"Everything is as it should be."

                                                                                  - Benjamin Purcell Morris

 

 

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

Shadow: A Review

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

My Rating: 4.25 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation: SEE IT. A wonderfully made, visually stunning and dramatically and psychologically satisfying Chinese action film in the vein of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Hero.

Shadow, directed by iconic Chinese film maker Zhang Yimou, is the story of Jingzhou who is trained from a young age to be a double/shadow for military leader Ziyu. The film stars Deng Chao in a dual role as Jingzhou and Commander Ziyu, with supporting turns from Sun Li and Zheng Kai.

Shadow is best described as a Wuxia film, which is a genre of Chinese fantasy/fiction that revolves around “martial heroes” in a world of magical realism. Notable examples of Wuxia films are Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Hero and House of Flying Daggers by the same director as Shadow, Zhang Yimou.

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Yimou, who is one of the great directors of his generation, has a flair for unique fight choreography and paints his films with a striking palette and dramatic visuals. In Shadow, Yimou and cinematographer Zhao Xiaoding use a muted grey, black and white as the dominant color scheme but the film’s visuals crackle with a stunning intensity. The film is beautifully shot, highlighted by Xiaoding’s gorgeous framing (just look at the poster above) and use of a crisp and clear contrast between the blacks and the whites, the shadow and the light. Yimou and Xiaoding’s masterful use of contrast creates a visual clarity and coherence that is a joy to behold.

Shadow is a psychologically and dramatically rich story that deeply mines the Jungian concepts of the shadow. The most obvious example of this is that Chao plays both Jing and Ziyi, who are essentially the same entity with two different elements of its psyche projected into the outer world, each vying for control. Jing “the shadow”, must be identical to Ziyi, and in a delicious bit of Jungian symbolism, must have the identical “wound” as Ziyi. Ziyi in turn must integrate his “shadow” in order to make himself whole again, or face the consequences of being overcome by his psychological shadow.

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The shadow is a complex and dramatically potent psychological premise used to great effect by other film makers from the East, most notably Japanese master Akira Kurosawa in the terrific film Kagemusha (Shadow Warrior). Like Shadow, Kagemusha also effectively used a single actor (the great Tatsuya Nakadai) to play both the role of the man of power and his shadow. Yimou dives even deeper into Jungian shadow psychology than Kurosawa though by emphasizing the anima (the feminine) and the imperative to also integrate that feminine power in order to become whole.

The ying and yang and wholeness are dominant themes throughout the movie (again look at the poster above) and Yimou emphasizes that battle/balance between the opposites not only visually with the black versus white color scheme, but dramatically with opposing masculine roles and opposing feminine roles. Just as Ziyi has Jing as his literal shadow (and vice versa), Ziyi’s wife, Xiao Ai has a symbolic opposite/shadow in Princess Qingping. That sort of balance in the narrative makes the film dramatically and subconciously very satisfying even while it maintains a pronounced assault and challenge upon our storytelling expectations.

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Wholeness is also represented in numerous ways in the film, most notably by the umbrella. A circle is the symbol for wholeness and in Shadow, Jing integrates his masculine and feminine sides by using a circle, an umbrella, as a weapon not only of defense but of offense. Jing’s learning the use of the umbrella is an integration dance between the masculine and the feminine. The use of the umbrella is not only psychologically resonant but is visually striking as well.

The cast all do solid work with Deng Chao in his dual role and Sun Li as Ziyi’s wife being the most notable. Chao is really remarkable as both men and it is easy to forget the same actor is playing both roles. Sun Li’s work is incredibly layered and she brings a palpable humanity and fragility to the role that profoundly accentuates the drama.

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The fight sequences are all so unique, original and compelling that they are a wonder to behold. Since The Matrix and Crouching Tiger became such big hits twenty years ago, slow motion martial arts moves have become passe, but Yimou fantastically turns everything on its head in Shadow and creates vibrant and vivid fights that are gloriously choreographed and cinematically mesmerizing. Yimou also wisely uses water and rain to further visually enhance the fight sequences.

While Shadow can be a bit confusing at first, especially if you go in unaware of the plot, once it hits its stride it is truly fantastic. I loved the film because it is such a dramatically, psychologically and cinematically rich example of the magical realism of Wuxia in action. If you are a fan of Wuxia or Yimou, rush out and see this movie in the theatres immediately. If you are less a Wuxia enthusiast, but enjoyed Crouching Tiger, Shadow may be a little tougher to penetrate because it isn’t as easily digestible or romantically sweeping as Ang Lee’s epic, but it is equally beautiful to look at. But with all that said, even if you are on the fence about going to see Shadow, why not give it a shot….the shadow you save might just be your own.

©2019

Tedeschi Trucks Band - The Orpheum Theatre: A Review

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TEDESCHI TRUCKS BAND - ORPHEUM THEATRE - THURSDAY, MAY 16TH, 2019

Last Thursday, May 16th, I continued my year of living musically when I ventured to downtown Los Angeles to see the Tedeschi Trucks Band play at the Orpheum Theatre. I was intrigued by the possibilities of this show as I had never seen Tedeschi Trucks play live before, nor had I ever been to the Orpheum.

The Grammy Award-winning Tedeschi Trucks Band are a blues jam band currently on tour in support of their fourth studio album, Signs, which was released on February 15 of this year. I discovered the band a few years ago through a client, who is a notable professional musician, and have been a fan ever since I explored their first album, Revelator(2011), and its scintillating follow up Made Up Mind(2013).

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The band formed in 2010 when singer and guitarist Susan Tedeschi, a blues superstar in her own right, merged her band with her blues royalty/guitar prodigy husband Derek Trucks’ band, to form a sort of blues super group. Derek is the nephew of Butch Trucks, drummer for The Allman Brothers, and grew up playing with the band. By the time Derek was 13 he was already a professional touring musician who had played with such notables as the legendary Buddy Guy. Trucks became an official member of The Allman Brothers at the age of 20 and has recorded and toured with Eric Clapton as well and is widely considered one of the very best players of his generation.

The Tedeschi Trucks Band is enormous, like a traveling circus, boasting 12 members, who are…Susan Tedeschi (lead vocals, rhythm guitar), Derek Trucks (lead guitar), JJ Johnson and Tyler Greenwell (drums/percussion), Brandon Boone (bass), Gabe Dixon (keyboards), Kebbi Williams (sax), Ephraim Owens (trumpet), Elizabeth Lea (trombone), Mike Mattison/Mark Rivers/Alecia Chakour (harmony vocals).

