's heroin addiction, and the rigors of a film industry more interested in money than artistic transcendence or cultural relevance. But at least T2 brought back memories of that spirit of chaotic revolution, even if it was only momentary. 

In the same vein, I kept thinking about the Scottish Independence referendum as I watched T2. When Independence lost that vote, I wondered why the Scots didn't have the balls to tell England to go fuck off. It seems in T2, Danny Boyle asks the same question. As a nation, if Scotland could have mustered the courage to become independent from the UK, then maybe the spiritual disease that ravages the soul of Scotland could have been healed, and catharsis could take place. But it didn't happen and Scotland, and the T2 lads, are still languishing in some sort of cultural and spiritual purgatory that drives them to stick needles in their arms and sleep their useless lives away. Heroin addiction, with its enforced ritual of shooting up, is a religion that fills the void left in a spiritually vacant heart. It also gives meaning and purpose to the addicts life, as insane as that seems to people not seduced into worshipping the god of opiates and dreams, Morpheus.

At least with the initial sting of the needle, the junkie feels something, which is better than being lifeless and numb all of the time. Americans know the numb all too well, and we use any and all means available, be it food, sports, technology, porn, or TV, to numb ourselves to the slow suffocating cultural and spiritual death that is wrapping itself around us like a python squeezing its prey. The sweet sin of heroin may leave a bitter taste in your mouth, but at least it tastes better than the bullshit of the delusional American dream being shoved down your throat. 

America is stuck in its death spiral with no conceivable way out, this is why Trump was elected. The dupes who voted for him thought a grenade thrown into the system would change the trajectory of our death spiral, it won't. The Scots though, have a second chance at life with Brexit becoming reality. Scotland has another chance to find courage and get its balls back with a new referendum on Independence. I hope they can muster the strength and energy to do it, because it will be their last chance. For "no true Scotsman" would rather live on his knees than die on his feet, and if Scotland remains in the UK, the archetypal Scotsmen's balls will be permanently kept in a glass jar by the Queen's bed. Scotland will be reduced to a distant memory, to be wistfully recalled and remembered only through the aching haze of a fever dream induced nostalgia. 

©2017

Song to Song : A Review

****THIS IS REVIEW CONTAINS SOME VERY MINOR SPOILERS (Discussion of themes and plot structure)!!!! THIS IS TECHNICALLY NOT A SPOILER FREE REVIEW!!!****

My Rating : 4.5 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation : SEE IT (with caveats).  If you are a fan of director Terrence Malick, you will enjoy this film a great deal. If your tastes are less "experimental" and more conventional, you will absolutely hate this movie, so skip it.

Song to Song, written and directed by Terrence Malick, with cinematography by three time Academy Award winner Emmanuel Lubezki, is a meditation on love, shame, sex, mercy and forgiveness set in the music scene of Austin, Texas. The film stars Rooney Mara, Ryan Gosling, Michael Fassbender and Natalie Portman.

For some reason, every time I go see a Malick film in the theaters, I run into some issue with my fellow moviegoers. This time around I had two white-haired biddies come into the theatre as the previews rolled and they proceeded to talk very loudly during them. Then when the film started, one of the old Crones said very loudly, "it's hot in here!!".

I turned and said to them, in as gentle a voice as possible, "excuse me ladies, would you mind not talking, that would be awesome." They said, "ok", but then proceeded to talk throughout the entire film anyway. I kept getting distracted by these two nasty hags and daydreamed of stomping their empty skulls to dust with my steel toed boots every time they felt the need to say how much they hated the film as it was playing. 

I never killed them, or even kicked them, as much as I wanted to, mostly because I assumed one or both of them were packing heat…just a hunch...but because of this irritating distraction it was difficult for me to get into the proper Malick head space to watch the film. The first third of the movie was definitely a struggle, but against all odds, Song to Song was able to win me over, and in the final two thirds was able to transport me into the mind and spirit of its genius director, no small feat with the Greek chorus of dipshits persistently chiming in behind me. 

Enigmatic filmmaker Terrence Malick's work can be an acquired taste, I readily acknowledge this fact. His recent string of films, Tree of Life, To the Wonder, Knight of Cups and this year's Song to Song, are often times describes as "experimental" films. I label them "contemplative cinema" because they are not meant to be watched like you watch a "regular" movie with a linear narrative, but is meant to be enjoyed as more of a meditative storytelling experience.

Malick speaks in a very distinct language, and if you do not understand that language, his films will not only be confusing, but will be downright frustrating and irritating. It would be like watching a foreign film without the subtitles and with sunglasses on. Hence you get people like the two morons behind me who were so out of their depth watching Song to Song they felt the need to assume everyone was equally as ill-equipped to understand what they were watching. Those old whores (again this is just a hunch, I have no definitive proof that they have or had sex for money) didn't understand Malick's language, hell, they probably thought they were going to see the animated musical Sing.

The thing to understand before going to see a Malick film is that Malick makes films that speak in a veiled, but distinctly religious and cinematic language. The trouble with this is that the people who are artistically cultured enough to understand the cinematic language, will most likely be members of the Church of the Libertine and not understand Malick's Gnostic Catholic religious language, and those with the religious understanding will not be cinematically sophisticated enough to understand the structure, style and visuals of the film. It is a dilemma, no doubt, but at this point, I do not care, as I am apparently one of a very, very tiny minority of people (and critics) for whom Malick's film's deeply resonate. I don't care how, or why that is, just that it is. I consider myself blessed because of it. If you do not "get" Malick's work, that is on you, and I beg you to keep your ignorance to yourself, because next time I might not be so reticent and go full on Hulk and smash those who ruin my sacred experience in the local art house. 

As for the film itself, cinematographer Lubezki once again does a masterful job with his floating and dancing camera that creates an otherworldly aura about the entire project. Malick's films, (and Lubezki's), are gorgeous to look at, but they also tell the deeper story of the film with visuals alone, and so it is with Song to Song. Lubezki consistently moves his camera from left to right, sometimes to observe a conversation, other times to expand the make up of the shot. The left to right camera movement is meant to symbolize the alchemical journey the lead character makes on the "left hand path" away from her center.

Regardless of what Lubezki is shooting in Song to Song, each fluid shot offers a brief glimpse at a visual masterpiece. It is like spinning your way through an art museum, the view is staggeringly beautiful, but ephemeral, quickly replaced by a new work of wonder to amaze you.

The themes that Malick examines in Song to Song are similar to the ones he explored in his Dante-esque masterpiece Knight of Cups. This time though, the main, but not exclusive, protagonist is a woman, Rooney Mara's Faye, a struggling musician in Austin, as opposed to the man at the center of Knight of Cups, played by Christian Bale, who was navigating the perils of Hollywood.

Rooney Mara does exquisitely wondrous work as Malick's muse Faye. Mara is able to fill the camera, and her scenes with a painfully yearning melancholy that is mesmerizing to watch. She seems wonderfully comfortable with her discomfort in front of Malick's camera, and that translates remarkably well to the myth at the heart of the film. Mara's face is striking, and she is able to draw the viewer in towards her even while she withdraws into her cocoon of self doubt and spiritual turmoil.

Ryan Gosling plays BV, a song writer and Faye's love interest, while Michael Fassbender is music producer Cook and Natalie Portman plays Cook's girlfriend Rhonda. They all do top-notch, and at times spectacular work in Song to Song. BV's Christ-like gentle nature and kind heart are balanced by Cook's Mephistophelean and insatiable hunger, just like Faye's melancholy yearning is balanced by Rhonda's crushing desperation. 

Cate Blanchett also has a small role but proves once again what a extraordinary actress she truly is. Blanchett is a wonder to behold in her brief screen time. She can tell an entire story with just the smallest of gestures with her hands, watch her tap the glass!! I would encourage any and all actors to closely watch Ms. Blanchett's hands in both Song to Song and in Knight of Cups to see a masterclass in subtly powerful acting.

As with many of Malick's films, most notably Knight of Cups, the theme of forgetting one's true self runs throughout. Faye has forgotten her true nature, her connection to God and her goodness. Like a Prodigal daughter she must leave home, and the Divine, and take the "left hand path" of struggle in order to return to her center out of choice, not chance. Unlike most films, Song to Song is structured as a circle, not a straight line. When Faye returns to where she began, it all seems so new that it is only vaguely familiar. The starting point is the same, but Faye is different, she sees it with new eyes.

The haunting sense of the familiar, and of a lost connection to the true self are common themes that Malick explores in many of his more recent films. Malick films are like dreams and should be watched and understood through that prism. Everything means something, but not what it appears to mean on the surface. And, as in all Malick movies, and as it is in dreams, time in Song to Song is at best fluid, and at most, non-existent.

As Faye tries to return to the Eden she left behind, she is seduced by the temptations of the "left hand path" of this world, success, fame, wealth, and power. But this is a fallen world, and Cook, like the fallen angel Satan, is the king of it. To follow the path of Cook is to embrace the momentary over the eternal, the profane over the divine. While Cook's world is deliciously tantalizing, it is most assuredly the way of spiritual death. On some level Faye knows this, but the allure of that sweet death can be both intoxicating and spellbinding. 

The message at the heart of Song to Song is one that should resonate with spiritual seekers of all kinds, that in order to return to our true selves and higher nature, we must evolve beyond our animal drives and instincts, and simplify our lives and embrace a true and honest heart inspired love (as opposed to genital inspired). Of course, that is much easier said than done, and even when one makes that choice, their more base desires will still call out to them like the Sirens singing ships into their doom on the pointy rocks of shore, but as Song to Song shows us, evolution is a process, one that is cyclical and circular. We return Home from our travels and travails, born anew, but will be called once again to the "left hand path" of our lesser urges and will have to make the journey all over again, just with new eyes.

When BV washes Faye, her sins are cleansed, her heart and soul clear, and they are both born again into a new, and more simple life. Cook will still be in Austin hunting for souls, damaged ones or ones he seeks to damage, but the key for Faye and BV is to return to the simplicity of Eden. Their journey is a return to the earth, a return to love, a return to their true and higher selves. 

Mercy and the freedom of forgiveness are the gifts Faye receives and they propel her to evolve beyond her limiting animal nature, and to sacrifice her wants for the higher purpose of her true self and love. I now this all sounds very new-agey, but it isn't, it is in many ways deeply traditionalist, just without the female subservience. The answer for Faye and BV, is a traditionalist return to a grounding on the earth, not the new age promise of life among the stars. And this may be why Malick's film has caused such a negative stir among cinephiles. The more sophisticated of viewers will probably be members of the Church of the Libertine, and therefore will not see Faye's dalliances with debauchery or moral and ethical compromises as problematic, they would see them as a form of freedom. But the reality is that freedom for Faye, and for many of us, is an illusion, and comes with a steep price, namely your soul. 

That message is anathema to American culture, one that celebrates the individuals wants and demands instant gratification of any and all desires. As Song to Song tells us, sex is a gift, and to abuse it for any reason is a sin against oneself and the divine. That is a message that most members of the Church of the Libertine will reject out of hand, which may explain why critics are so hostile to Song to Song, as they are unconsciously repulsed by the films moral, ethical and spiritual compass.

Song to Song is a piece of art to be experienced, not a puzzle to be solved. The film, like all of Malick's recent work, not only works visually and acoustically, but viscerally. Song to Song, if you can lose yourself in it, washes over you like the cool waters of a cinematic baptism, inviting the viewer to witness the struggle and the possibility of faith and a true and transcendent love. 

If you are a lover of mainstream movie fare, Song to Song is most definitely not for you…not at all. If you love Malick films, I believe you will love Song to Song. If you are somewhere in the middle, I would assume that Song to Song would be a bridge too far for you. This type of cinema, whether you call it "experimental" or "cinematic contemplation", is very challenging, and if you aren't up for the challenge, then you should stick to your comfort zone. But if you do make the ambitious trek to see Song to Song, then please just give yourself over to it. And if you hate it, keep it to yourself. Let's make a deal, I won't ruin the Fast and Furious movies for you, and you don't ruin Malick movies for me? Ok? Great!! See you at the concession stand!!

©2017

 

Buzz Lightyear Claims Hollywood is Nazi Germany, Captain America to the Rescue?

Estimated Reading Time : 5 minutes 03 seconds

Last Week, conservative actor Tim Allen said that liberal Hollywood was akin to 1930’s Germany because of its intolerance of opposing political opinions. Does Buzz Lightyear have a point?

I am not a fan of Tim Allen, at all. I would rather light myself on fire than watch a single second of his work. I doubt Mr. Allen, the iconic voice of Buzz Lightyear and star of Home Improvement, as he sits in his solid gold mansion, cares one bit about what some nobody like me thinks.

That said, as a citizen of the People’s Republic of Hollywood, I took offense at Allen’s claim. What Allen said on Jimmy Kimmel’s show last Thursday was,“In this town, I’m not kidding, you gotta be real careful around here, you know, you can get beat up if you don’t believe what everybody believes. This is like ‘30’s Germany.” He was joking and hyperbolic for effect, but at the heart of every joke is a kernel of truth. So even though I reflexively disagreed with Buzz Lightyear’s statement, I thought I would take a closer to look to see if could find that truthful kernel.

First, it is accurate that Hollywood is liberal in that the majority of people vote democrat. But upon closer examination, Hollywood is not quite as “liberal” as most think. For instance, when Michael Moore gave his famous anti-Iraq war speech at the 2003 Oscars, the audience booed him robustly. I guess the Oscars crowd, like democrats in Congress, supported the ill-fated invasion too.

In addition, if you take a look at conservative actors it is easy to see they are not discriminated against because of their political beliefs. Unlike liberals during the 1940’s and 50’s McCarthy era blacklists, no conservatives have been banned from working in film or tv, quite the opposite.

Proof of that is easy to see, Tim Allen being a perfect example. If Hollywood were 1930’s Germany, Tim Allen would not be on his current show, the dreadful Last Man Standing (see, 1930’s Germany wasn’t ALL bad!). That show has, at best, middling ratings, and zero cultural cache, cancelling it over Allen’s conservatism would be an easy thing for Hollywood bigwigs to do.

Allen keeps his show for one reason, because he has made a lot of people in the business wealthy with his work, like Home Improvement, Toy Story and the Santa Clause films. That is the thing to remember when talking politics in Hollywood, deep down what matters most is not politics, but the revenue you generate.

Case in point, the list of republican movie stars is strikingly similar to the list of box office champions over the years. Clint Eastwood, Sly Stallone, Arnold Schwarzeneger, Mel Gibson, Bruce Willis, “The Rock” Dwayne Johnson and Adam Sandler, all of whom are openly conservative and none of whom have struggled to work in liberal Hollywood.

