"Everything is as it should be."

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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!!)

© 2017

 

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

Estimated Reading Time : 5 minutes 18 seconds

THIS IS THE SECOND IN A SERIES OF ARTICLES ABOUT THE CULTURAL RELEVANCE OF THE FILM LA LA LAND. THE FIRST CAN BE FOUND HERE.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 “They worship everything and value nothing.” – Sebastian

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

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

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

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

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

 “Maybe I’m not good enough!” – Mia

 “Yes you are!” – Sebastian

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Previously published at RT

©2017

Welcome to La La Land!!

Estimated Reading Time : 5 minutes 27 seconds

THIS IS THE FIRST IN A SERIES OF ARTICLES ON THE CULTURAL RELEVANCE OF THE FILM LA LA LAND.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©2017

Express Yourself? Madonna Don't Preach!

Estimated Reading Time : 4 minutes 11 seconds

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Did Lisa go?”

 “No.”

 “Did Jenny go?”

 “No.”

 “Did Karen go?”

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

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

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

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

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

Previously published on January 24, 2017 at RT.

©2017

President Trump : A Viewer's Guide

ESTIMATED READING TIME: 2 minutes 48 seconds

WELCOME TO THE CLIP SHOW!!

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

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

1. A FACE IN THE CROWD

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

2. CITIZEN KANE

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

3. THE APOSTLE

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

4. NIXON

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

5. THERE WILL BE BLOOD

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

6. THERE WILL BE BLOOD - MILKSHAKE SCENE

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

7. APOCALYPSE NOW

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

"Who's the commanding officer here? "

"Ain't you?"

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

"Yeah"

That sums it up perfectly.

8. WALL STREET

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

9. WALL STREET - GREED IS GOOD

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

10. NETWORK

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

11. NETWORK - THE WORLD IS BUSINESS

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

12. DR. STRANGELOVE

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

13. DR. STRANGELOVE - ASTONOSHINGLY GOOD IDEA

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

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

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

©2017 

 

 

 

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

ESTIMATED READING TIME : 5 minutes 01 seconds.

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

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

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

THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH

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

"I'M FUNNY HOW, I MEAN FUNNY LIME I'M A CLOWN, I AMUSE YOU?"  - TOMMY DEVITO, GOODFELLAS

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

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

"CLOWNS TO THE LEFT OF ME, JOEKRS TO THE RIGHT, HERE I AM STUCK IN THE MIDDLE WITH YOU" - STEALERS WHEELS

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

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

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

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

"SEND IN THE CLOWNS, DON'T BOTHER, THEY'RE HERE" - STEPHEN SONDHEIM

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

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

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

THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON SATURDAY, JANUARY 21, 2017 AT RT.

©2017

 

 

Silence : A Review

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

Estimated Reading Time : 6 Minutes 37 Seconds

My Rating : 4.5 out of 5 Stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©2017 

 

Jackie : A Review

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

Estimated Reading Time : 5 Minutes 07 Seconds

My Rating : 3.5 out of 5 Stars.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

©2017

La La Land : A Review

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

Estimated Reading Time : 5 minutes and 44 seconds

My Rating : 4 out of 5 stars.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©2017