I was flying solo on concert night so I did not have my usual pre-show dinner at Shake Shack even though there was one right next to The Orpheum. Instead I Ubered a little later than usual to the show in order to avoid L.A. traffic and got to the venue about 20 minutes before show time.

As I waded through the crowd on the sidewalk and just inside the theatre, I noticed that the average age of the audience was middle-aged or slightly above. Unless some of these people are going to live to be 130 years old, I don’t think it is accurate to describe them as “middle-aged”. The crowd was decidedly friendly and welcoming, no bad apples or attitudes among the multitudes.

I made my way to my seat, which was very good as it was located on the second row center of the mezzanine, and sat myself down to get a good look at my surroundings. The Orpheum is a truly gorgeous venue, at once opulent and luxurious but also lived in. The seats were very comfortable and there was plenty of leg room between rows and arms space between seats.

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Sitting behind me were an older couple, probably in their 60’s, who started chatting me up. They told me they had seen Tedeschi Trucks numerous times before and never saw the same show twice. Another guy, a retiree from Minnesota, overheard the conversation and chimed in. He told me he follows the band around, going to all of their shows not just in Minnesota but in Iowa and to all of their shows in Chicago and at the Beacon Theatre in New York. He flew out to Los Angeles to stay with his nephew and attend both shows that the band were playing on back to back nights at the Orpheum. All of these people assured me that, as a Tedeschi Trucks virgin, I would be blown away by the band. These folks were very down to earth and I never would have pegged them as essentially the equivalent of Tedeschi Trucks Dead Heads.

The show was scheduled to start at 8 with no opening act. At about 8:15 the band haphazardly strolled onto the stage and after some brief discussion amongst themselves, began playing. The band opened with the rollicking “Do I Look Worried” off of Made Up Mind and in no time at all I understood why Tedeschi Trucks has such a loyal following.

Susan Tedeschi has a wondrous, bluesy voice that both soars but is grounded. She powers through her vocals with a steady aplomb that gives the music a rich and complex humanity. The rest of the band are exceedingly tight, highlighted by the double drum section of Johnson and Greenwell, who at times lead the band with drum duets and/or duels. The horn section and the backing vocals are terrific as well and always made the most of their opportunities to shine.

But with all that said, there is simply no doubt that Derek Trucks is the sun around which the other planets in the band orbit. Trucks is obviously the band leader and weaves the talents of his formidable band into a cohesive and magnificent whole.

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Trucks’ guitar playing is beyond sublime, as I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone do anything as well as Derek Trucks played guitar the other night. Trucks’ guitar is like a long bow, and his notes arrows launched deep into the night sky. These arrows float elegantly through the air and then, concisely and precisely, strike the bullseye some miles away in the darkness with a resonant boom. Other arrows float through the night sky and then, once they reach their seeming apex, cluster together to form a rocket, then ignite, and blast off beyond the bounds of earth, scorching out of the Milky Way, exploring the deepest reaches of the universe, sometimes slowing, sometimes speeding up, but never losing their vibrancy, vitality and originality. These rockets then come full circle, turning into a ball of flames as they reenter the atmosphere, and morph once again into pristine arrows as they, with cunning exactness, come to land ever so gently back from the place they originated, in Derek Trucks’ quiver, just as he intended, entirely in tact and none the worse for wear, only wiser.

Trucks’ playing is spell-binding, so mesmerizing as to be hypnotic. He is so good he isn’t just the center of the band, but for two hours every night, the universe tilts on its axis because Derek Trucks’ and his guitar become the undeniable center of it.

Guitarists often describe their instrument as an axe, and it would be easy to think of Derek Trucks as some axe wielding dragon slayer. But as I watched Derek Trucks annihilate the Orpheum on Thursday night, I couldn’t help but think of Game of Thrones and the dragon Drogon obliterating Kings Landing. Derek Trucks is not the dragon slayer…Derek Trucks is the indestructible dragon..and his guitar wreaks a beautiful havoc and leaves those fortunate enough to witness its mastery and power, with mouths agape and minds blown.

The band played for a solid hour and then took a half hour intermission. My new friends, the older couple and the Minnesota man, quickly checked in on me to see what i thought, I was nearly speechless, and could only muster a “holy shit” in reply to their queries. They gave a knowing laugh, they too were once Tedeschi Trucks virgins.

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After the intermission the band came out and picked up right where they left off with “I’m Gonna Be There” off of the new album Signs. Throughout the show various member of the band would took the spotlight, with back up singer Mike Mattison doing lead vocals on a few songs, as did Mark Rivers, both of them acquitting themselves extremely well. The horn section each got their solos, as did Brandon Boone on bass and Gabe Dixon on keyboards. The highlight feature though may have been JJ Johnson and Tyler Greenwell’s combined drum solo/duet/duel. These percussionists were masterful in playing off of and with each other and their skill is a driving force that keeps the band so tight.

After playing for another glorious hour and change, the band walked off to a raucous ovation, only to return for the requisite encore. Trucks’ then decisively tore into the distinct riff of “Made Up Mind” and the crowd erupted as the band tore through what may be their most signature song. Trucks and the horn section went back and forth with a volley of blues in a remarkable jam for a few delirious moments and then, with the audience spent, Tedeschi Trucks exited as they entered, with a slow saunter and an understated confidence.

The Tedeschi Trucks Band don’t put on a show, there is no posing and preening, no bells and whistles, instead the put on a master class in the blues. The musicianship on display at a Tedeschi Trucks show is the absolute height of artistry and craftsmanship. Even if you are not very familiar with the band, if you love music, go see Tedeschi Trucks…you will not be disappointed (you should also check out their albums, particularly Revelator and Made Up Mind). My ticket cost $105 (and came with a copy of their new album Signs) and my seats were very good and worth every penny and then some. I can tell you this, I now totally understand how middle-aged normies get sucked in by the band’s live music and end up following them around from city to city…as seeing Tedeschi Trucks is a truly transcendent experience. If you only see one concert a year, or every couple of years, do yourself a favor and make that concert Tedeschi Trucks.