The same is true of tv stars Patricia Heaton and Kelsey Grammar, who along with Tom Selleck , Gary Sinise and Jon Voigt all espouse conservative beliefs but who have had consistently active acting careers.

While money is the prime force in Hollywood, many of these republican actors have also been chosen for awards, which are voted on by their liberal colleagues. Clint Eastwood, Mel Gibson, and Jon Voigt have won Oscars and Patricia Heaton, Gary Sinise, Bruce Willis and Kelsey Grammar have won Emmys. This is proof that liberal Hollywood has historically treated conservative artists considerably better than conservative America, with their blacklists of the 40’s and 50’s, treated liberal artists.

With that said, and as loath as I am to do it, upon reflection I admit that Tim Allen may have hit upon something with his jokes on Kimmel. Something has changed out here in Hollywood since the election of Donald Trump.

Actor Chris Evans, best known as Captain America, recently said in an interview with Esquire about Trump’s election, “I feel rage, I feel fury. It’s unbelievable.”

Evans is not alone in his rage and fury. Since Trump’s victory, anger towards opposing opinions in Hollywood has been ratcheted up to eleven. I am not a Trump supporter, truth is I have despised the man for thirty years and have been unabashed in my criticism of him, but because I have also written critically of democrats and Hillary Clinton, I have lost friends and been called everything from a Putin and Kremlin stooge to a “mansplainin” racist.

I do not doubt that Tim Allen is disliked for his beliefs, but dislike and discrimination are two very different things. Allen perceives this dislike as threatening, but that has more to do with his personal insecurities than it does with violent intent by his liberal co-workers. But his fear of being in the minority and his perception of menace on the part of his political opponents is not just a Hollywood thing, but an American thing.

I recently spent a week visiting family in central Pennsylvania, which the natives lovingly refer to as Pennsyl-tucky, because it is in Pennsylvania – but feels a lot like Kentucky. This is Red America, the heart of Trump country, and the contrast with Hollywood could not have been greater.

I had a conversation while there with an acquaintance of mine who is a life long resident of this rural Pennsylvania town, a white, working class guy who works on a factory floor and is no Trump supporter. He feels isolated, and frankly, just like Tim Allen, a bit afraid. He is trying to raise his amazing children to be kind, loving, and open-minded individuals and yet their classmates often wear confederate flag shirts to school. His neighbors fly the confederate flag at their homes or on their pick up trucks, which is ironic since the spot where Lincoln gave the Gettysburg address is not too far away. He told me he has heard the “n-word” at work more in the last three months than he had in the previous fifteen years. He also said that someone scratched a swastika onto an interior door at his factory. This working class guy is not an ethnic or religious minority, but he is a political one, and, like Tim Allen, he is terribly unsettled by the shift that has occurred since Trump’s election.

As I spoke with my friend and his wife, both told me that they were “unnerved”, and felt like “something hateful had been unleashed” since Trump’s victory, and that their neighbors and co-workers now felt “the gloves were off” and they were free to be “as vicious and nasty” as they wanted to be. They were deeply concerned for their kids and for the world they will inherit.

This Central Pennsylvania resident doesn’t live in a solid gold mansion or drive a diamond-studded rocket car like Tim Allen probably does, but he does share something in common with the Hollywood star, a deep seeded unease about the forces being unleashed in favor of, and in opposition to, Donald Trump.

Is Hollywood like 1930’s Germany? If you ask me, the whole damn country is starting to feel like 1930’s Germany. We have, on both the left and the right, devolved into a nation of feeble-minded mini-tyrants who define ourselves by what we hate rather than what we love. We quash debate, discussion or genuine inquiry because it is easier to scream and shout rather than listen and learn. Sadly, the reality has become that we are all Hitlers now.  

Chris Evans said something quite insightful in his Esquire interview when he said, “Some people say, ‘Don’t you see what’s happening? It’s time to yell,’ yeah, I see it, and it’s time for calm. Because not everyone who voted for Trump is going to be some horrible bigot. There are a lot of people in that middle; those are the people you can’t lose your credibility with. If you’re trying to change minds, by spewing too much rhetoric you can easily become white noise.”

The Captain America character was created in 1941 to be a super-soldier to fight against Hitler and the Nazi’s, the modern day Captain America, Chris Evans, has revealed to us the path for victory over the Nazi that lives inside us all. We must stay calm, overcome our rage and fury, engage in debate and discussion and not attack and vitriol.

Hopefully, both my Pennsylvania friend and Buzz Lightyear are wrong about their fears for what the future holds. The anecdotal evidence of our nation tearing itself apart is certainly compelling though. With any luck we will find, to quote the man most associated with Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, Abraham Lincoln, “the angels of our better nature” and come together to move forward.

I admit that things seem bleak and that we have a difficult road ahead, but I vow that whenever I witness Hollywood’s, our nation’s, or my own, inner Nazi percolating to life, I will let out a plaintive wail, “Save us, Captain America!!” I hope he will be listening.

©2017

Previously published on March 22, 2017 at RT.

Snoop Dogg Barks Up the Wrong Tree

Estimated Reading Time : 5 minutes 17 seconds

This past week Snoop Dogg released a music video showing a mock assassination of a clown faced Donald Trump. The ensuing sound and fury revealed liberal hypocrisy and some very dark truths about our current political climate.

Donald Trump has lived a charmed existence. He was born to an extraordinarily wealthy family and inherited a hefty fortune along his father’s successful real estate company. That is a pretty fantastic way to start off life.

Trump’s string of good luck has continued in the political realm as well, for he has been blessed with the best (meaning the least effective) enemies any candidate, and now President, could ever hope.

In the cacophony of anti-Trump voices shouting their disapproval this week, a few have risen above the din, most notably Snoop Dogg’s controversial video. The music video for the song “Lavender (Nightfall Remix)” shows the iconic, old school rapper pointing a pistol at a Trump stand-in adorned in full clown make-up, President Ronald Klump, and then pulling the trigger, followed by a cartoonish bang.

A music video from an attention-starved rapper two decades removed from the peak of his cultural relevance would usually not garner very much attention, except this time the President of the United States took the time to comment on it, which means a lot of people took notice of it.

Trump tweeted in response to the video,  “Can you imagine what the outcry would be if @SnoopDogg, failing career and all, had aimed and fired the gun at President Obama? Jail time!”

While the idea of “jail time” for artistic expression is legally a bit absurd considering the First Amendment, the essence of the tweet is accurate. Liberals and the media would go bananas if someone had done a similar thing to an Obama look-a-like. They rightfully went berserk when right wing boor Ted Nugent ranted that Obama should “suck on his machine gun” during a live concert. Hell, liberals even went crazy when a rodeo clown mocked President Obama by wearing an Obama mask. In the case of attacks on Trump though, the media response has been considerably more muted.

The reactions to the Snoop-Trump feud from fellow entertainers have been quite illuminating though. Actor and fellow rapper Ice-T commented on the controversy to TMZ, “I think it’d be terrible (if someone made a video where Obama gets shot), but Obama wasn’t the same kind of guy as Trump. It was very hard to make an Obama joke because of his race, and Obama was such a smooth character. I think Trump brings a lot of these jokes onto himself.” So, Snoop Dogg made a video of him shooting Trump because the President is White? Good to know, thanks for the insight, Ice.

Not to be outdone, Shad “Bow Wow” Moss, an actor and rapper, chimed in with his own unique brilliance. Bow Wow tweeted, “Ayo @realDonaldTrump shut your punk ass up talking shit about my uncle @SnoopDogg before we pimp your wife and make her work for us.”  Way to stay classy, Bow Wow.

Ice-T’s and Bow Wow’s tweets reveal the philosophical rot at the core of the opposition to Trump. Trump is routinely labeled a vulgar, misogynistic bully, by his enemies, and his “get tough” talk against protestors at his rallies, and the “Access Hollywood” video are solid evidence that proves their point. But with Snoop Dogg’s mock assassination, Ice-T’s explanatory tweet saying Trump brings these attacks on himself in part by being White, and Bow Wow threatening sexual violence against Trump’s wife, charges of Trump being a vulgar bully and misogynist by his opponents ring pretty hollow, if not down right hypocritical. You cannot intimidate someone with violence, blame the victim because of his race, and then sexually menace their wife and maintain any moral high ground whatsoever.

The reality though, is that this is just how Trump wants things to be. That is why he jumped at the chance to engage Snoop in a pop culture/twitter war, instead of being “presidential” and ignoring Snoop’s video, like President George H.W. Bush did when rapper Paris released a particularly menacing song titled “Bush Killa” back in 1992.

 

Snoop Dogg, Bow Wow and even Madonna with her “I’ve thought about blowing up the White House” comment at the Women’s March inauguration weekend, may think they are taking Trump down a notch with their blustery attacks on him, but the exact opposite is true. These public spats greatly empower Trump and weaken his enemies, first by allowing Trump to play the victim, and second by lowering the discourse to Trump’s level, where he excels.

Trump’s voters, even the marginal ones in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania who voted for Obama twice but put Trump over the top this time around, only get pushed further into Trump’s corner with these blatantly hypocritical attacks from entertainment elites. These luke-warm Trump voters see the double standard liberals apply to Trump as opposed to the democrats, and it reinforces their decision to have voted for him. 

Napoleon once said, “Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake”, which would be wise words for liberals to take to heart in regards to Trump. This week, Trump has been stuck in the muck and the mire of his healthcare initiative. As Trump flounders with the tedious monotony of governing, he hungers for these celebrity feuds as they are like oxygen to him and red meat to his base.

This week, Trump desperately wanted to change the subject from his governing struggles to anything else, and Snoop’s clown video gave him a frivolous, but more entertaining subject to divert people’s attention.

Trump is a master at manipulation and pushing liberal’s buttons, it is how he won the election, by irritating the right people, like the mainstream media and Hollywood. He has only continued that strategic needling as President as evidenced by his tweet in response to Snoop’s video. Trump thrives by keeping liberals in a constant state of hysterical irritation, forcing them to react to him out of emotion and not thoughtfully respond to him using reason. Democrats and liberals need to get a grip and stop getting sucked onto the playing field of emotion by Trump, and keep things calm, cool and rational, if they want to come in from the political wilderness they currently inhabit.

By ratcheting up the invectives though, both Trump and his foes may be playing a dangerous game. As Marco Rubio said in response to the Snoop video, “Snoop shouldn’t have done that…the wrong person sees that, he gets the wrong idea and you can have a real problem.” Little Marco, for once in his life, is entirely correct.

Here is an anecdotal piece of evidence to ponder, I was recently listening to a private conversation out here in Hollywood where a bunch of liberal acquaintances were talking about Milo Yiannopoulos, the alt-right firebrand, and how much they truly despised him. More than one of them said that they “literally wanted to kill him”, which was shocking to me. If these thoughtful, intelligent and successful people were so flustered by an obvious and shameless provocateur like Milo as to hyperbolically speak of murdering him, I can only imagine how less grounded individuals will react when a top-notch, master troll like Trump sets out to push their buttons.

Those other, less stable individuals, are the ones who will not understand the subtleties and nuance of artistic expression or hyperbole, they will only know that Trump makes them feel an inordinate amount of rage and will want to assuage that discomfiting anger by any means necessary.

Recent events have shown us that intense emotions, mixed with fervent political beliefs, can lead to chaotic and violent actions. For example, the liberal protests against Milo at Berkeley that turned into a riot, or at Middlebury College where students got violent while opposing right wing author Charles Murray, or even when a masked man punched alt-right leader Richard Spencer in the face in broad daylight during inauguration weekend. Violence can never be permitted to encroach upon political debate or discussion. If you can’t win an argument and change minds with your ideas, you certainly won’t with intimidation and violence.

This is a perilous time in which we live, fraught with volatile emotions across the political spectrum. With this powder keg of fury just below the surface of our public square, it would be wise for all of us to be more measured and thoughtful in our speech and artistic expression. The language of political violence, while tempting and at times invigorating, can often lead to actual violence, and ultimately ruin.

©2017

Previously published on March 18, 2017 at RT.

Kong : Skull Island - A Review

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

Estimated Reading Time : 5 minutes 02 seconds

My Rating : 1 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation : Avoid it at all costs.

Kong : Skull Island, written by Dan Gilroy (among others) and directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts, is a story set in 1973 at the end of the Vietnam war, where a group of scientists and a U.S. Army helicopter squadron fresh off their tour of Vietnam, head to the mysterious Skull Island to do geological research. The film stars Brie Larson, Tom Hiddleston, John Goodman, Samuel L. Jackson and Corey Hawkins.

I enjoy monster movies, I readily admit that, hell, I am such a nerd that I even waited in line to see Toho's Shin Godzilla last year. But holy monkey balls, I did not enjoy Kong: Skull Island, not even a little bit. Good gracious is this thing a disaster area. Going to the zoo and watching monkeys throw poop at one another, and at me, would be considerably more entertaining than this garbage.

I get what director Vogt-Roberts was trying to do, I really do, but he fails miserably. Roberts is sort of paying homage to Apocalypse Now and trying to make a political statement about monsters in our world and the unintended consequences of our actions (one of the earliest lines in the film is "Washington will never be as screwed up as it is now -1973" wink-wink)…but all of that stuff gets pulled under by the tsunami of sewage that is Kong: Skull Island.

The story is relentlessly idiotic, the acting atrocious and the monsters…Kong being the exception, are laughable. This movie is so poorly written, directed and acted it is miraculous. It is difficult to articulate how much I loathed this film. In comparison to other Kong movies, Kong: Skull Island makes King Kong (1976) with Jessica Lange and Jeff Bridges look like Gone with the Wind, and it makes Peter Jackson's 2005 King Kong look like Chinatown

Brie Larson stars as Mason Weaver, a photo-journalist who tags along for the expedition, and I know that she has exactly one more Best Actress Oscar than I do and everything but,  except for her award winning performance in Room, she has been mind numbingly awful in everything she does (oh wait…I take that back...she was good in Short Term 12). I know that acting in terrible movies is an extremely difficult thing to do…but still, the question begs to be asked…is Brie Larson a shitty actress? If you watch her work in Kong and in Trainwreck, the answer is an uncomfortable yes. All Larson seems to do is recite her lines in as wooden and robotic a way as possible and then occasionally flash her million dollar smile. Brie Larson is very good at being charming and beautiful, but it is dawning on me that she isn't very good at acting. 

Larson isn't alone on the shitty acting train…John Goodman, who is consistently a shitty actor, turns in an eye-rollingly bad performance as Bill Randa, the mastermind behind the expedition. Goodman can be relied upon to diminish whatever project he is working on, and the fact that he has had such a long career remains one of the great mysteries of our time.

Samuel L. Jackson is embarrassingly awful as Lt. Col. Packard, shamelessly mailing in his performance. You can almost see the dollar signs in his eyes as he hams it up in his confrontation with Kong. Jackson has become little more than a caricature of himself, which is a shame since he has the ability to do magnificent work on occasion…this wasn't one of those occasions.

Tom Hiddleston is painfully out of place as James Conrad (a clever nod to Heart of Darkness, the inspiration for Apocalypse Now), a former SAS hunter-tracker with a past, but Hiddleston's starched Britishness apparently makes him incapable of sweating, or feeling any emotion at all. Hiddleston is a fine actor, but Kong: Skull Island is like a vortex where skill and craft get sucked into another dimension and no talent can survive.

Corey Hawkins gives a truly cringe-worthy performance as Houston Brooks, a bookish scientist who theorizes about a hollow earth. It is ironic that Hawkins, who got his big break playing Dr. Dre in the over rated Straight Outta Compton, would play someone espousing the hollow earth theory because he is an entirely hollow actor. He gives such an atrociously abysmal performance in Kong that I was genuinely embarrassed for him.

The only actor who does solid work in this entire shitshow is John C. Reilly, who is spectacularly good. Reilly's character is a tribute to Dennis Hopper's photo-journalist in Apocalypse Now. To Reilly's credit, he never winks at the camera or breaks, he stays committed, which is what separates him from the rest of the artistic freeloaders in the cast. Reilly shows what a great actor can do with a terrible script in a horrible movie. Larson, Goodman and Jackson would be wise to learn from him.

As for Kong, he is impressive, but not $12.50 impressive. He is a big ape…we've seen it all before. The film ignores the beauty and the beast appeal of previous Kong incarnations most of the time, but then, inexplicably tries to give Larson and Kong a love connection about 2/3rds of the way through. Not surprisingly, that is more ridiculous than effective. 

What is so frustrating about this movie is that there is a potentially very good movie lurking somewhere underneath all the nonsense. Using monsters, whether they be Godzilla or King Kong or the like, as storytelling vehicles to explore deeper political subjects like US colonialism or militarism (Vietnam) or environmental issues, or mythic and psychological issues, like man's animal nature or his even more primitive lizard brain, is a phenomenal way to tell an interesting and relevant story. For example, last year Shin Godzilla masterfully used the Godzilla myth to tell a wider story about the ineffectiveness of the Japanese bureaucracy and the dangers of nuclear power. Sadly, director Jordan Vogt-Roberts simply doesn't have the skill or talent to pull off a story with any deeper meaning other than to be a preview for the inevitable next ride at Universal studios.

Kong: Skull Island is an utterly abysmal film. It is the equivalent of watching flies gather on a steaming pile of gorilla shit left out in the heat and humidity of the south Pacific. It is not even good in a bad way…it is just bad in a bad way. Please, avoid it at all costs as the stench of this film is overpowering. 

©2017

Logan : A Review

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

Estimated Reading Time : 4 minutes 01 seconds

My Rating : 4 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation : SEE IT IN THE THEATRE.

Logan, written and directed by James Mangold, is the story of the iconic member of the X-Men, Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) also known as Logan, set in the near future when the cigar chomping, metal-clawed, tough guy is the decline of middle-age and is seemingly alone in a world without mutants. The film stars Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart, who are both allegedly making their final appearances as their X-Men characters.

I have been consistently disappointed with the X-Men films through the years. Some have been better than others, but they have all been less than they should have been. Last year Fox, which owns the X-Men franchise and has terribly mismanaged it, released X-Men : Apocalypse, which was simply dreadful. The franchise seemed to be at its nadir, well beyond its last creative breath, with an artistic rigor mortis setting in. 

In addition, I have never been a fan of Hugh Jackman playing Wolverine. Wolverine is a phenomenal character and I always felt Jackman lacked the gravitas needed to adequately flesh out a character of such depth and savagery. Jackman certainly has the body to play the role, but like a gymnast or a figure skater, an impeccable body does not always translate into a menacing persona. In my opinion, Jackman's toned physique radiates a more feminine energy than is acceptable to be the ferocious Wolverine. I always wanted an actor like Russell Crowe to play Wolverine, as Crowe, at least back in his heyday, has an energy about him that can be...unsettling, just like Wolverine. But Jackman has played the role now for 17 years and we've all had to live with it. 

With all of that in mind, I wasn't overly excited to see Logan. I assumed it would be another run of the mill, cookie cutter, X-Men film that left me underwhelmed. Boy…was I spectacularly wrong. Logan is a real film, not just some super hero movie intent to separate dopes like me from their money. It tells an actual, real story, with fully formed and three dimensional characters and even in its narrative and sub-text touches upon the political and psychological. It is undoubtedly head and shoulders above all of the other X-Men films in intent, story, character and execution. 

Director James Mangold is a gifted guy, as evidenced by his previous work Heavy, Copland and Walk the Line. He brings his particular talents to bear in Logan by fleshing out the humanity deep at the core of the mutant Wolverine. While Mangold's visual style is a little flat for my tastes, it is serviceable enough to propel the narrative nicely forward in Logan.

Mangold works on multiple levels in Logan. He layers the story with symbolism and metaphors that are fascinating if you are able to notice them just beneath the surface. For instance, keep an eye open for borders, be they national, or metal, or wooden or natural…and watch how difficult it can be for some characters to break out of the boundaries that contain them. I love stuff like that and Mangold fills Logan with enough tasty cinematic and mythic tidbits like that to keep me captivated for the whole ride.

And much to my surprise, Hugh Jackman, for the first time in his 17 year run as the character, finally nails Wolverine. This is not just the best Wolverine performance for Jackman, it is his best acting performance of his entire career, and it isn't even close. There is a quiet scene where Logan looks out over a lake and gives a little speech that is the best acting Jackman has ever done. It is a very, very impressive display by Hugh Jackman. You can feel Wolverine's entire life being shaken to its core during that speech.

Part of what gives such resonance to Jackman's performance is that Wolverine is aging, decaying and intensely human. Jackman makes Wolverine grounded and vulnerable by giving him a slight limp. You can feel Wolverine's (and Jackman's) knees ache with every step he takes. His body is betraying him and it makes him all the more relatable. Wolverine's body is littered with scars that tell the story of the wounds he carries with him deep in his heart. The acts of violence Wolverine has committed through his career have left their mark on him, and his soul, and he cannot escape them no matter how far he wanders.

Jackman also lowers his vocal register in portraying the middle-aged mutant, which was a wise choice as it heightened the sense of Wolverine being past his prime with a history that continuously haunts him. 

Patrick Stewart gives a standout performance as Professor X as well. Stewart uses his considerable skill to craft a masterful performance as the geriatric founder of the X-Men. Stewart imbues Professor X with a tangible yearning for normalcy and such a suffocating, deep-seated regret, that it is truly heartbreaking. 

Logan is not a perfect film by any stretch, there are some messy sequences of exposition that ring phony and hollow, like a fully edited and unrealistically shot documentary that tells the backstory of a little girl Logan is compelled to take to safety, and a fight scene where grass is used as a lethal weapon, but besides that I found the film to be engrossing and at times very moving. 

My only wish is that Mangold had been the man in charge of the X-Men franchise from the beginning, as his deft and subtle story telling bring out the very best of what the wonderfully complicated X-Men characters have to offer. 

If you are into the X-Men, you should see this movie right away. It is a top-notch piece of super hero cinema. If you are a luke warm fan of super hero movies, I would still recommend you see it in the theatre, it is worth the effort. Be forewarned though, this film is rated R, and it has dutifully earned the rating as it is ultra and realistically-violent, and is not for the feint of heart. Thankfully the violence is not cartoonish and is grounded in a reality where that violence has consequences, both physical, mental and spiritual, which make the film all the more compelling. As I said, Logan is a real movie, not just a vehicle by which to separate you from your hard earned money, which is a good reason for you to go out and reward it with your hard earned money.  

©2017

3rd Annual SLIP-ME-A-MICKEY AWARDS ™® : 2016 Edition

Estimated reading time : 19 seconds

The Slip-Me-A-Mickey™® awards are a tribute to the absolute worst that film and entertainment has to offer for the year. Again, the qualifying rules are simple, I just had to have seen the film for it to be eligible. This means that at one point I had an interest in the film, and put the effort in to see it, which may explain why I am so angry about it being awful. So any vitriol I may spew during this awards presentation shouldn't be taken personally by the people mentioned, it is really anger at myself for getting duped into watching.

The prizes are also pretty simple. The winners/losers receive nothing but my temporary scorn. If you are a winner/loser don't fret, because this years Slip-Me-A-Mickey™®  loser/winner could always be next years Mickey™® winner!! Remember…you are only as good as your last film!! 

Now…onto the awards!!

WORST FILM

Nocturnal Animals - Nocturnal Animals has two, equally insipid and flaccid story lines running concurrently through it which makes it twice as awful as it could have been. In addition, the film vomits a horrendous Jake Gyllenhaal performance all over its audience like a sun-baked clam chowder. I would rather be abducted, dragged out to the desert, gang raped and tortured to death by a bunch of backwoods yokels than have to watch another single second of this abysmal trash.

Hacksaw Ridge - Desmond Doss was a remarkable man of great faith and courage…sadly, in Mel Gibson's version of Doss' life story, Doss is a mildly retarded fool with an almost accidental and minimal connection to some nebulous religion. Hacksaw Ridge, like all of Mel Gibson's other films, is an exercise in a masturbatorial masochism marinated in a heavy-handed, mawkish melodrama. This film is just the worst type of cookie cutter, war movie dreck. I wish a kamikaze pilot flew right into this movie and put us all out of our misery.

Suicide Squad - I was psyched to see Suicide Squad. Then I saw it, and I wanted to kill myself. When Will Smith is the best part of a movie, that is a strong indicator that that movie is a giant pile of steaming dogshit…and so it is with Suicide Squad. I still haven't gotten the stink of this movie off of my shoes.

And the loser is.a tie between NOCTURNAL ANIMALS and SUICIDE SQUAD : 

NOCTURNAL ANIMALS : Just a muddled mess of pretentious incoherence. This film didn't reek of the art house, it stunk of the dungheap. Nocturnal Animals, or as I keep calling it, Nocturnal Emissions, is not a wet dream, but a bone dry nightmare. Awful. Awful. Awful. 

 

 

SUICIDE SQUAD : A repetitively repetitive film that repeats itself repetitiously, one repetition after another repetition, over and over and over again. A most boring and idiotic endeavor that could have been truly magnificent, but instead it made me want chop my head off and throw it in a septic tank….repetitively. 

 

 

 

WORST PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR

Vince Vaughn - Hacksaw Ridge : I like Vince Vaughn. I really do. He is great at the things he is great at…he is not great at the thing he was asked to do in Hacksaw Ridge. Vaughn stutters and stumbles his way through the most derivative and hackneyed performance imaginable as the Sergeant who must lead his men from boot camp to battle. I was genuinely embarrassed for Vaughn as it felt like he was reprising his role from Dodgeball with a world war II setting around him. 

Nicholas Cage - Snowden : I have always felt Nic Cage was a shitty actor. Even when he was winning Oscars and was a critical darling, I thought he was a bullshit artist who was just mimicking what he thought a great actor should be like. In Snowden, Cage is stripped bare and revealed for the artistic fraud that he has always been. Cage is so extraordinarily awful in the film, it is utterly amazing. Watching Nic Cage act is like watching a dog eat its own poop. Both the viewer, and the poop eating dog, wonder why they don't just stop their self-destructive and disgusting behavior. How Oliver Stone didn't cut Cage entirely out of this film is the one of the great mysteries of life.

Jesse Eisenberg - Batman v Superman :  Eisenberg is an interesting actor, but he is so overwhelmed and out of his depth as Lex Luthor in Batman v Superman, that it is painful to watch. Never has an actor who needed to come across as big, felt so small. 

And the loser isNIC CAGE : A cringe-worthy display of the most forced and phony acting imaginable garners Cage the least coveted award of the season. Cage's long spiral down into cultural and artistic oblivion seems to be stuck in a bottomless pit of embarrassment.

 

 

MOST OVERRATED FILM OF THE YEAR

Hacksaw RidgeHacksaw Ridge, its lead actor Andrew Garfield, and its director, Mel Gibson, all got Oscar nominations. Was it that bad of a year in cinema? Did the Academy watch this movie? After seeing the film, I kept reading about how great it was and wondered if the critics were simply suffering from PTSD from having to sit through this ridiculous bucket of amateur-hour slop. Hacksaw Ridge SHOULD HAVE BEEN great…but it just wasn't. And anyone who thinks otherwise has absolutely lost their mind.

Manchester by the Sea - Question : You know who loves Manchester by the Sea? Answer : Manchester by the Sea. This movie was so in love with itself I needed to shower after seeing it. The film is fine…but not nearly as good as it thinks it is…or as good as many critics think it is. It is a paint by numbers art house film, and that is painfully obvious for anyone who sees through the marketing bullshit that tries to polish the most mundane of turds.

Nocturnal Animals - Some jackass at the Guardian thought this was the best film of the year. He should have his eyes cut out and never be allowed to look upon this earth ever again. This same critic described the film as a fascinating meditation on masculinity. When you are relying on the impeccably fabulous fashion designer Tom Ford to direct a meditation on masculinity, you need to have your head, and loins examined. Tom Ford wouldn't know genuine masculinity if it walked up to him kicked him in his perfectly coiffed and powdered nuts.

And the loser is.HACKSAW RIDGE : This film is an unmitigated disaster of a movie that somehow got 6 Oscar nominations and even two wins (film editing and sound mixing). How the hell did that happen? Across the board the acting is atrociously bad, most notably by Vince Vaughn and Hugo Weaving. The direction is utterly abysmal as Mel Gibson brings his usual ham-fisted approach to storytelling. A remarkably overpraised and underwhelming film. The dash cam footage of Gibson calling a cop "sugartits" is a considerably more entertaining and note worthy piece of cinematic art than this excrement.

P.O.S. HALL OF FAME INDUCTEE

Woody Allen :

Woody gets his long awaited induction into the Piece of Shit Hall of Fame this year after a stellar career as a gigantic piece of shit. Where to begin with Woody's piece of shit credentials…should we start with the very believable charges of molestation by his daughter Dylan? or with his numerous references to his desire for young or underage woman and girls in his films (check out Stardust Memories or Manhattan…they are creepy as hell in retrospect)? Or how about the piece de resistance, his having an affair with his adopted daughter and then marrying her? Or maybe we should just stick to his insidiously awful, narcissistic, self-serving films that the elite love to love?