SET LIST

Do I Look Worried

Part of Me

Don’t Drift Away

Somebody Pick Up My Pieces

High and Mighty

Down in the Flood

Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever

The Sky is Crying

Idle Wind

INTERMISSION

I’m Gonna Be There

Signs, High Times

Lord Protect My Child

Don’t Keep Me Wonderin’

Shame

Midnight in Harlem

Get Out of My Life, Woman

Show Me

ENCORE

Made Up Mind

©2019

Brief Thoughts Before the End of Game of Thrones

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Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes 14 seconds

When Game of Thrones first appeared on HBO I admit I was skeptical. In general I don’t watch much television except for whatever sporting event that isn’t golf I happen to stumble upon, but I do usually make an exception for HBO.

I prefer to watch HBO because their shows are not suffocated within what I call the “Network Box”. The Network Box is why most network tv shows suck…they are stuck in a box of creative limitations in terms of what they can say and show, and monetary limitations in terms of how much money they must generate in order for the network to stick with them.

On network shows the language is censored, the violence muted and the nudity non-existent. Because of this it all feels so…manufactured and phony. And because the network’s demand so much ad revenue for each show, niche programs stand little chance of surviving their early years when they are building an audience and creative momentum. So why watch network TV when it is all garbage and anything worthwhile will be cancelled before there is any resolution to the story. And so…I generally give HBO shows a chance because they have more likelihood of being good and of not being cancelled if they aren’t blockbusters right away.

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That said, I watched Game of Thrones originally more out of an obligation than out of interest for that first season. Then something completely miraculous happened…at the end of season one Ned Stark got his head chopped off. Stark, who was played by Sean Bean, the biggest star on the show, was the central character for season one, and when he found himself kneeling with the executioners axe poised over his neck, I watched with a bemused detachment.

As that scene unfolded I kept trying to figure out how Ned would be saved…who would swing in, or ride by, and in typical Hollywood fashion, somehow save the star. But then they actually cut Ned’s head off and I literally jumped up from my seat. I was startled, unnerved, exhilarated, agitated, excited and shocked. I was pacing my empty living room yelling aloud, “HOLY SHIT! HOLY SHIT!!”It was at that moment that Game of Thrones made its bones! Ned’s head was gone and it was on!

I never became a Game of Thrones superfan. I never read the books or delved into the maze of online fan sites and theories and such. I did watch every episode though, but if I am being honest, I rarely knew what the hell was happening or who half the people were, but that didn’t matter. The show as beautifully shot, wonderfully acted, well-written and was never miserly with violence or nudity. As I was fond of saying to friends about Game of Thrones, “come for the blood and guts, stay for the boobs and bush”…and that is exactly what I did.

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One of the great not-so-secrets of Game of Thrones’ success was that it would take the most mundane scenes, filled with nothing but expository writing on the political machinations or history of Westeros, and turn it into interesting eye candy by setting the non-action in a brothel or bedroom with beautiful women, and occasionally men, cavorting in the background in all of their Medieval naked glory. Game of Thrones seemed to understand the most basic laws of human nature…which are, in no particular order…people like to look at beautiful people, people like to look at beautiful people naked, and people like to look at two or more beautiful people naked and simulating sex.

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Besides the naked bodies and the consequence filled violence, the highlight of the show for me were the dragons. When Dany’s three fire-breathing, winged progeny grew up and took to the world, they were the most beautiful things I had ever seen on television. When the dragons were unleashed in battle, whether it be to save Dany from an assassination attempt, or to nearly kill Jaime, or to save Jon from the wights…they were glorious. When the undead ice dragon obliterated The Wall, it was simply stunning to behold. And when Dany went full Dresden and unchained Drogon to shock and awe in the battle of Kings Landing last week, it was absolutely spectacular. Remarkably well shot, with seamless special effects, the aerial destruction of Kings Landing was one of the greatest visual sequence ever seen on television.

In addition, when Drogon’s head came out of the darkness on the beach in last week’s episode to incinerate Varys…that was a truly delicious shot. It was also an example of creation through limitation…as the darkness wasn’t just visually striking…it saved money, as they only had to do a limited amount of CGI for the dragon head and not the whole body.

Which brings us to the budget issue. Game of Thrones has an enormous budget, the equivalent of a Hollywood blockbuster, but it isn’t unlimited. As I wrote earlier in regards to the Battle of Winterfell, that episode’s dark and muddy visuals which so many, myself included, found annoying, could very well be a result of penny-pinching and cutting corners in order to save money for the Battle of Kings Landing. Sure enough, last week’s Battle of Kings Landing was everything that this season’s earlier Battle of Winterfell was not. It was crystal clear, visually coherent and cinematically gorgeous.

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Another complaint many have had, myself included, regarding the final two half seasons is that the narrative has seemed decidedly rushed, and thus less cohesive and coherent, especially in contrast with the pace of the earlier seasons. In my opinion, the story would have been better served had they done two full seasons instead of two half seasons, but again, the budget is probably the reason that didn’t happen.

If the producers had done two full seasons then the cast may have been up for significant pay raises and would have had a tremendous amount of leverage with which to get those pay raises. By doing two half seasons, the showrunners are only paying the cast for one full season, thus keeping them on their original “rookie” contracts and avoiding shelling out a big pay day.

The budget issue is a complex one and there are no doubt mitigating and complicating factors all the way around, including but not limited to people not wanting to be stuck working on this project any longer. Yes, Game of Thrones is undoubtedly the greatest thing most of these folks, be they actors, crew or producers, will ever be associated with, but working in TV is a grind, and working on a show in far off locales even more so. As successful as the Game of Thrones has been, I’m sure nearly everyone working on it is relieved it is over.

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This is just my opinion…and I am not the one writing the checks…but I would have preferred not only two full seasons but also a flipping of the Battle of Winterfell and the Battle of Kings Landing. To me, I think it makes more narrative and creative sense, at least in hindsight, to have the beautiful Battle of Kings Landing first, and then the Battle of Winterfell in the penultimate episode. Of course, I would also want to spend more money and have the Battle of Winterfell shot entirely differently and even have a different ending, as the one they went with was way to Hollywood for my tastes and out of character for the show.

Also, I would still have Jaime and Cersei die at the Battle of Kings Landing in each other’s arms, which was very poetic, but just not by being buried under rumble, which was not visually satisfying. I would have had them try to escape, then see Dany on Drogon, and Dany see them, and she and Cersei make eye contact, then Cersei and Jaime have their final goodbye conversation and hug and then…DRACARYS…and the Lannister twin’s charred remains would be frozen in an eternal embrace. But again…this is just my opinion and I am sure others have differing ones that are just as valid.