Wherever we start looking for proof of Woody Allen being a piece of shit, we stumble upon a target rich environment of shitbaggery. History will not be kind to Woody Allen…and if I ever have the displeasure of meeting him…neither will I. Congratulations Woody Allen…you are an all-time piece of shit. Welcome to the Piece of Shit Hall of Fame!!

 

2016 P.O.S. ALL-STARS

Billy Bush - Billy Bush is a douchebag. He has always been a douchebag and will always be a douchebag. Like all of the Bush clan, he is a feeble minded and needle-dicked mid-wit, born with a silver spoon in his mouth and a chip on his shoulder. Bush was exposed for his douchebaggery by the "grab her by the pussy" video of Donald Trump released during the campaign. Bush's ass kissing of Trump in particular, and his sycophancy in general, along with his complete lack of a spine, soul, brain or balls, are why I knew he was a douchebag from day one. Nice to see the rest of the world finally catching up to me. Fuck you Billy Bush…and the rest of the Bush family. 

Lena Dunham - This is back to back trips to the P.O.S. All Star game for Lena Dunham. This year she gets in for lamenting the fact that she never had an abortion. Way to stay classy, Lena. The cool thing is that Lena doesn't need to have an abortion, because she is one. So is her awful show, her awful writing and her awful presence in the public square. Dunham is a repugnant, repulsive pig, and I for one, am hoping for an abortion of her career, post haste. 

The Butter BrigadeChris Evans, Anna Kendrick, Jessica Chastain, Jenna Fischer  - Remember these dipshits who got their panties all in a tussle when they idiotically thought Marlon Brando anally raped Maria Schneider while filming Last Tango in Paris?  The bunch of them are gigantic pieces of shit, and have earned their all-star status. None of them recanted, none of them apologized, and none of them set the record straight. I hope Brando's ghost haunts them all by shoving a stick of butter so far up their asses that their eyes turn yellow…and then he gives them all the business but good up their well lubed butter chutes. 

And thus ends the third annual Slip-Me-A-Mickey™® Awards!!! To the winners/losers…don't take it personally…and God knows I hope I don't see you again next year!! To you dear reader…thanks for tuning in and we'll see you again next year!!

©2017

3rd Annual MICKEY AWARDS™® : 2016 Edition

Estimated Reading Time : 5 hours 57 minutes and 12 seconds

They're here. This is it, the moment you've all been waiting for. The ultimate awards show…The Mickeys™®!! All awards show roads lead here…the final word, and final show of awards season. Winning a Mickey™® is such a noble honor and such a great achievement, that few even dare dream of such an accomplishment. But tonight…11 awards will be given to the those few artists who will smell the sweet air that only blows atop the Olympus of cinematic excellence. 

Winning an Oscar is great. Winning an Emmy is…ok…I guess. Winning a Golden Globe is…embarrassing..like an awards show herpes.  But winning a Mickey™® is the equivalent of winning every Oscar, the Presidency, the Papacy, the Super Bowl and the lottery all rolled into one. 

The Mickey™® conclave from which these awards were debated and selected, was as passionate as I've ever seen it. The #MickeySoWhite controversy from last year led to charges of racism, misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia, Xenaphobia (fear of Xena the Warrior Princess) and phobiaphobia (fear of phobias). The College of Mickey Cardinals have put all that unpleasantness behind us now…the white smoke is emanating from the chimney…the selections are in. Nerves are frayed, limbs are a-tingle, hearts a-flutter.

A quick rundown of the rules and regulations of The Mickeys™®…The Mickeys™® are selected by me. I am judge, jury and executioner. The only films eligible are films I have actually seen, be it in the theatre, via screener or VOD. I do not see every film because as we all know, the overwhelming majority of films are God-awful, and I am a working man so I must be pretty selective. So that means that just getting me to actually watch your movie is a tremendous  accomplishment in and of itself…never mind being nominated or winning!

The Prizes!! The winners of The Mickey™® award will receive one acting coaching session with me FOR FREE!!! Yes…you read that right…FOR FREE!! Non-acting category winners receive a free lunch* with me at Fatburger (*lunch is considered one 'sandwich' item, one order of small fries, you aren't actors so I know you can eat carbs, and one beverage….yes, your beverage can be a shake, you fat bastards). Actors who win and don't want an acting coaching session but would prefer the lunch…can still go straight to hell…but I am legally obligated to inform you that, yes, there WILL BE SUBSTITUTIONS allowed with The Mickey™® Awards prizes. If you want to go to lunch I will gladly pay for your meal…and the sterling conversation will be entirely free of charge.

Enough with the formalities…let's start the festivities!!

Is everybody in? Is everybody in? The ceremony is about to begin...

Ladies and gentlemen…welcome to the third annual Mickey™® Awards!!!

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

And the nominees are….

Knight of Cups - Emmanuel Lubezki is the premier cinematographer of the last few years. Prior to this year he won three consecutive Academy Awards for his work. Lubezki's fluid and dynamic camera are integral to Malick's storytelling in Knight of Cups. Another bravura performance from a unquestioned master.

Silence - Rodrigo Prieto takes full advantage of the Asian setting to paint a lush and also stark, backdrop that corresponds to  the inner spiritual struggle of the film's main character. An absolutely gorgeous piece of work. 

Jackie - Stephan Fontaine brings us back to 1963 by mixing and matching film stock and old television footage. Fonaine perfectly captures the glamour and gloom of Camelot and makes the viewer feel they have a backstage pass to history being made.

Moonlight - James Laxton lights Moonlight with a mesmerizing soft night blue to contrast the hard sun of the Miami day. Laxton's use of color elevates the film with a hauntingly luminous glow that is a joy to behold. 

La La Land - Linus Sandgren uses a vibrant palette or red, blue, green and yellow, to paint Los Angeles into a magnificent dreamscape. His masterful camera maneuvers make the viewer a partner in all of the dance numbers. A phenomenally difficult task made to look easy.

AND THE MICKEY GOES TO….Emmanuel Lubezki - Knight of Cups : Lubezki's work with Malick over the years has been stunning, and Knight of Cups is no exception. Lubezki's camera work is magnificent and tells the story of spiritual vertigo all on its own. Lubezki's three Oscars pale in comparison to his one Mickey™® Award!!

 

BEST SCREENPLAY

And the nominees are...

The Lobster - Yorgos Lanthimos writes as original a story as I've seen in years with The Lobster. Bizarre and compelling, The Lobster never fails to surprise and illuminate.

Hell or High Water - Taylor Sheridan is a writer at the top of his game. Last year he was nominated for a Mickey™® with his stellar script, Sicario. This year with Hell or High Water, he is back and is just as forceful. A terrific piece of writing.

Silence - Jay Cocks and Martin Scorsese do masterful work in giving flesh and bones to a spiritual story. Never falling into the trap of the trite and easy faux spirituality of our time, Scorsese creates a rigorously Catholic story that challenges instead of consoles. A masterwork.

Jackie - Noah Oppenheim's script avoids the pitfalls of so many Kennedy films that went before it, he never allows Jackie to become anything less than a human story, a great accomplishment considering the subject matter.

La La Land - Damien Chazelle's script is much deeper and more complex than many believe it to be. A substantially layered and serious film dressed in the guise of an ode to Hollywood musicals. An impressive achievement by an extraordinary writer.

Knight of Cups - Malick tells the sordid tale of a man adrift in the excesses of Hollywood's indulgent lifestyle. Part Dante's Divine Comedy, part the Gospel of Thomas, Knight of Cups is a wonder to behold. 

AND THE MICKEY GOES TO…Taylor Sheridan - Hell or High Water : Sheridan reinvents the western and tells the tale of our dark time with a powerful confidence. Genuine, compelling and exhilarating, Taylor's writing is masculine without braggadocio, and melancholy without being saccharine. Taylor Sheridan is a remarkable writing talent….and now a Mickey™® Award winner.

 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

And the nominees are...

Cate Blanchett - Knight of Cups : Blanchett has minimal screen time in Knight of Cups, but she is so good that it should be mandatory viewing for anyone who wants to act on camera. Blanchett tells a story with the slightest of gestures and her mastery of craft is astounding. A really stunning display of acting skill.

Naomie Harris - Moonlight : Harris has an undeniable magnetism that is impossible to ignore. Her work on Moonlight is a powerful testament to her extraordinary talent and bodes well for even greater success in the future. 

Michelle Williams - Manchester by the Sea : Williams is so immersed in her character in Manchester by the Sea that she disappears into her. This is a real person, not a portrayal of a what a real person is supposed to be like. Subtle, layered and devastatingly effective, Williams is unrelenting in her embrace of a fragile humanity. 

Lea Seydoux - The Lobster :  Seydoux is a joy to behold in The Lobster. She is an intriguing and captivating actress who never fails to surprise or impress. Her powerful performance as a cold-hearted leader of a band of misfit rebels, is staggeringly good. 

AND THE MICKEY GOES TO…Michelle Williams - Manchester by the Sea : Williams is a stunning acting talent, like a raw nerve exposed to the cold sea air of New England. She pulsates with a delicate ferocity that is incomparable. This Mickey™® Award solidifies Michelle Williams standing as among of the best actresses of our time.

 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

And the nominees are...
 

Ben Foster - Hell or High Water : Foster is a tremendous talent who brings an unpredictable menace to every role he plays. In Hell or High Water he is a wild card with good intentions, but bad impulses. A phenomenal piece of work. 

Jeff Bridges - Hell or High Water : Bridges is one of the all-time great actors. His work on Hell or High Water is as good as he has ever been. A man searching for meaning and a purpose, Bridges' character is desperate to feel connected to anyone or anything, but only finds himself alone and hunting for answers.

Tadanobu Asano (interpretor) - Silence: Asano plays a tortured soul searching for redemption in Silence. His yearning to be good is only surpassed by his frail human heart. Asano gives life and layers to what could have been a frivolous character, and Silence shines because of it.

Gil Birmingham - Hell or High Water : Birmingham gives a subtle and compelling performance as Bridges Texas Ranger partner in Hell or High Water. Respectful yet resentful, Birmingham is the relentlessly teased younger brother who can only keep his guard up for so long. A really impressive piece of work from Birmingham.

Tom Bennett - Love and Friendship : Bennett is absolutely stunning in Love And Friendship as the dimwitted and socially awkward man desperate for love. Bennet steals the show and is laugh out loud funny as he tries to navigate the perils of love amongst society wolves.

AND THE MICKEY GOES TO…Jeff Bridges - Hell or High Water : Bridges is Hollywood royalty, but his stellar career has been incomplete until now. With his first Mickey™® Award victory, Bridges can now go forward with the knowledge that he really is the best of the best.

 

BEST ACTOR

And the nominees are...

Joseph-Gordon Levitt - Snowden : Levitt does stunning work as Edward Snowden in Oliver Stone's flawed  bio-pic, Snowden. Levitt never strikes a false note or fails to create and fully inhabit a genuine and real human being. An exceptional acting achievement.

Christian Bale - Knight of Cups : Bale brings all of his considerable talent and skill to bear in Knight of Cups, and the results are striking. Without Bale at the center of this film, the entire story would crumble. A testament to Bale's remarkable ability. 

Colin Farrell - The Lobster : Colin Farrell finally lives up to the potential that has swirled around him for years in The Lobster. A deft and complex piece of work that took great courage and craft to create. Farrell has had a roller coaster of a career, but this Mickey™® Award nomination is well earned.

Andrew Garfield - Silence :  Garfield's work in Silence is absolutely staggering. Garfield never falls into the trap of needing to show his internal struggle, he just animates it with a specificity and detail that is captivating. A truly impressive piece of work from an, at times, uneven actor.

Ryan Gosling - La La Land : Gosling owns La La Land from the opening scenes and never relinquishes his charismatic hold over the story or the audience. A charming, yet layered, performance that is much more difficult that Gosling makes it appear. 

Casey Affleck - Manchester by the Sea : Affleck is an often times overlooked actor, his work in The Assassination of Jesse James is a masterpiece, and in Manchester by the Sea he brings all of his formidable talent to the screen. Affleck's use of silence and stillness are exquisite and draw the viewer into the tormented world of his character. A terrific actor giving a powerful performance. 

AND THE MICKEY GOES TO…Colin Farrell - The Lobster : Farrell is deliciously wondrous in The Lobster, showing a deft touch and a firm grasp of his craft. After years of rather lazy and insipid work, Farrell reaches the mountain top with his first Mickey™® Award!!

 

 

BEST ACTRESS

And the nominees are...

Natalie Portman - Jackie : Portman's portrayal of Jackie is a testament to her remarkable talent and skill. Never once does she slip into caricature or fall out of a genuine humanity. A stunning piece of work from an impressive actress.

Emma Stone - La La Land : Stone has a Best Supporting Actress Mickey™® under her belt (Birdman) and a court victory against the award as well (fuck you Scalia!!). So the Mickeys™® could be forgiven if they overlooked her this year…but they simply couldn't. Stone's work in La La Land is as charming and endearing as anything she has ever done. An exquisite performance that never veers away from truth…a true testament to Ms. Stone's abundant skill and talent.

Rachel Weisz - The Lobster : Weisz is an outstanding actress and her performance in The Lobster is a complex and powerful ode to her monumental ability. She never fails to be a luminous screen presence whose captivating power is impossible to ignore. 

Amy Adams - Arrival :  Adams work in Arrival is imbued with a melancholy that seeps through her every pore. A compelling piece of remarkable work that proves Ms. Adams' mastery of craft and undeniable artistic charisma. 

Kate Beckinsale - Love and Friendship :  Beckinsale dives into Love and Friendship head first and plunges the depths of her talent to create a captivating character. Wickedly funny, and persistently charming, Beckinsale gives a tour de force as the beauty looking for love…and friendship. 

AND THE MICKEY GOES TO…Natalie Portman - Jackie : Portman is an impressive human being, but it wasn't until now, with her first Mickey™® Award, that she has reached the pinnacle of extra-impressivity-ness!! She is eating Fatburger for two now…but I am only paying for one meal, goddammit!!

 

BEST ENSEMBLE

And the nominees are...

Moonlight - Moonlight's cast all do tremendous work that never fails to propel the story forward. A great group of talented actors who never push for their own glory, only the film's. 

Hell or High Water - A phenomenal cast up and down, even the bit players do impressive work that give an heir of the genuine to the story about regular folks. 

The Lobster - Across the board the cast of The Lobster do staggeringly impressive work. Not a false step or sour note in the entire bunch. 

Silence - The Japanese actors in Silence are particularly good in Scorsese's ode to Kurosawa. The large cast keep the film vibrant and drive the narrative straight through to the end.

AND THE MICKEY GOES TO…MOONLIGHT : From top to bottom, from the kids to the adults, an impressive display of acting talent and skill that never misses a beat. What impressed the Mickeys™® the most was that no one tried to steal the show, they just did their jobs exceedingly well and dedicated themselves to the story…a rare occurrence in cinema. Moonlight won Best Picture at the Academy Awards this year, but that pales in comparison to wining the Best Ensemble Mickey™® Award!!
 

BEST DOCUMENTARY

And the nominees are...

13th - Ava DuVernay's film about structural racism in America is a rich and fascinating piece of work. Eye-opening to say the least, 13th should be required viewing for every citizen. 

O.J.: Made in America - A magnificent and monumental piece of work that examines the life and times of O.J. A truly fascinating, frustrating and heart breaking masterpiece. 

Weiner - Weiner tells the sordid, and unbelievable tale of New York congressman and mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner. The film is actually a monument to Weiner's insatiable narcissism and vapid soul. A stunning and damning piece of work. 

AND THE MICKEY GOES TO…O.J.: Made in America - This film is an indictment not only of OJ, but of Los Angeles, its police department, its district attorneys, its citizens and of the entire United States and its people and culture. As in-depth and thorough a piece of work as you'll ever find on any subject. It is remarkable that the filmmakers were able to shed new light on a story that reached market saturation decades ago. O.J. may have won the Heisman trophy, a national championship at USC and been inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame, and gotten away with double homicide…but winning a Mickey™® Award tops all of those wonderful accomplishments!!

BEST DIRECTOR

And the nominees are...

Martin Scorsese - Silence :  Scorsese brings all of his formidable talents to bear with Silence. A masterful piece of filmmaking that never compromises it religiosity in favor of an easy answer. Easily the best film of the second half of Scorsese's stunning career.

Terence Malick -  Knight of Cups : The enigmatic Terrence Malick closes out his personal trilogy with a look at the spiritual chaos and vertigo that comes with a life in Hollywood. Malick is one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, and his bio-trilogy (Tree of Life, To the Wonder and Knight of Cups) are a monument to his visionary talent.

Damien Chazelle - La La Land : Chazelle's debut, Whiplash, was as impressive a first film as I can remember in recent times, so impressive it won the young auteur two Mickey's (Best Director and Best Picture). La La Land is an audacious and ambitious project that succeeds because of Chazelle's exquisite direction and deft touch. 

David Mackenzie - Hell or High Water : Mackenzie jumps on the back of Hell or High Water and holds on for dear life. To his credit he never lets the film get out of his control or buck him from the helm. A remarkably solid job by a very skilled filmmaker.

Pablo Larrain - Jackie : Only an uncompromising and confident talent like Larrain could make a film like Jackie. Intimate, exquisite and powerful…Larrain succeeds where all others would most assuredly fail. 

AND THE MICKEY GOES TO…Terence Malick - Knight of Cups : Malick is an acquired taste, but his Knight of Cups is a masterpiece that whispers in your ear and while reaching into your chest. An exceptional and striking piece of cinematic art. Malick's cinematic mastery speaks to the Mickey™® Awards like few artists. Now that he has been awarded the coveted prize, his career is complete!!

 

 

BEST PICTURE

AND THE MICKEY GOES TO….MOONLIGHT!!…OH…WAIT…NO…NO IT DOESN'T…FUCK YOU MOONLIGHT.

 

 

 

 

THE MICKEY GOES TO...

1. Knight of Cups - Malick's journey through the heart of darkness that is Hollywood, and into Dante's Inferno, is a cinematic piece of art that is second to none. Visually stunning, Knight of Cups perfectly captures the intimate spiritual life of a man lost amidst the lascivious chaos of a modern day Babylon. 

2. Silence - Scorsese taps into his Catholicism for a remarkable story about the spiritual gauntlet one man must endure in order to claim, and reclaim, his faith. Beautifully shot, and powerfully acted, Silence, much like the film it lost out to this year, Knight of Cups, finds God in the in-between places…in the quiet and the still. 

3. Hell or High Water - This film is the film of our time and of our country. This film reveals the dark underbelly and the wound that is festering at the heart of America. From the eradication of the Comanche to the emasculation of the White man, Hell or High Water tackles America's past, present and future. The film asks for no quarter…and none is given. A superb and outstanding work of art that should resonate with, or illuminate, all Americans. 

4. The Lobster - The exceedingly well done, absurdist, dystopian nightmare, is the shadow of the romantic comedy. It is funny, and oddly romantic, but unnervingly dark and unrelentingly in its revealing of the foibles of human nature. As original a film as has come along in years. 

5. La La Land - The musical that reinvents the genre for the millennial age, La La Land is more than the fluff it appears to be. A social commentary and indictment of the magical thinking that has infected all of America. An exquisite piece of filmmaking. 

6. Jackie - As honest a portrayal of the Kennedy "Camelot" myth that has ever been told. Extraordinary acting from Natalie Portman, and a visual style that brings the story to life in as vivid a way as imaginable, elevate Jackie from the mundane to the sublime. 

7. Moonlight - A truly stirring piece of work that reveals the struggle of life in an uber-masculine world from the perspective of a young, gay, Black child in Liberty City.  Moonlight pulls back the curtain and shares worlds which otherwise would go unseen by most. A stunningly good film.  

8. Arrival - Amy Adams stars in this sci-fi story of a woman trying to make contact with visiting aliens. Arrival is the thinking mans type of sic-fi film, smart, insightful and patient. Arrival isn't perfect, but it is compelling and packs an insightful punch. 

9. Love and Friendship - Whit Stillman's adaptation of Jane Austen is a very funny and delightful bit of cinematic joy. Stellar acting and confident direction make Love and Friendship more than just another bit of Austenian romantic intrigue.

10. Manchester by the Sea - A flawed, but gorgeous looking, film which is buoyed by two stellar performances from Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams. Not as good as it thinks it is, but better than it could have been. 

The top ten list can be broken down into 4 tiers. The top tier films were Knight of Cups, Silence, Hell or High Water and then The Lobster, which are far and away the best films of the year. Then there is a big drop off to tier 2 and the films La La Land, Jackie and Moonlight. Arrival and Love and Friendship make up tier 3, with Manchester but the Sea rounding out the top ten by the skin of its teeth in tier 4.

MOST IMPORTANT FILM OF THE YEAR

Snowden - Oliver Stone is no stranger to controversy, so when he made Snowden I expected it to be a rip-roaring indictment of the national security state and American paranoia and arrogance post 9-11. Stone makes a solid, if unspectacular film with Snowden, which is a shame as it is an important film, in fact, the most important film of the year. 

Americans in general don't give a shit about much, and if you tell them it is meant to keep them safe, they will let you do just about anything. This cowardice is at the heart of this country. This cowardice is how Trump got elected, how our civil liberties and the Constitution were raped and pillaged after 9-11 and how we got into Iraq and Afghanistan…and how we will probably get into it with Russia if the Dems and neo-cons get their way. 

Snowden puts a human face and name to the NSA spying that every American needs to understand. Flag waving idiots flocked to see the dreadful propaganda piece, American Sniper, the story of Navy SEAL and compulsive liar Chris Kyle. Audiences avoided Snowden like the plague. Kyle is a part of the problem, Snowden is the remedy to the problem. Once people realize that the enemy is not some desert-dwelling dipshit half a world away plotting against us, but rather the people in Washington and Wall street plotting against us, then we will be on the right path. Chris Kyle was a witting or unwitting dupe who fought for tyrants, not against them. Edward Snowden is a true hero, a man who risked life and limb to tell the truth and to stand up to tyranny. 

Snowden did not make tons of money or win lots of awards…but nonetheless, it is a vital story that needed to be told, even when no one wanted to hear it or see it. Morons who tell you that you shouldn't worry about NSA spying if you aren't doing anything wrong, are the assholes that Ben Franklin aptly spoke of when he said, "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety". 

America needs to tie its courage to the sticking post. We need more Snowdens and less Chris Kyles. We need men, real men, who will stand up for true liberty and freedom, not the flag waving, patriotic bullshit they sell at football games and on bumper stickers.

America is dying…and Snowden…and Hell or High Water…reveal the diseases eating away at the soul of America. We have become an emasculated, cowardly nation that would rather live on our knees then die on our feet. 

We have given up our liberty for the illusion of safety…in reality we are left with neither. 

Thus concludes the third annual Mickey™® awards!! Congratulations to the winners and all the nominees!! And to my gentle readers I say...thank you for indulging meand see you next year at The Mickeys™®Now onto the after party at Fatburger!!!

©2017

 

 

Oscars Aftermath : Mea Culpa, Mea Culpa, Mea Maxima Culpa

Estimated Reading Time : 3 minutes 58 seconds

SOME RANDOM,  ENTIRELY INCOHERENT THOUGHTS ON THE OSCARS

Dear gentle reader…the unthinkable has happened. I was wrong about the Oscars. Unlike being wrong about the election or the war, being wrong about the Oscars is no trivial matter. My record for Oscar predictions is unimpeachable…until now. This year I took a major thrashing on my Oscar picks. I have brought great shame upon this esteemed website. 

Due to my egregious errors in Oscar picks, I have decided the only honorable thing to do is to step away from Oscar predictions in order to "spend more time with my family". My downfall and Oscar exile is a tragedy for a myriad of reasons, the most glaring being that the family I am "going to spend more time with" absolutely detest me. I feel for them.

Oscar night was a catastrophe for me…but the great question remains...did I win my Oscar pool? Let's not get ridiculous, of course I won my Oscar pool. I was horrendously wrong on many of my Oscar picks this year, but I still was better than the clueless fools I was competing against. So I am sort of like the tallest midget in my Oscar pool. 

As for the rest of Sunday night, it was a strange evening. I thought La La Land would go on a big run, but it just never happened. Hacksaw Ridge and Suicide Squad, which were, by a long shot, the two worst movies I saw this year, won Oscars. 

As I said in my Oscar post, this year was going to be tough to predict because of the new Academy members…this is not an excuse for my failure, only an explanation. I got Best Actor, Best Screenplay and Best Picture wrong. Calibrating these new members is going to be tough as they had no discernible pattern to their choices. It is too bad I will never predict the Oscars again because I am itching to try and figure these folks out. Alas, it is not meant to be.

AND THE WINNER IS.

And then there was the Best Picture announcement. The whole episode was bizarre, but what I was most alarmed by was not the error in awarding La La Land the award, but in Faye Dunaway's face. What the hell is going on there? Dunaway was once a great beauty, it bums me out that she feels the need to do…whatever she has done to her face…in order to "stay beautiful". I find it so disheartening when people cannot age gracefully. I realize that I am throwing stones from my glass mansion right now, as anyone who knows me knows that I have had numerous plastic surgeries. I've had my nose, cheeks, eyes, chin, calfs, thighs, buttocks, penis and scrotum done. I look like Frankenstein's taut, beautiful teenage son. Enough of my medical history though, what concerned me was what happened to Faye Dunaway's face. Disappointing. 

Another odd thing was Warren Beatty. Beatty is one of the all-time greats and is a real Hollywood icon. I admire Beatty as an actor a great deal. But Warren Beatty is turning 80 this month. As my friend Jiminy McCricket III reminded me, Warren Beatty's career started during the Eisenhower administration. I think it is time for Warren Beatty to find something else to do with his time. 

ANTI-ESTABLISHMENT AND IDENTITY

Many liberals are ecstatic over Moonlight's win because it is a "gay - Black" film and what that means in the broader context of the culture…but I would caution them to temper their excitement. Moonlight is, in one sense, the upstart, anti-establishment choice. La La Land was the old guard, the establishment choice. Moonlight winning Best Picture is a signal that the establishment is in some very deep shit.

This victory for Moonlight is like the groundhog seeing his shadow…we've got six more weeks (years), at least, of winter for the establishment. And like it or not, even though Trump is president, he is still the symbol of the anti-establishment. The media and Washington elite better understand very quickly what is happening in the collective unconscious. The anti-establishment wave is alive and well in the US, and the world, and will be for some time. It will be useful to keep an eye on the upcoming Dutch election and Geert Wilders, and the French election and Marine Le Pen as well. The Isaiah Wave Theory "Level 4 Rebellion Wave" looks like it isn't reducing to Level 3, but might be swelling to Level 5, and that is bad news for the status quo…just ask La La Land…and my Oscar picks.

In addition, Moonlight is also a symbol of what the left is celebrating at the moment…and also what it isn't. Moonlight is identified as a "Black - gay" film…symbolic of even more of the identity politics that got the democrats into the political wilderness they are currently aimlessly wandering. Moonlight's victory reveals where liberal loyalties lie at this time.

If the Academy (and its new members) wanted to reward a great film based on merit alone and not identity politics, they could have…the best film in the best picture category wasn't La La Land or Moonlight, it was Hell or High Water…and it wasn't even close. And Hell or High Water is a very political and anti-establishment film to boot, just that its politics are of class and not race. It looks like Hollywood liberals are under the same spell as the democrats were in the election, choosing identity over class…a very big error as race divides and class unites. 

When seen in combination with the election of Tom Perez to head the DNC, and Nancy Pelosi in the House and the excruciatingly repugnant Chuck Schumer in the Senate…and you have the democrats embracing the establishment and status quo with all their might, and simply put,  this is not the time of the establishment. It just isn't. If it were the time of the establishment…La La Land would be Best Picture…and Hillary Clinton the president.

RACE AND THE OSCAR RACE

The new Academy members did what they were supposed to do…nominate and vote for Black actors, artists and films. The Academy brought these folks in, and jettisoned the old (White) guard, in order to counter the ludicrous #OscarsSoWhite nonsense that has no grounding in fact, only feeling

The problem with making nomination snubs or losing about race, is that when you win, it also becomes about race. The thought that many believe but no one will utter aloud is that Moonlight won because it is a Black film, not because it is the best film. That sucks…for cinema and for Moonlight, which deserves a considerably better fate. The same is true of Mahershala Ali and Viola Davis. Which isn't fair to them either as they are two fine actors, but that is the reality of what is being whispered about in private here in Hollywood.

Was Viola Davis better than Michelle Williams? In my opinion…no. Davis did have substantially more screen time than Williams, so that works to her benefit. But then the question becomes, was Mahershala Ali better than Jeff Bridges? Again, no…and by a mile. And in this scenario, Jeff Bridges had considerably more screen time than Ali, which undermines the case for Ali. So did Davis and Ali win because they were Black and Black actors needed to win this year? There is compelling evidence the answer is yes…which sucks for everyone involved, especially both Ali and Davis, who are unquestionably Oscar caliber actors. 