As for what will happen in the finale…I have absolutely no idea mostly because I am still not even sure what the hell has already happened. As I wrote before, the bottom line is this, we should enjoy Game of Thrones and the Game of Thrones phenomenon while is lasts because we will see nothing like it ever again. Sure, people will try to copy its success, but cultural forces will limit what other series can do in Game of Thrones‘ wake, and will no doubt make little more than cheap, watered-down, politically correct and tokenly diverse imitations on the original rather than improvements.

You only get one shot at ending something as epic as Game of Thrones. As of right now, the show’s creators, D.B. Weiss and David Benioff, have definitely faltered coming down the abbreviated stretch. That said, it is not impossible, but certainly not likely, that Weiss and Benioff could right the ship in the show’s final eighty minutes. Whether they stick the Game of Thrones landing or not, Weiss and Benioff should be lauded for having gone as far as they have with this show and having been as successful as they have been with it. Game of Thrones is a monumental television achievement and regardless of whether it ends as well as it began, we should be grateful of that fact and shouldn’t lose sight of it.

©2019

Undead Army of the Woke Will Make Sure Game of Thrones is the Last Show of Its Kind

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Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes 04 seconds

****WARNING: This article contains some information about Game of Thrones and Avengers: Endgame that might be considered minor spoilers if you haven’t watched the series or seen the movie yet. You’ve been warned.****

The surge of political correctness in recent years all but assures that in the future, edgy shows like Game of Thrones will be strangled in their creative cradle.

In 2011, Game of Thrones premiered on HBO as an exceedingly well-acted and beautifully photographed fantasy-drama of swords and sex, chock full of palace intrigue, familial rivalry and violent conquest. The show flouted Hollywood storytelling conventions and quickly became a cultural phenomenon. Sadly, we will never be able to enjoy anything like Game of Thrones ever again.

The reason that we’ll never see anything like Game of Thrones again is because in the eight years since the television adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s fantasy novels first hit the small screen, much has changed, and not just in the mythical land of Westeros. In the real world, and the unreal one of social media, political correctness has taken the throne and vanquished all contenders, leaving the bloody head of rational thought on the end of a spike as a warning to anyone who dare speak up against the zeitgeist of neo-feminism, inclusivity and a coddling sensitivity.

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In the past few years, movements like #OscarsSoWhite and #MeToo have dramatically changed the landscape of Hollywood by weaponizing diversity and victimhood and using them to bludgeon opponents and silence dissent. The “woke”, whom Merriam-Websters defines as those being “aware of and actively attentive to…issues of racial and social justice”, have taken over the entertainment industry. Just like the Night King’s Army of the Dead broke through The Northern Wall to attempt to destroy all of humanity in Westeros, the Army of the Woke now march on our popular culture intent on obliterating all worthwhile entertainment.

A wonderful example of the vacuity of wokeness came in the form of a Game of Thrones outrage tweet from actress and high-priestess of political correctness, Jessica Chastain, where she slammed the show for the character Sansa’s claim that having survived a plethora of traumas, including rape, transformed her into a strong woman.

Chastain tweeted,

“Rape is not a tool to make a character stronger. A woman doesn’t need to be victimized in order to become a butterfly. The #littlebird was always a Phoenix. Her prevailing strength is solely because of her. And her alone.”

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Chastain’s tweet is not only an advertisement for her intellectual dwarfism, not to be confused with the intellect of a dwarf, which Tyrion proves can be formidable, but also an actual advertisement. “Phoenix” is a reference to Chastain’s new X-Men movie, Dark Phoenix, which also happens to star Sophie Turner who plays Sansa on Game of Thrones. It appears Jessica Chastain’s superpowers include self-promotion and shamelessness.

Like Chastain, the pc brigade turns everything, including popular entertainment, into a referendum on social justice issues and their own self-worth. The woke spend their time not enjoying arts and entertainment but rather policing them in search of offense or wrong-think in the hopes that they will get the joyous opportunity to vent their self-righteous rage.

Evidence of this is found in articles from major publications with headlines such as, “Game of Thrones Treatment of Women Will Tarnish Its Legacy”, “On Game of Thrones Daenerys Targaryen faces a sexist double bind – like so many women leaders”, “Game of Thrones Keeps Killing Off Entire Immigrant Populations, And It’s a Problem”, “’There are no black people on Game of Thrones’: why is fantasy TV so white?”, “Racist or just bad writing? What Game of Thrones latest shocking death says about the show”, “Game of Thrones: too much racism and sexism – so I stopped watching”, and finally “My Feminist Opinions Ruined Game of Thrones for My Boyfriend”. These stories are emblematic of the fact that the woke are social media Savanarolas perpetually in search of works of art or entertainment to throw onto their bonfire of the vanities. These people don’t just want their politically correct opinions to “ruin Game of Thrones for their boyfriend”, but to ruin all of popular culture for everybody.

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The feminist criticisms of Game of Thrones are particularly vapid because they are so demonstrably wrong, as women are the most pivotal and powerful characters on the show. The most formidable and effective rulers on Game of Thrones have been Queen Cersei and her nemesis Daenerys, Mother of Dragons. Arya Stark has gone from a little girl to the deadliest warrior in all of Westeros, who became a legend when she killed the Night King. Ser Brienne of Tarth, the first women to ever become a knight, is the most noble and honorable knight in all the Seven Kingdoms. And last but not least is Sansa Stark, who has suffered brutally but whose resilience has allowed her to become the ruler of the North and, who knows, maybe even sit on the Iron Throne when all is said and done.

All of these women have faced great difficulties and horrendous challenges, but they have prevailed not only in spite of them but because of them. In Game of Thrones as in life, what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger, but the woke warriors either lack the interest or ability to interpret the show in any other way than to see women and minorities as victims.

If you want to see the future of popular entertainment in the wake of Game of Thrones, look no further than the corporate behemoth Disney and their Marvel and Star Wars franchises. The first phase of the twenty-two film Marvel Cinematic Universe just concluded with Avengers: Endgame, and the woke contingent’s victory is obvious with Captain America now a black man and Iron Man replaced as the center of the story by an all-powerful female character, Captain Marvel.

The Star Wars films too have devolved into a politically correct mess where diversity and inclusivity trump narrative cohesion and dramatic coherence. And if you publicly voice displeasure about the direction of Marvel or Star Wars…you are labeled a misogynist and racist troll.

Game of Thrones warned us for years that “Winter is Coming”…well, winter is now here, and hordes of woke zombies have descended upon us to suffocate all but the most sterile of entertainment. Just like Varys and The Unsullied were castrated on Game of Thrones, so our popular entertainment is being neutered, except this time with the dull blade of politically correct utopianism.

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A version of this article was originally published on May 17, 2019 at RT.com.

©2019

Rival Sons - The Fonda Theatre : A Review

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RIVAL SONS - FONDA THEATRE - THURSDAY, MAY 9, 2019


This past Thursday, May 9th, my year of living musically continued with a jaunt to one of my favorite venues, The Fonda Theatre, to see a local band on the rise, Rival Sons.

Rival Sons are a hard rock/blues band from Long Beach, just south of Los Angeles, that is made up of Jay Buchanan (lead vocals), Scott Holiday (guitar), Mike Miley (drums), Dave Beste (bass) and touring member Todd Ogren (keyboards). The band are currently touring in support of their sixth and most recent album, Feral Roots, which was released on January 25th of this year.

Rival Sons formed in 2009 and even though they have put out a solid collection of rock albums into a rock starved world over the last decade, they have yet to “hit it big”. That all could be changing this year though, as the band performed on The Late Late Show with James Corden on the night before I saw them, are slated to co-headline a tour this summer and fall with Stone Temple Pilots and even have one of their earlier songs, Electric Man, featured on a Mountain Dew commercial. In the crazy, upside down, topsy-turvy world of modern rock music, being on Corden and in a Mountain Dew ad are signs of a band’s momentum.

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I was turned on to Rival Sons a few years ago by my buddy Red Dragon, who is a walking encyclopedia of music past and present. Dragon sent me some links to a few songs off of the bands 2014 album Great Western Valkyrie, and I was hooked. From there I made the expedition through the band’s earlier work, which includes their self-titled EP as well as their first full length album, the self-released Before the Fire, both of which are outstanding. The band then signed with Earache and released Pressure and Time (2011), Head Down (2012), Great Western Valkyrie (2014) and Hollow Bones (2016) and toured extensively in support of those albums and as an opening act for bigger and more established acts like Aerosmith, Black Sabbath and Sammy Hagar. In 2018, Rival Sons left Earache and signed on with Low Country Sound, a division of Elektra Records…which brings us to today.

When I saw that Rival Sons were playing at The Fonda I snatched up two tickets ($40 each) the very first day they went on sale. I had long wanted to see the band live but had never had the opportunity until now so I didn’t want to miss it. It was a wise move to get my tickets as early as I did as the general admission show ended up selling out.

My evening of rock started out with my new beloved ritual of grabbing a burger from the Shake Shack across the street from The Fonda before the show. Shake Shack burgers are either God’s or the devil’s work, for they are much too delicious to be of this world. I also treated myself to a Root Beer, a treat which I have not indulged in for quite some time, and hoo-boy if that wasn’t a tasty beer of root. A Shake Shack burger and a root beer and the night was off to a good start.

M’lady, the incomparable Lady Pumpernickle Dusseldorf and I then headed to the venue to join the line that stretched down Hollywood Boulevard and around the corner. After a short wait we were let in through security and made our way to a good spot for the show.

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The thing that stood out the most to me about the audience was that the vast majority of them were middle-aged men and women. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting but I wasn’t expecting that. It makes sense though as Rival Sons are a throwback, a sort of cross between Led Zeppelin and Bad Company, that would have been right at home in the world of 70’s rock. The graying crowd represents an under-served music market that is hungry for new rock and roll, and there are very few places where they can get it. Rival Sons, with their hard-driving, guitar driven sound, are an injection of high voltage energy into the genre, and they fill that “classic rock” void for those who were raised on that music before it was considered “classic”…to them it was just “rock”.

The opening act were The Sheepdogs, a Canadian band heavily influenced by The Allman Brothers and Creedance Clearwater Revival. I had never heard of The Sheepdogs, but as is often the case, seeing them play live turned me into a fan. The musicianship of lead singer/guitarist Ewan Currie and virtuoso lead guitarist Jimmy Bowskill, was jaw-droppingly impressive. Bowskill and Currie would often play in “guitar-mony” (guitar + harmony) with exquisite precision. While their songs were good, but not great, the showmanship, craftsmanship and vitality displayed by Bowskill was well worth the price of admission alone.

The Sheepdogs went on at 8 p.m. and played for about 45 minutes. After they departed the stage the roadies then broke down their equipment and set up for Rival Sons. At this point things got interesting, but not in a good way. The show was General Admission - no seats - so Lady Pumpernickle and I had been standing in the same spot, about five rows of people from the stage, for about an hour and change when two women, one in her 60’s but dressed like a teenager in a mini-skirt and halter top, and the other, her daughter, in her 20’s, came and stood right in front of Lady Pumpernickle. We rolled our eyes at the desperate attention-seeking slutty outfits and behavior of these hussies, and to avoid irritation Lady Pumpernickle simply moved over to the other side of me, using me as a wall between her and the harlots. Lady Pumpernickle could now see the show and not worry about getting crabs…well, at least not getting crabs from those two filthy tramps. But then the patriarch of the whore family, Senor Dicknose, came stumbling through the crowd, bumping into everyone yet miraculously keeping his two beers above his head. Senor Dicknose then made the potentially fatal error of nearly spilling the beer on m’lady…and tensions rose. Now…this guy was in his 60’s, and just like his whore wife, was dressed about four decades too inappropriately. His leather jacket and jeans looked freshly bought and, like his face, harshly creased, and his Ed Hardy t-shirt was like the waving flag of his home country of Douchebagia. This guy was such a gigantic twat it is difficult to fully and accurately describe him and his leathery, fake tanned, botoxed face and super-gelled hair. Think of it this way…if Donald Trump and Harvey Weinstein had a 60 year old baby, it would be this useless cunt.