By crying racism when Black actors weren't nominated over the previous two years (who was supposed to be nominated those years? Will Smith? When Will Smith is your counter argument, I have bad news…you have lost the argument…badly), the Academy caved to pressure and put in members whose sole purpose was to vote for Black artists. By doing this, the awards then become watered down and less worthy, especially for the Black actors who were chosen this year. By crying foul in previous years when no foul was committed, the game got rigged and now nobody wins. It is a shitty thing, but it is what it is. 

WHEN YOU'RE A HAMMER, THE WHOLE WORLD LOOKS LIKE A NAIL

When you're a hammer, the whole world looks like a nail, and so it is with the cries of racism at the Academy Awards (or Grammys for that matter). Even when Moonlight won, it wasn't good enough. The Guardian had an article about how the Best Picture fiasco was a slap in the face to Moonlight, that was on par with having Hattie McDaniel sit in the back of the auditorium when she won for Gone with the Wind. Really? So even when Black artists or films win, it is still a sign of racism. A great example of this was a Washington Post article the day after the Grammy's, where the writer laments the racism of the Grammys. In the piece the writer says that Chance the Rapper, a Black artist, won the Best New Artist award, but even that was a sign of racism because the Recording Academy only voted for him because he put a charm offensive on the members. What the fuck? So no matter what, everything is racist. Hammer…meet nail.

THE NEVER ENDING SHRIEKS OF THE OUTRAGE MACHINE

Another thing to happen since the Oscars is the outcry from the usual suspects about Casey Affleck beating Denzel Washington for Best Actor. There have been many claims of racism and that Denzel was robbed. This is a joke. Denzel is one of the all-time greats…as evidenced by the two Oscars he has already won…but his work in Fences was not nearly as good as Affleck's. It just wasn't. And to claim racism is why Denzel lost is the absolute most asinine thing imaginable. If you are someone who thinks this…you are an imbecile. 

People are also horrified that Affleck, who they claim is a sexual predator, won the award. The virtue signaling has been turned up to 11. The same people decrying Affleck's win are the same people who were so stupid to believe that Marlon Brando actually anally raped Maria Shneider on film, during the shooting of Last Tango in Paris. Do these people believe anything? Yes, they do. 

This Affleck kerfluffle, just like the Brando uproar, is nothing more than people aching to be outraged, so they search far and wide for reasons. Brando didn't anally rape anyone on film, but logic and reason are the first casualties when the Outrage Machine gets fired up. And so it is with Affleck. Affleck was accused…not convicted…of sexually harassing two women. Not raping them, or assaulting them…harassing. And since he was accused…that makes it so. Maybe it did happen, I don't know, I wasn't there…but when you look at the facts of the case, it is….questionable. 

Race rears its head in regards to the Affleck harassment story as well. People claim that Affleck can get away with anything, where a Black actor can't , and they use Nate Parker, star and director of this years Birth of a Nation, as proof. Parker was charged with rape while he was in college. He was acquitted of the charge. So the Outrage Contingent says Parker was screwed over by the Academy because he is Black, and Affleck gets the nomination and win because he is White. The idiocy never ends. 

Affleck and Parker's cases are very different, as harassment and rape are two very different things. Affleck has always denied he harassed anyone, while Parker admitted to having sex with the woman, along with his roommate, but said it was consensual. Add to that the fact that the young woman in question in Parker's case committed suicide, and you can see how much more serious the Parker situation was. Also…and this is the biggest difference…Nate Parker is not a good actor. His performance in Birth of a Nation was not anywhere close to Oscar worthy. Also…Nate Parker was an asshole when asked about his personal history doing press for his film. He handled the entire thing horrendously from a public relations stand point. Now…Casey Affleck may very well be a gigantic, sexually harassing asshole…but he can act…considerably better than Nate Parker…and he has proven it over many years of superb work, which include an Oscar nomination years ago. 

But none of that matters to the Outrage Gang. All they see is racism and misogyny lurking behind every corner. The Outrage Machine is exhausting, and it is never ending. These dipshits, who believe every single thing and every single accusation, are the worst of the worst. They should be ignored and shunned at every opportunity. Eventually they will cannibalize their own, and the world will be a better place when they vanish from it. 

Who am I to rant? I am such an idiot I got three of my Oscar picks wrong. I am not worthy of an opinion, so I should shut my racist, misogynist mouth. The Outrage Machine will be happy to see me go. The public square is all theirs now.

I will now exit the stage and spend the rest of my days with my most unfortunate family. God help them.

 

 

©2017

 

 

Oscars and Grammys Racism : Perception or Reality?

Estimated Reading Time : 5 minutes 17 seconds

It is understandable, with the ugly history of discrimination against them, that Black artists would feel awards shows disregard them solely because of their race…but is that perception accurate?

On Sunday February 9th, 2017, Adele won the Grammy for Best Album over Beyonce, and ever since there have been cries of racism in the media against the Recording Academy. The next morning both the New York Times and the Washington Post had articles decrying the award's racism and making claims of #GrammysSoWhite.  

The New York Times opined, "The Grammys’ race problem is so pernicious that some white winners have chosen contrition over exuberance". 

The Washington Post wrote of the Grammys dispute, "Somehow, lots of listeners are fine with shrugging this off. Some balk at taking a nice Sunday evening television show and making it about race. (Counterpoint: It would be irresponsible not to.)" 

This Grammy controversy, combined with the #OscarsSoWhite uproar last year over the absence of Black actors nominated for Oscars, certainly gives the impression that both the music and film industries have serious racial issues. But do the Grammys and Oscars actually have a "pernicious" race problem? A closer look at the relationship between the Grammys, Oscars and race, is warranted to find out whether these charges are factual and substantial, or emotional and scurrilous.

A good place to start the investigation is to see if Black artists are under-represented in awards in relation to their population percentage. According to the U.S. Census, African-Americans make up 12.6% of the U.S. population. A review of the amount of Grammy and Oscar nominations and wins for Black artists over the last thirty years (1988 – 2017) will indicate whether they are under-represented or not. 

The four most prestigious categories for the Grammys are Best Album, Record of the year, Song of the Year and Best New Artist. Over the last thirty years in the Best Album category, 37% (56) of nominees were Black artists and they won 23% of the awards. 

In the Record of the Year category, Black artists scored 36% (54) of the nominations and won 20% (6) of the awards. 

In the Song of the Year category, Black artists have 28% (42) of the nominations and prevailed for 23% (7) of the awards. 

And the in the Best New Artist category, there have been Black nominees 32.6% (49) of the time, who triumphed for 40% (12) of the Best New Artist awards. 

It is obvious upon review of the data that over the last 30 years Black artists are, in fact, substantially over-represented at the Grammys in relation to their percentage of the U.S. population.

In regards to this years supposed racial controversy, Beyonce has won a total of 22 Grammys (one in the big four categories) throughout her stellar career, which is 8th most all-time. Of the top four popular music Grammy winners in history, three are Black artists, Stevie Wonder, Quincy Jones and Beyonce, with Alyson Krause being the only White artist on that list. It seems to me, that if the Grammys have a “pernicious” race problem, they sure have a funny way of showing it. 

The statistics regarding the Academy Awards for Black artists over the last 30 years (1988 – 2017) are quite illuminating as well. In the Best Actor category, Black actors have received 10.6%(16) of the nominations and won 10% (3) of the awards.

The Best Supporting Actor award has had 8% (12) of its nominees be Black actors and they have taken home the golden statue 10% (3) of the time.

Black actresses have been nominated for 9.3% (14) of the Best Supporting Actress awards and have won 16.6% (5) of the time.

Lastly, the Best Actress category has had Black nominees 4% (6) of the time and only Halle Berry has won the award, which amounts to 3.3% of the awards.

At first glance it would seem that, unlike the Grammys, the Oscars definitely have a race problem as in all but one category, Best Supporting Actress wins (16.6%), do Black artists equal or surpass their U.S. population percentage. But looking more deeply at the numbers reveals that this alleged race issue is more illusion than reality.

If you expand the parameters of the debate beyond the borders of the U.S., and I think it is fair to do so since Hollywood draws the overwhelming majority of their acting talent from the U.S, U.K., Canada, Ireland and Australia, also known as the Anglosphere - all the major countries that speak English as their first language, then the supposed inequality among nominations and wins for Black actors all but disappears.  If you combine the populations of the Anglosphere nations, their Black citizens make up 9% of that general population.

According to the 9% Black population percentage in the Anglosphere, Black actors are over-represented in Best Actor nominations (10.6%) and wins (10%), Best Supporting Actress nominations (9.3%) and wins (16.6%), and in wins for Best Supporting Actor (10%). It does still show slight under-representation in the Best Supporting Actor nominations (8%) and massive under-representation in the Best Actress category in both wins (3.3%) and nominations (4%).

In addition, if the Black actors nominated this year win, then the data is even more compelling against the Oscars alleged race problem. If Denzel Washington wins Best Actor, and as expected, Marshehala Ali wins Best Supporting Actor, then the Black actor win rate over the last thirty years in those two categories becomes 13.3%, which is not only higher than the Black population percentage of the Anglosphere (9%), but also of the U.S. (12.6%). If the heavy favorite Viola Davis wins Best Supporting Actress, the win rate for Black actresses in that category will swell to 20%, more than double the Anglosphere’s Black population percentage (9%) and considerably more than the U.S. percentage (12.6%). If Ruth Negga wins Best Actress, which would be a huge upset, then the win rate for Black Actresses in that category would grow to a still lackluster 6.6%.

The #OscarsSoWhite argument also makes claims of racial inequality against Black artists in casting, but those charges ring just as hollow when you look at the data. According to the Screen Actors Guild, Black actors make up 12% of their members, just below the African-American population percentage (12.6%). A study by the Annenberg Center shows that from 2007 to 2013 (the last year of the study) Black actors were cast in films at a rate of 12.6%, identical to their U.S. population rate. A Screen Actors Guild study from 2008 (most recent year available), reports that Black actors are cast in 14.8% of all film and television roles, including 13.2% of lead roles and 16% of supporting roles.

What these studies and the historical data prove is that Black artists are not under-represented at the Grammys and Oscars, or on film and tv, but in many cases over-represented in relation to their population percentage. So why does the perception of racism in these entertainment fields persist? I believe the biggest reason is a failure to put aside emotional arguments and to put the statistical data into the proper demographic context.

A case in point was when The Economist magazine did a study last year and found that Black actors were cast in 9% of “top roles” in films since 2000. The Economist used this evidence to conclude that Black actors are under-represented due to the 9% “top role” number being below the 12.6% U.S. population percentage of African-Americans. What The Economist failed to take into account was the broader population of the Anglosphere, which would put this 9% “top role” number right in line with the Black population percentage in major English speaking countries.

Another example of this sort of analytical blindness was on display this week in The Guardian where a writer was horrified to learn that Black artists had only won 10 Best Album Grammys since 1959. When you put the fact of “only” 10 Black artists winning Best Album over 58 years into demographic context, you discover that means that Black artists won 17.2% of the Best Album awards over that time, which is considerably more than their percentage of the population in the U.S.

Simply put, Black artists are thriving in show business. As an example, the Forbes 2014 list of the ten most powerful people in entertainment had Beyonce in the number one spot and African-Americans in seven of the top ten positions.

These knee-jerk cries of racism after awards snubs are emotionally-driven, and undermine more substantial claims of discrimination in regards to significant topics like police brutality, incarceration rates, economic opportunity and healthcare quality. These scurrilous accusations of award show prejudice make a mockery of the struggle against the scourge of racial inequality and injustice. There’s no accounting for taste, but to chalk up awards losses by Black artists to racial animus is a cheap way to avoid artistic responsibility and ignore demographic reality.

Previously published on Sunday, February 26, 2017 at RT.

©2017

TWIB : This Week in Bullshit (Feb. 17th - 24th)

Estimated Reading Time : 5 minutes 42 seconds

I am a baseball fan, and as a little kid I used to religiously watch This Week In Baseball, which was hosted by Yankees play by play man, Mel Allen, one of the all-time great baseball announcers. Allen would narrate highlights from the week's games and add his signature call, "How about that!!". Since I didn't have cable tv or access to much if any highlights, This Week in Baseball was my lifeline to the sport I adored. I loved This Week in Baseball with a near-religous fervor, its theme music would instantaneously make me giddy.

That was a long time ago, though. My childhood a distant, faded memory. Mel Allen is long dead. This Week in Baseball is still on, but now it is on Fox and it is entirely useless since ESPN exists. So why I am rambling on about This Week in Baseball? Because I have decided to write a brief column about the media titled, This Week in Bullshit. Bullshit seems to have become our national pastime, so i figured...why not?

This past week I forced myself to do some very uncomfortable and unpleasant things, among them were to watch both Bill Maher's and John Oliver's HBO shows, and also read the editorial pages of both the New York Times and the Washington Post everyday. Even writing that last sentence, never mind doing those things, makes my colon twinge. But I did it. And I thought I would share some random thoughts about what I discovered as I swam among the sewage that is the establishment media's point of view. 

Maher, Milo and Malcolm

On Bill Maher's show last Friday (Feb. 17), everyone got into an uproar because Little Bill had on Milo Yiannopoulis, the alt-right provocateur/performance artist who liberals love to hate. I do not now, nor have I ever, given a shit about Milo or anything he has to say. I do not understand why anyone else would either.  But they do. In fact, I have heard numerous liberals say out loud this week that they would like to kill Milo. I am not joking.

As demonized as Milo has become, and it got worse after his appearance, he came across to me as transparent phony and unserious glamour boy. Why anyone would get worked up over something he says is beyond me. People like Milo, or Ann Coulter or Sean Hannity or whoever the conservative "it" girl of the moment is, get rich by instigating and provoking liberals. Why Liberals make their jobs so easy I will never understand. Milo and company need your hatred in order to survive, if you remove it from them, they whither and die…not unlike Trump. So, liberals need to toughen up and stop being so delicate when it comes to what people say. They need to think strategically and not emotionally, deal with actions, not words. 

The most important thing about that Maher episode though was buried under the Milo freak show. After Little Bill's "interview" with Milo (which was, as usual for Little Bill, flaccid and nonsensical), his opening segment with the panel was astounding and has received little attention. In the segment, Little Bill got very solemn and said he wanted to be serious…always a bad sign. He then went on to say that the CIA and the Intel Community are at war with Trump and that is good because they know the president is dangerous.  Little Bill put himself firmly in the camp of the intel community.

Little Bill then followed up with this doozy…he said that years ago during the Kennedy administration, the Intel Community moved against JFK because JFK had a "pussy problem" and was sleeping with East German agents and Mafia girlfriends and the like. In essence what Little Bill was saying is that the CIA killed Kennedy and that they were right to do it because he was compromised by his sexual dalliances. HOW ABOUT THAT!!

Maher then argued that the same is true now and that it is good that the Intel Community is plotting against President Trump. This is some remarkable stuff…but no one on the panel blinked an eye. And most importantly, "former" Navy Intelligence Officer and multiple-agency Intelligence agent, Malcolm Nance, never uttered a word of denial about Little Bill's thesis about Trump OR Kennedy. 

So what we have here is Bill Maher admitting he believes that the CIA killed Kennedy and that it was a good thing, and that he wants them to sideline Trump by any means necessary (wink-wink). The fact that Nance never challenged Maher or spoke up in defense of the intel community against these charges is stunning. It makes you even wonder if it might even be true (wink-wink). 

Having a major voice of the establishment, Little Bill, claim that the Intel Community murdered one president and is plotting against another, without a peep of denial from a member of that community, is a ground breaking development. One that shocks me no end. it is stunning that no one else seemed to noticed.

The Empire Strikes Back

John Oliver's show was it's usual impotent attempt at being insightful. In the opening segment, Brave Sir John "eviscerated" Trump as he has done countless other times. One wonders how many evisceration must take place before the evisceration event horizon gets crossed. I have a not-so-funny feeling we are a long way from Trump evisceration market saturation. 

Brave Sir John then did his feature segment on…surprise, surprise…Russia. I had just written an article about John Oliver that get some attention on the internets the week beforeand got me lots of emails calling me a Kremlin stooge and Putin shill, which puts me in very good company with people like Glenn Greenwald and Chris Hedges who routinely suffer the same fate. I can't help but wonder if Brave Sir John, or his staff, read that piece and my other critiques, as his Russia segment seems to use my arguments against him as a blue print. It felt like Brave Sir John was defending himself against my accusations. Another, much more plausible scenario is that I am suffering from manic depression and am currently in a heightened state accompanied by delusions of grandeur…God knows it wouldn't be the first time. Regardless, whatever the reason, Brave Sir John seemed to make a feeble attempt to counter my charges. 

Brave Sir John's basic argument against Russia and for the U.S. is that the Russians are awful, and we may do bad things but it is different when we do them because we are good and deserve every benefit of the doubt no matter what!! In conclusion…U.S. is good…just because…and Russia is bad…because everyone says so. 

Watching John Oliver is like being forced at gun point to watch old people fucking. It is excruciating, it takes forever, it is entirely repulsive and there is never a climax. HOW ABOUT THAT!!

"I Know Nothing!!" - Sgt. Schultz

On Tuesday of last week, Steve Phillips wrote an Op-ed for the New York Times titled, "Move Left, Democrats". This op-ed was remarkable for no other reason than it was the least coherent and most idiotic thing I have seen in a long time. Phillips spent 1,000 words or so saying absolutely nothing, all while fighting straw men and falling to define his terms. It was a tremendous piece of opinionated detritus, and proves that all you have to have to get your 1,000 words in the Times are connections to the right people and be fluent in the right buzz words.

Phillip's argument is nearly as incomprehensible as it is moronic. As far as I can decipher it, he thinks democrats should ignore white working class voters who went for Trump, but who had previously voted for Obama, in favor of "progressive" voters who voted third and fourth party in 2016. He then gives numbers to back up his assertions, but never gives any facts to back up his assumptions. For instance, he assumes libertarian voters are democrats who didn't vote Clinton, and not republicans who didn't vote Trump. Regardless, it all looks serious, until you actually read it. 

Phillips logic is so faulty it is amazing he is able to function in the world, never mind write an op-ed. Phillips keeps saying democrats should be more "progressive" but never defines what that means in the context of his argument. Does being more progressive mean being economically populist? Does it mean identity politics? This is the crux of the issue when debating these points. If you don't specify what you mean, then you don't mean anything. 

Phillips also pulls some bait and switches which prove him to be a charlatan in trying to make a pointless argument. He starts off by arguing for ignoring Springsteen voters (my term for white, working class who voted Obama twice and now for Trump) in favor of third and fourth party voters (green, libertarian), but then in the latter half of the piece he simply calls the Springsteen voters "conservatives". He claims that democrats shouldn't waste time trying to convince conservatives to vote for them. Ummmm…no shit, Einstein. The problem with Phillips argument, and thinking ( or lack thereof), is that he doesn't understand that Springsteen voters are not "conservative" in the sense that he makes them out to be. They are economic populists…which was a lynchpin of the progressive political movement for ages. This is why his not defining "progressive" makes his entire article moot. The political spectrum was deconstructed with the last election, and it is fools like Steve Phillips who fail to recognize this. He is like those generals in Vietnam who are trying to re-fight World War II. The battlefield is entirely different now, and the tactics and strategies required to compete and succeed on this battlefield are much different than the ones Steve Phillips is trying, and failing, to articulate.

Democrats should move left, because that is how they will woo third and fourth party voters AND Springsteen voters. The democrats and Hillary Clinton are a center-right party, beholden to corporate and Wall Street interests and a neo-con foreign policy. If Phillips had the intelligence, and courage, to say as much, he might even earn my respect. But since he just babbled on about nothing and wasted my time, he earns my venom.  HOW ABOUT THAT!!

Thar She Blows!!

The aptly named, Charles M. Blow, wrote a wonderful piece of emotionalist horseshit on Feb. 23rd, that no doubt felt invigorating to him, but is ultimately fruitless. Here are Blow's final few paragraphs...

"This is why I have no patience for liberal talk of reaching out to Trump voters. There is no more a compromise point with those who accept, promote and defend bigotry, misogyny and xenophobia than there is a designation of “almost pregnant.”

Trump is a cancer on this country and resistance is the remedy. The Trump phenomenon is devoid of compassion, and we must be closed to compromise.

No one need try to convince me otherwise. The effort is futile; my conviction is absolute. This is a culture war in which truth is the weapon, righteousness the flag and passion the fuel.

Fight, fight, fight. And when you are finished, fight some more. Victory is the only acceptable outcome when freedom, equality and inclusion are at stake."

What is so great about Blow's self-righteous nonsense is that it is so completely Trumpian in its self-absorbed myopia. Blow, just like Trump, need not be convinced, as the effort would be "futile", his conviction is "absolute".  The Trump movement is "devoid of compassion", Blow demands that "no compromise" be permitted.

Blow, like many liberals I speak to about Trump, is so emotionally triggered that he is incapable of thinking straight….or of just plain thinking. If Trump is as awful as liberals say he is, then stop being such candy-ass clowns about it. Stop thinking emotionally and start thinking strategically. If you ignore Springsteen voters, you will lose again. If you find ZERO room to compromise, especially on any economically populists opportunities, then you will push those moderate, Trump-lite folks, deeper into his camp. 

Resist when needed, but embrace when necessary. Blow, like many liberals, is entranced by the siren's call of his emotionalism. He refuses to stop, breathe, reflect and strategize. To Mr. Blow I will quote the great, 21st century, American philosopher Dr. Phil, "Would you rather be right, or would you rather be happy?" Being "right" about how wonderful you are and how awful every Trump voter is, even the Springsteen voters who went for Obama twice, is a surefire way to  end up unhappy come election day. 

To Mr. Blow, I quote myself, "self-righteousness is a warm blanket few refuse in favor of the cold, hard struggle of self-reflection". Hey Blow, grow up, stop bitching, and start winning. HOW ABOUT THAT!!

Nick of Time

Nicholas Kristof wrote an op-ed in the Times on the 23rd as well. St. Nick wrote about how Trump voters are not the enemy. He said it is ok to attack Trump but not his voters because that is unproductive. Kristof is from Ohio and assures his readers that Trump voters are just regular, working class folks trying to make a living in a tough world. 

I liked Kristof's piece a great deal. When I think about it now, I realize the reason I liked Kristof's piece so much is because I wrote it myself three months ago, right after the election (HERE, HERE , and HERE ). It almost feels like you aren't allowed to write op-ed's for the Times unless you are at least three months behind morons like me in your thinking.

But hey, better late than never. Hopefully Kristof, just like John Oliver, keeps reading my pieces. I appreciate the traffic, Nick. 

And thus concludes This Week in Bullshit!! After this week's episode, I am sure Mel Allen, JFK, Herman Melville, Sgt. Schultz and Dr. Phil are all spinning in their graves. I will try to keep up my media feast, but I don't know how long I will last. One man can only eat so many shit sandwiches before his eyes go blind with brown-ness.

©2017

 

89th Academy Awards : The 2017 Oscars Prediction Post

It is here…are you ready? The moment we have all been waiting for…OSCAR NIGHT!!! There have been a lot of crazy nights this past year, from the night when a silver-spooned, needle-dicked, orange-haired douchebag became the "leader of the free world"…to the night that bulwark of white supremacy, The Grammys, chose that Wagnerian, Brunhilde-esque, Cockney-Nazi, Adele for Best Album winner over America's Black Madonna, Beyonce. God willing, Oscar night will not be as stress inducing for us dopey, low-life bastards who live and die at the whim of our vile Overlords of the Aristocracy….like Trump and Adele!!!

Predicting the Oscars this year is not as simple as it has been in years past. With the #OscarsSoWhite nonsense from last year, the Academy made big changes to its membership…shuffling off some old-timer white guys and bringing some women and people of color in…and in some cases…GASP!!...WOMEN OF COLOR!!! We could be dealing with a situation similar to The Young Pope, where business as usual gets turned on its head by a wave of upstarts. 

The new Academy members will be difficult to calibrate just yet as this is their first go around at being the gatekeepers of all that is good and holy…the Oscars. As a citizen of the People's Republic of Hollywood it is my duty to try my best to read their minds, and the tea leaves and point you, dear reader, in the right direction for your Oscar picks. 

I must remind you though, that the Oscars, for all their pomp and circumstance, and there is a lot of pomp and circumstance, are a most sacred event, so please no wagering. Also, keep an eye out for some political speeches, not necessarily from the big named folks, but from the lesser known winners who will voice resistance to Emperor Trump's rule. And be sure to watch King Donald's twitter feed for his witty and incisive counter-attacks. He will probably pull out a classic like…"Meryl Streep is a beautiful woman…NOT". He's clever like that.

Anyway…be sure to buckle up come Oscar night as it is sure to be a bumpy ride. And you might as well get some practice now…so sit back, don your head gear, tighten your chin strap, and relax…and enjoy my Academy Awards predictions!!

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Viola Davis - Fences : Viola Davis is a terrific actress, of that there is no Doubt. (See what I did there?) That said, I thought her performance in Fences was pretty derivative of her earlier and better work, and frankly lackluster. I do not need to see another Davis performance where she has snots running down her face as she nobly cries over whatever is tormenting her. I am sure that on stage, Ms. Davis' acting would have been flawless, on screen it was less than notable.

Naomie Harris - Moonlight : Harris' performance has grown on me the more I've watched Moonlight (I've seen it three times). Her screen time is not very much but she brings an energy and vitality to every scene she inhabits. A finely crafted and passionate portrayal of a woman spiraling out of control. 

Nicole Kidman - Lion : I admit it, I haven't seen Lion, which might make me anti-Indian or anti-orphan, not sure which, maybe it is both…I hope not. I really do want to see it though, but time constraints haven't allowed it. Ms. Kidman is at times a phenomenal actress, and at other times rather mundane. I must withhold judgement at this time until I can see for myself. 

Octavia Spencer - Hidden Figures : I have a confession to make…I haven't seen Hidden Figures. Having seen commercials and the trailer I admit I am not interested in seeing it. It looks like a run of the mill, conventional movie. That said, Octavia Spencer is a very engaging actress and inviting screen presence. When I see Hidden Figures, and I promise I eventually will, I am sure I'll be glad Ms. Spencer is in it.

Michelle Williams - Manchester by the Sea : Michelle Williams is one of the best actresses on the planet. She never fails to bring a vibrancy and originality to her work. Manchester by the Sea is no exception. Ms. Williams, with very little screen time, creates a genuine and specific human being, not a caricature, no small feat in a film populated by caricature. Williams' delicate and fragile performance is fueled by a magnetic inner life and wound that pulsates every moment she is on screen. Fantastic and complex work. 

WHO WINS : Viola Davis - Ms. Davis has won every award leading up to the Oscars, and no doubt will continue her magical awards season on Sunday. I do not think she gave an Oscar worthy performance, but I do believe she is an Oscar worthy actress.

WHO SHOULD WIN : Michelle Williams - Ms. Williams, unquestioningly, gave the very best performance of this group. In another year the awards may have been hers, but this year, for a variety of reasons, it just won't happen.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Mahershala Ali - Moonlight : Mr. Ali is a terrific actor and his work in Moonlight is well done. While I liked his acting, I think the role itself is a little less fleshed out than it needed to be. Mr. Ali brings a sensitivity and groundedness to his character that is compelling, and he is a vital asset to the storytelling of the film, but he is never given any artistic heavy lifting, and that is mildly disappointing.

Jeff Bridges - Hell or High Water : Bridges is one of the all-time greats. His work in Hell or High Water is tremendous. He creates a complicated and at times, repulsive character, who you can't take your eyes off. There is a single scene where Bridges gives a guttural wail that is maybe the best acting caught on camera this year. 

Lucas Hedges - Manchester by the Sea : Hedges does a very solid job as the somewhat complicated teen at the heart of Manchester by the Sea. Hedges never falls into the trap of melodrama or sentimentality that could cripple a role like this, and for that he deserves great praise. 

Dev Patel - Lion : Again, I havent seen Lion. I like Dev Patel as an actor though. I look forward to seeing his work in Lion.

Michael Shannon - Nocturnal Animals : Michael Shannon is one of my favorite actors. His work in the dreadful Nocturnal Animals is not Oscar worthy. It isn't even worth watching. Michael Shannon does the best he can with the garbage that is Nocturnal Animals, but even he cannot polish this turd.

WHO WINS : Marhershala Ali - It is his year, for a variety of reasons. The #OscarsSoWhite campaign is having an effect, for good or for ill, and Ali will benefit from that. The demographics of the Academy have changed, and with Trump as President, liberal Hollywood will want to reward a Black, Muslim man and have him give a stirring speech. That is the reality of the situation, which is unfortunate for Mr. Ali's sake, since he is actor of great quality and worth. 

WHO SHOULD WIN : Jeff Bridges - Bridges does the best, and most substantial work of all of these nominees. He will be overlooked because he has won an Oscar before and in the eyes of Hollywood this is not the year for older, white, established men to be celebrated.