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I am a large mammal, and the best way to describe me is that I look like an unfrozen caveman and a Hells Angel had a baby that the Aryan Brotherhood tried to abort by leaving in the woods to die but who miraculously survived when it was adopted and raised by a pack of rabid wolves and a pod of Sasquatch. The bottom line is this, I sort of look like trouble and maybe even the type of person who carries a battle axe hidden on his person somewhere. Senor Dicknose caught my vibe very quickly because he looked like a geriatric member of Circue du Soleil contorting himself to get around me without ever coming into contact with me. Of course, I wasn’t afraid of him because as the old joke goes, I’ve been beat up by guys half his size…and certainly half his age, so I didn’t help him out at all by moving out of his way because…well…fuck that guy. I was so irritated by this turd with feet that Lady Pumpernickle tapped my shoulder and whispered in my ear, “he’s not worth getting arrested over”. As always, Lady Pumpernickle was right…but that didn’t stop me from trying to figure out ways I could elbow this shitbag in the face and shatter his nose while NOT getting arrested.

Thankfully…sort of…Senor Dicknose abruptly left the scene after some rude words towards his streetwalker wife, and I had to listen to her babble on to her floozy daughter about what a prick he is…I guess it runs in the family. Then just as the show was about to start, another couple, the Douche and Douchess of Assholestan, squirmed there way right in front of me. Once again I was itching to go full on Hulk and smash, but Lady Pumpernickle’s calm and cool nature intervened and she reminded me that life isn’t Goodfellas and you can’t go around kicking peoples’ face in and burying them in a shallow grave upstate without dire legal consequences. I hate it when she’s right.

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Right before the show started, the old floozy and her apprentice whore daughter, started literally kicking a big fat guy standing next to me. He was an older guy, there by himself, sort of a sad fellow, and they were kicking his legs and talking shit to him. It was insane. What the hell is wrong with these people? Then Senor Dicknose returned and was nudging the older, fat guy. The guy then turned to me and said apologetically, “hey, if I bump into you it’s because they pushed me.” I could see he was really unnerved, so I told him, “it’s a rock show, don’t worry about it.” He then said that if they push him into me, that he wanted me to push him back into them. I assured him I wouldn’t push him at all and then he told me he really wanted me to push him if they started it. I tried to ease his anxiety and said that I knew the patriarch of the whore family was a real piece of work, and he replied by telling me the women were “absolute cunts”…which I thought would make for an interesting Absolute Vodka ad. It is always fun to make new friends.

Then, surrounded by the House of Needledicks, Tarts and Hussys and the Douche and Douchess of Assholestan, the lights went down and, thank the good Lord, Rival Sons finally hit the stage.

When Rival Sons perform they aren’t so much a rock band as they are a street gang, and the show they put on Thursday night was less a rock show and more a tenacious rock and roll rumble. I mean that in the very best sense. Rival Sons absolutely dropped the hammer on The Fonda Theatre with the power and authority of a Norse god, and it was glorious to behold.

They opened the show with the song Back in the Woods off of the new album and the Fonda erupted and things took off from there. Unlike say, Muse, a band I saw a few months ago who put on a great and big spectacle of a concert, Rival Sons put on a down and dirty, stripped down fistfight of a show. With Rival Sons it is just them, their music and their attitude…and it is impressively forceful.

Miley and Beste’s rhythm section were relentless throughout, keeping a steady and bone crunching beat that was an anchor keeping the band’s soaring music firmly grounded on Mother Earth.

Scott Holiday’s guitar playing was Jimmy Page-esque in its majesty and dynamism. Holiday is a phenomenal player and is without question the musical center of the band. Holliday looks the part of the guitar hero, with his leather and leopard print outfit and handlebar mustache he was the cool ice regulating the temperature of a volcanically hot show.

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Lead singer Jay Buchanan is the fire to Holiday’s ice, and he is definitely the straw that stirs the drink of Rival Sons. Buchanan is a charismatic front man with a magnetic stage presence who demands and commands the attention of the entire audience. Buchanan looks and moves sort of like a poor man’s Jim Morrison/Michael Hutchence, but his voice is more reminiscent of Paul Rodgers. Buchanan’s bluesy voice has a Tom Jones sort of foundational power to it, that originates deep in his soul and growls out upon the audience like dragon’s fire. Buchanan’s voice, which is so strong he actually filled the theatre on numerous occasions without a microphone, is distinct with a surprising range and level of emotionality, which is accentuated by the accompaniment of some good old fashioned rock screams.

Buchanan and Holiday are a potent and dynamic rock duo that play the role of rock star with aplomb. The two of them carry the weight of the show and their on-stage chemistry is compelling.

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After the initial rush of the opening song, Rival Sons refused to let up as they cranked out four more hard driving songs that kept the energy high at the Fonda. Songs four and five of the set were the back to back combination of Electric Man and Too Bad, which brought the crowd to a dizzying frenzy.

The band then shifted gears a bit and played the soulful Jordan, off of the Heads Down album. Buchanan introduced the song as being about grief, and that it was dedicated to the people who needed to hear it tonight. The song and its performance were reminiscent of Rod Stewart and Jeff Beck’s version of People Get Ready in its emotional depth and nuance and revealed an impressive level of musical dexterity.

The band then stayed in the blues bin for the next few songs, keeping things more subdued as they and the audience caught their breath. That all came to a close with the explosive Torture off of their early career EP, and they followed that up with the pulsating Open My Eyes. From then on Rival Sons kept their foot on the pedal and never let up for an instant.

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The band finished up the set with Do Your Worst and then took a momentary break while the crowd chanted for an encore. The encore was interesting because once again the band sort of shifted gears. They brought out The Sheepdogs and had them sing background on the less explosive, more radio-friendly, anthem-esque song, Shooting Stars, off of the new album. It was surprising that they went with a song that is somewhat less energetic for an encore, but it worked and the audience knew the lyrics by heart and sang along with Buchanan’s encouragement. Shooting Stars is an emotionally resonant song that speaks to our turbulent times and it carried a startling gravitas at the Fonda Thursday night.

The hour and forty-five minute show ended with irrepressible Keep on Swinging, which is ironic since I made the decision to not start swinging earlier in the night. When the song ended the drummer threw a drum stick into the area near me and a twenty something guy and a sixty something guy fell on the floor wrestling to get it. The older guy’s wife was knocked to the ground in the melee. It was insane as her husband was so desperate to have the stupid drum stick he never stopped wrestling to see if his poor wife was alright. As the deeply chivalrous man that I am, I was going to help her up but was too busy going through her pocket book which had fallen at my feet in the scrum. I did get $12, a Costco card and a hard candy out of the whole incident though so…I felt pretty good about how things turned out (relax…I’m just kidding). But this incident was emblematic of the type of band that Rival Sons are…they are so intoxicating and persuasive that a sixty year old man would throw his long time wife aside just for the chance to fight for one of their drum sticks.

While there was the downside of some in the crowd being typical L.A.-holes, overall the night was a stirring success and felt like being transported back in time to the 60’s or 70’s to see early Led Zeppelin or Bad Company play at one of Bill Graham’s famous venues The Wonderland or the Fillmore. The reality is that we aren’t living in the 60’s or 70’s, but some in the crowd certainly are in their 60’s or 70’s. It seems to me that the older audience is emblematic of that fact that Rival Sons are a very bright spot in our very bleak rock universe.

In conclusion, Rival Sons are a fantastic band who play with a mesmerizing fury and ferocity rarely seen nowadays. The band’s musical power, stellar musicianship and dynamic yet natural showmanship puts them in the upper echelon of rock acts working today. If you like hard rock music, I wholly encourage you to give Rival Sons a listen and to make the effort to go see them live, especially while they are still playing smaller venues at cheaper prices. Due to the current nature of the music industry and rock’s ever fading spot in the culture, Rival Sons will most likely never become as big a success as their rock forefathers like Led Zeppelin, Bad Company, Aerosmith or The Cult…but let there be no doubt…they do deserve to be a very big success, and their show at The Fonda was undeniable proof of that.

SET LIST

Back in the Woods

Sugar on the Bone

Pressure and Time

Electric Man

Too Bad

Jordan

Face of Light

Feral Roots

Torture

Open My Eyes

All Directions

End of Forever

Do Your Worst

ENCORE

Shooting Stars

Keep on Swinging

©2019

Game of Thrones: The Battle of Winterfell and the Fog of War

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****WARNING: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR GAME OF THRONES EPISODE THE LONG NIGHT (SEASON 8 EPISODE 3)****

Last Sunday night’s episode of Game of Thrones (Season 8 Episode 3), titled The Long Night, was the climactic battle between the the Starks and their allies against the Night King and his army of undead wights. The Battle of Winterfell, as it has been dubbed, is thought to be the penultimate clash on the iconic program, with only the fight between the Stark/Targaryen forces against Cersei Lannister and her army in Kings Landing remaining.

The Long Night was a strange episode as the Battle of Winterfell was built up for years as a cataclysmic clash between the forces of good and evil, literally life and death, but the show uncharacteristically deviated from its long standing thematic and narrative traditions by limiting the amount of carnage upon the main characters of the show.

Game of Thrones made its name by flouting Hollywood conventions and sacrificing its lead characters on the altar of great story telling. Ned Stark lost his head so that Game of Thrones could be taken seriously, and the Red Wedding solidified the shows commitment to leading character carnage…but in The Long Night, way too many characters survived the apocalyptic battle. There is no way that Lady Mormont, Jorah Mormont (bad night for House Mormont!), Beric and Theon Greyjoy should be the only notable characters to go down in the Battle of Winterfell.

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How did Davos Seaworth, Brianne of Tarth, Tormund, Varys, Missandei, Grey Worm and Podrick not die? I understand why they’d want to save Jon Snow Daenerys, Tyrion, Jaime, Sansa, Arya and Bran…but I don’t get why secondary characters weren’t slaughtered en masse. And even the ones who did die went in very Hollywood ways, with Lady Mormont’s action hero death while killing a zombie giant the most dubious. And while we are at it, Arya’s killing of the Night King was cool and all, but not totally in keeping with the show’s grounding in its established reality. I mean, how did Arya jump over all these people to get to the Night King? And if Game of Thrones is going all Hollywood, why not have Arya die while killing the Night King, at least then it feels somewhat in keeping with the shows themes?

Narrative choices aside, the biggest issue people are having with The Long Night is the cinematography of Fabian Wagner and director Miguel Sapochik, with many complaints that the show was much too dark and too visually muddled. I happen to agree with those complaints and thought it would be a worthy topic to briefly examine.

Game of Thrones has done an exceptional job of filming “medieval” combat over the years and so I was surprised to see them flail about on The Long Night. The mistake that the creators made was to try and convey the “fog of war”, the confusion and disorientation that can accompany combat, by literally creating a white/blue snow fog to simply obfuscating visual clarity. This sort of approach is an error that many make and it never fails to fail.

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To be fair, the episode did have some bright cinematographic moments though, the lighting of the Dothraki swords and their charge into the darkness being one of them. But then the visuals went down hill when the White Walkers conjured up a wind storm to conceal their movements and sow confusion. That is a great battle plan for the White Walkers to take Winterfell, but a bad one for tv viewers trying to watch the fight.

There may be two reason why Wagner and Sapochik may have made the decision to muddy the visual waters at Winterfell, the first being that they wanted viewers to experience the chaos and confusion of war, the second being that they wanted to save some money from their huge budgets by limiting the amount of special effects they had to use to cover the scope and scale of the enormous battle. Both reasons are legitimate but misguided. Regardles of why, the end result was that viewers didn’t feel like they were participants in the Battle of Winterfell, they felt like they were going blind.

It is a common mistake to conflate darkness with a lack of light, what darkness means in cinematic terms is a a sharp contrast between dark and light. In cinematic “darkness” viewers still have visual clarity but with a “lack of light”, contrast gets watered down and visual coherence evaporates.

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Clear and clean contrast between dark and light make for clear and coherent images that convey both narrative and thematic information. For example, go watch The Favourite (2018), and notice the exquisite use of candles in the voids of darkness. Those images propel the story and the sub-text by using ‘illumination’ (literally and figuratively) that marks a clear delineation between the dark and the light. In The Long Night, light and dark wash into each other, colors are non existent and the action all becomes a visually muddled, grey mess.