BEST ACTRESS

Isabelle Huppert - Elle : I haven't seen Elle, which might make me a Franco-phobe, I am not sure, but, regardless, Isabelle Huppert is an always remarkable actress. She is such a luminous screen presence that it is impossible not to be captivated by her. I am excited to see Elle when I get a chance.

Ruth Negga - Loving : I am a bad person…I haven't seen Loving. I am not sure, but this might make me racist. I hope not. I have heard nothing but good things about Ms. Negga's work in the film though, and I am excited to see it when I can.

Natalie Portman - Jackie : Natalie Portman is remarkable in Jackie. In a role that begs for caricature, she brings specificity and honesty. Portman brings Jackie, in all of her manifestations, to life and never plays a sour note. Portman's command of craft is fully on display with her meticulous and stunning portrayal.

Emma Stone - La La Land : Emma Stone is as delightful and charming as La La Land. Without Stone's charisma and appeal, the film would have fallen flat. Stone has proven herself to be an excellent actress in recent years (Birdman) and La La Land brings together all of her talent and skill.  

Meryl Streep - Florence Foster Jenkins : The 11th commandment reads, "Thou shalt not have an Oscar ceremony without Meryl Streep!" I have not seen Florence Foster Jenkins, and at first I had zero interest, but then I saw a clip of Streep's work and now you can count me in. Streep is  one of the greatest actresses in cinematic history, and you can never complain when she garners a nomination. I mean, you can…but she will have you killed if you do. She is that powerful, trust me….no one crosses Queen Meryl.

WHO WINS : Emma Stone - Stone is a well-liked and charming presence on the Hollywood scene, and goodness knows Hollywood likes charming actresses. She will win, and frankly, deservedly so, because she embodied all of the heartache, turmoil, tumult and despair that goes into being an actress in this business. I look forward to seeing more and more interesting work from her in the years ahead. 

WHO SHOULD WIN : Natalie Portman - I think Portman did stellar and hypnotic work as Jackie, which was as difficult a role to play as we have seen this year. Stone is more than deserving, but if Portman wins I would be just as happy. 

BEST ACTOR

Casey Affleck - Manchester by the Sea : Casey Affleck does exacting and precise work as the emotionally distant uncle who must become guardian to his nephew. I think Affleck is a fantastic, and often overlooked actor, and I am glad he is nominated this year. I thought the film, and the character, were less than top-notch when it comes to originality, but I was throughly impressed by Affleck's work. 

Andrew Garfield - Hacksaw Ridge : Andrew Garfield is terrible in Hacksaw Ridge. Terrible. He is remarkable in Martin Scorsese's overlooked and under appreciated  Silenced, but in Hacksaw Ridge he is embarrassingly bad. Yuck. 

Ryan Gosling - La La Land : Gosling does solid and at times spectacular work in La La Land. His charisma alone is able to overcome his character's at times off-putting demeanor and that is critical for the film. He also does an amazing job on the piano and I tip my cap to him for that. I like Gosling as an actor a great deal, he has the ability to be funny without forcing, and serious without pushing. 

Viggo Mortensen - Captain Fantastic : I haven't seen Captain Fantastic, which might make me a hippie-hater…I am not sure. I heard from a reliable friend that it is well worth seeing. It is on my rather long list.

Denzel Washington - Fences : Denzel is one of the great actors of our time. His career is littered with forceful performances and well-crafted, acting masterpieces. On Fences, Denzel wears a director's hat as well as acts, and both arts suffer greatly. Denzel gives a very sub-par and somewhat derivative performancee that is note-worthy only for how average it is compared to his other works of genius.

WHO WINS : Denzel Washington - People like Denzel, always have. He is a movie star and a great actor, a combination that is hard to find. That said, he may also benefit from the political climate and the #OscarsSoWhite protest movement. Denzel has lost out on Oscars he has deserved in the past, so if he wins here when he doesn't deserve one, I certainly won't complain.

WHO SHOULD WIN : Casey Affleck/Ryan Gosling - This is a toss up. Affleck gives a layered and deeply internalized performance where Gosling gives a more charming and humorous one, but both do magnificent jobs. I think Affleck's work was actually better but the character was unoriginal, and I think Gosling's role was less showy but just as difficult in its own way. 

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY 

Hell or High Water - Taylor Sheridan : Sheridan is an actor who has become a screenwriter and he is awesome at it. He wrote the stellar screenplay for Sicario last year. Hell or High Water is a tremendous screenplay and Sheridan has become one of my favorite writers in all of Hollywood. His films are fascinating, original, interesting and have satisfying and pulsating sub-texts. 

La La Land - Damien Chazelle : Chazelle's writing on La La Land is very well done. He has re-made the Hollywood musical for the millennial age and told a political and cultural story as well. This film is much more than it seems on the surface…and Chazelle's writing is to thank for that.

The Lobster - Yorgos Lanthimos, Efthimis Filippou : The Lobster is as original a film as I have seen in years. Lanthimos creates a unique and compelling dystopian world and populates it with the most interesting and intriguing characters. The Lobster was overlooked in the directing and best picture (and acting!!) categories, I am glad it is nominated in writing. 

Manchester by the Sea - Kenneth Lonergan : the Academy loves Lonergan…why I am not sure. The script for Manchester by the Sea is mundane at best. It is also rather unoriginal and imitative. Enough with the Boston tough guy stories already!!

20th Century Women - Mike Mills : I haven't seen 20th Century Women. Do I want to? If I answer honestly I will definitely be labeled a misogynist. Best to not say anything. 

WHO WINS : Damien Chazelle - Chazelle was snubbed with his first film Whiplash and Hollywood loves films about itself, so they give him the writing award here. There is a chance that they give it to Lonergan, whom they adore, but I think Chazelle pulls it off.

WHO SHOULD WIN : Yorgos Lanthimos - Lanthimos wrote the most original and unique work among the nominees. He deserves the award…but will have to settle for being happy with the nomination. 

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Arrival - Eric Heisserer : I liked Arrival. It isn't a great film, but it is certainly good and kept my interest. I actually though the weakest part of the film was its script (and cinematography), but what the hell do I know? 

Fences - August Wilson : Wilson is one of the greatest playwrights of the modern era…but he is a dreadful screenwriter. Writing for the stage and writing for the screen are two very different skills. Wilson mastered the former and butchered the latter. 

Hidden Figures - Alison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi : Have not seen the film. Yes…I am a terrible human being. Absolutely terrible. I also think I may be an anti-mathist…I hope not, but it sure looks that way.

Lion - Luke Davies : Have not seen the film. See my human being status above.

Moonlight - Barry Jenkins and Tarrell Alvin McRaney : Jenkins does a wonderful adaption of McRaney's play. I thought the last act was weak, but the first two were transcendently wonderful. The level of intimacy and humanity on display in the first two acts is as good as it gets, it is a shame the third act didn't live up to its lead in. 

WHO WINS : MOONLIGHT - Jenkins is probably going to lose out for Best Director, so the Academy will give him the Screenplay award. This is what they do, they give a director a writing award so that he doesn't go home empty handed. That said, there is a real chance that August Wilson wins. Wilson has been dead for over a decade but the Academy loves playwrights and posthumously honoring one of the all-time greats is a distinct possibility. That said, there is no chance anyone other than Jenkins or Wilson wins this award. None.

WHO SHOULD WIN : MOONLIGHT - I think Jenkin's adaptation is terrific. I didn't like the third act, but thought the first two acts were remarkably well done. 

BEST DIRECTOR

Denis Villeneuve - Arrival : Villeneuve is a hit or miss director for me. He hit with Sicario and missed with Prisoners. With Arrival he is middle of the road. I thought the film and his direction were fine but not stupendous. 

Mel Gibson - Hacksaw Ridge : This movie is atrocious. Mel Gibson's direction is abysmal. Just an amateur hour piece of crap. Why is this film and its director and its leading man nominated. What the hell is going on? I hated this movie so much I wish they used real bullets when filming it.

Damien Chazelle - La La Land : Chazelle has proven himself quite the phenom with his first two films, Whiplash and La La Land. It will be very intriguing to see where he goes from here, as I think he has milked the jazz subject for all it is worth at the moment. His direction on La La Land was incredibly well done as the film and its musical numbers are intricate and difficult to pull off. 

Kenneth Lonergan - Manchester by the Sea : I am underwhelmed by Lonergan as director…and writer. I don't get it. His films are all basically the same, where a struggling male character goes through the emotional ringer but never learns anything or changes at all. Why the Academy, or anyone else, thinks Lonergan is a talent is beyond me. 

Barry Jenkins - Moonlight : Jenkins burst upon the film scene this year in spectacular fashion with Moonlight. I am really looking forward to seeing the films he makes in years to come. He is an artist with a deft and subtle touch who creates intimate worlds and invites viewers in to them.

WHO WINS : Damien Chazelle - I think it is Chazelle's year. He made a movie about Hollywood and Hollywood loves it some Hollywood. He also does a very good job with a very difficult film to direct, and the Acadamy will appreciate the degree of difficulty.

WHO SHOULD WIN : Damien Chazelle - He did the best job of all of these nominees. I think that is undeniable. 

 

BEST PICTURE 

Arrival : I liked Arrival…but I do not think it is an Oscar worthy film…does that make me an anti-alien bigot?? Probably…but I hope not. The film's flaws are too glaring and while the story is great, in execution it makes some mis-steps. I think Amy Adams does stellar work in the lead, and deserved a nomination for her work, but I think the film is not Best Picture material. 

Fences : Fences is a mess, both technically and artistically. The script, the acting and the direction are for the stage not the screen. Denzel Washington is a great actor but a most horrific director. A wasted opportunity as August Wilson's play is fantastic. But this ain't theatre…it's film. 

Hacksaw Ridge : Just a horrendous piece of crap movie. The acting, directing and writing are so awful as to be amazing. How in the hell is this film nominated for anything but a Razzie?

Hell or High Water : One of the very best films of the year. The performances across the board are outstanding, even the bit parts. The script is an original one and the direction taut and compelling. Hell or High Water is the film of our time, and for our time. If you haven't seen it…go see it now. Right now. 

Hidden Figures : I haven't seen the film. I am a truly bad person and most likely a racist and anti-mathist monster.

La La Land : La La Land is more than the piece of fluff some think it is. There is a lot going on beneath the surface of this film. I truly enjoyed the movie on multiple levels. The writing, directing and acting are absolutely topnotch. A fantastic film of quality and worth. I get why people hate it, hell…I am shocked I like it, but it is a much more considerable and worthy film than the atrocious The Artist or Chicago…both of which won Oscars.

Lion : I am going to see Lion…I promise. I really want to see it. I'm going to see it…stop bugging me about it. 

Manchester by the Sea : An underwhelming movie. We've seen it all before. The story and the characters are not all that interesting. The film does boast two superb performances from Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams, and for that it is note-worthy, but beyond that, it is an exercise in the familiar. 

Moonlight : Two-thirds of a most amazing movie. The last third falls flat, but not enough to scuttle the ship entirely. The film has a very solid cast that do yeoman's work in propelling the compelling narrative forward. A well-made, well-crafted and genuine piece of cinematic art that fell just short of greatness. 

WHO WINSLa La Land - I think this is La La Land's year. There is a chance there is some backlash against the film, but there are hurdles for the competition to overcome that seem too great. Hollywood loves films about itself, and loves musicals. So La La Land may have a record breaking, or tying evening. I think it will win Best Picture, Director, Screenplay, Actress and Score and Song as well as other technical awards (cinematography, editing, sound editing, sound mixing). Gonna be a big night for La La Land.

WHO SHOULD WIN : Hell or High Water - Hell or High Water is far and away the best film of all the nominees. Ben Foster, Jeff Bridges and the rest of the cast do tremendous work. The script is outstanding and the direction exceptional. if you haven't seen the film, make sure you see it soon. This film is a glimpse into the heart, soul and DNA of America. The same America that elected the silver-spooned con-man, and orange-topped charlatan Donald J. Trump as President. God Help Us All. If you want to know why, go watch Hell or High Water

And thus ends another Oscar prediction article. As previously said, this year could be topsy turvy with all the new Academy members. Add to that the fact that we are in a "Level 4 Rebellion Wave" according to my Isaiah Wave Theory©™., and we could be in for a crazy night. My evidence for that? Trump winning the presidency, Brexit prevailing in the UK and the rapid growth and expansion of anti-establishment parties across the globe over the last few years. This anti-status quo energy is in the collective, and the Academy is effected by that as well, so beware the upsets come Oscar night!!

That said, this years Oscars could also be a signal of the swing back toward the establishment…sort of like "The Empire Strikes Back". Backlash against the anti-establishment wave is inevitable, the trick is to figure out when one wave crests and the other starts to swell. Oscar couldcould…be an early indicator of whether or not the big swell continues or begins its slow decline.

Thanks for reading and I hope you have a fun Oscar night!! 

©2017

 

John Oliver - Shameless Establishment Shill

FOR THE PREVIOUS JOHN OLIVER ARTICLES CLICK ON THE LINKS BELOW

1. COURT JESTER AS PROPAGANDA TOOL - 2. THE DRUMPF AFFAIR AND LITTLE BILL MAHER'S POWER FETISH - 3. WAXING BRAZILIAN AND WANING CREDIBILITY -4. OUT TRUMPING TRUMP ON THE GREAT WALL OF TRUMP - 5. THINGS SAID AND UNSAID.

Estimated Reading Time : 5 minutes 02 seconds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Previously published on Saturday February 11, 2017 at RT.

©2017

La La Land : An Analysis - Political Subtext

THIS IS THE THIRD…AND MAYBE FINAL…ARTICLE IN A SERIES ABOUT THE CULTURAL RELEVANCE OF THE FILM LA LA LAND. THE PREVIOUS TWO ARTICLES CAN BE FOUND HERE AND HERE.

****WARNING: THIS ANALYSIS CONTAINS MASSIVE SPOILERS!!! CONSIDER THIS YOUR SPOILER ALERT!!****

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

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

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

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

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

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

SEBASTIEN

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. I-Ran

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Rebel Without a Cause

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

4. Summer

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

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

5. Keith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MIA

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

1. Ingrid Bergman

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Paris

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

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

3. Color

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

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

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

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

THE END

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

1. Mia

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

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

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

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

2. Seb

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. The Actual Ending

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

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

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

RACE

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

1. Seb's Sister

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

2. Black Couple on the Pier

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

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

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

3. Opening Sequence Dancers

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

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

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

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

CONCLUSION

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

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

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

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

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