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Two films came out in 1998, Saving Private Ryan and The Thin Red Line, that showed visually interesting ways to convey the fog of war. Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan and its iconic Omaha Beach assault scene is a perfect example of how to maintain visual clarity while creating a sense of anxiety and confusion (the fog of war). Spielberg and his cinematographer Janusz Kaminski‘s camera dances amidst an understated and muted light from an amphibious vehicle, into the water, and up the zig-zag maze of the beach all while under assault from barely discernible machine gun nests. Kaminski’s camera picks up the textures of the muted colors and materials in each shot. Viewers are given a soldier’s eye view of the carnage of D-Day, and the camera movements and tangible textures help to convey the confusion of that assault, but the visuals were never unclear for more than a brief second or so. Kaminski’s camera shows us what is happening very precisely and distinctly and its handheld movements aided in creating tension and anxiety in viewers.

Later in the film Spielberg uses a character looking through a telescopic sight to watch a battle to convey the fog of war and confusion of what is happening. This sequence is interesting because unlike in the Omaha Beach scene where viewers are active participants in the action, in the telescopic sight scene the character becomes an audience member as he tries to watch the action and discern what is happening. To Spielberg’s credit, this was a great way to create psychological reciprocity between the audience and the character.

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In The Thin Red Line, Terrence Malick and his cinematographer John Toll use crisp and clean visuals with dynamic and rich colors to convey the fog of war. In the sequence where the Marines must make their way up a lush, green hillside to find and eliminate a machine gun nest, Malick and Toll give viewers a clear look at the surroundings, and just like the Marines, no clear shot of the machine gun nest. The rolling green of the hills are like a never ending sea and the machine gun nest a crocodile that only pokes its eyes and nose above the water line. The beauty of Malick and Toll’s visuals is in stark contrast to the physical and psychological mayhem unleashed with them.

Malick also gives clear focus to the nature which surrounds the battle, with Toll’s camera lingering long on a flower or an insect crawling on a leave of grass. Malick and Toll’s use of natural light and their ability to crisply define the colors, textures and contrasts of the setting make his fog of war confusion breathtakingly beautiful and utterly horrifying. (watch The Thin Red Line and notice that Malick’s camera picks up every little bump on Marine’s helmets…it creates an intimacy through texture that is one of Malick’s signature, understated styles.)

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The Long Night made the same error of visual incoherence that Clint Eastwood made in American Sniper, where Eastwood rolled in a sand storm in Iraq to convey the moral confusion of the Iraq war. That tactic did not visually work in American Sniper either as it created little more than a cloud of yellow dust just like The Long Night gave us a blueish white cloud of snow. In Eastwood’s case I can almost guarantee you that his creative decision to muddy things up was a result of budgetary concerns, as he is a notorious slave to budget. As for The Long Night’s decisions making…they do have large budgets, but hey also have at least one more big battle in this final season, so maybe they were cutting corners too.

Game of Thrones have made some of the greatest battle scenes in television history, as the Battle of the Bastards, The Spoils of War and Hardhome have shown, but with The Long Night they fell into more than just the fog of war trap, they failed to fully establish the geography of the scenes and battle ground and never established a coherent time line.

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As the Battle of Winterfell raged on, the locations of characters was never clearly elucidated, and so the lack of visual clarity became ever more heightened. I understand not wanting to give the “god shot”, an overhead view of things to show who is where and what is happening, but by failing to make the geography clear, the battle felt redundant and circular, and lacked specifics which could have heightened dramatic tension to a greater degree.

The timeline was as muddied as the visuals, as Arya ran through the castle trying to escape wights in an extended sequence, the battle raged outside. But when the camera returned to the battle outside, nothing had changed, and because viewers had no central character upon which to focus, the battle seemed aimless and incoherent.

Maybe the focus should have been on Samwell, and we viewers could have seen the battle through his perspective at times (like the telescopic scene in Saving Private Ryan), or we could shift perspective through a series of characters in order to get clarity on different areas of the fight. Maybe have Jaime, Arya, Jon Snow, Danerys and Theon lead us through the battle and we see what they see…so when Lady Mormont gets killed it is through Jaime’s perspective…things like that.

Look, I thoroughly enjoy Game of Thrones, I admire the show for its integrity and quality, and I was disappointed in parts of the episode the Long Night. The bottom line is this, Game of Thrones has given us eight glorious seasons of thrills, chills, carnage, nudity, incest, murder, dragons, zombies and palace intrigue, I only hope they can right the ship for the final three episodes after their visual and thematic missteps in the much discussed Battle of Winterfell.

©2019




Avengers: Endgame - A Review

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

My Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

Popcorn Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation: SEE IT. If you like Marvel movies you’ll love this one. A satisfactory conclusion to the epic twenty-two film run of this phase of the Marvel Cinematic Unvierse.

Avengers: Endgame, written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely and directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, is the story of the Marvel Avengers as they do battle with super villain Thanos. The film stars Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Paul Rudd, Chris Hemsworth, Josh Brolin and a plethora of other movie stars.

Avengers: Endgame is the fourth Avengers film and is the direct sequel to last years smash hit Avengers: Infinity War. Endgame is also the twenty-second film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and marks the conclusion of this cycle of Marvel movies.

Just as super villain Thanos became a de facto god by acquiring the infinity stones, Disney, under the leadership of my dear friend Bob Iger, has turned into an all powerful entertainment industry god by acquiring over the years Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm. Now, with the additional purchase of Fox, Disney will hold an astonishing 40% market share of the box office.

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The crown jewel, at least right now, in Disney’s empire is the aforementioned Marvel behemoth, which Disney bought in 2009 for $4 billion and which has brought in around $20 billion in box office gross alone over the last ten years. I have not always liked the Marvel movies, in fact, I’ve downright loathed a good number of them, but I readily admit that what Disney has pulled off with their Marvel Cinematic Universe is a stunning achievement in popular entertainment that will never be duplicated. To be able to roll out twenty-two different movies over a decade and weave all of the characters and story lines together into a coherent and cohesive whole that culminates in two gigantic movie events, Infinity War and Endgame, is a Hollywood miracle. One need look no further than the shitshow over at Warner Brothers and their inept handling of the DC Cinematic Universe (Batman, Superman etc.) post Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy to recognize how remarkable Disney’s efficiency and acumen regarding the Marvel properties has been. No doubt Disney will be further rewarded for their corporate diligence by Endgame’s box office which will break all sorts of records as it rockets past the two billion dollar mark in two weeks with ease.

As previously stated, I have disliked some of the Marvel movies, the first two Avenger movies in particular were quite dreadful. The Marvel movie formula has always been geared more toward adolescent boys…even the middle-aged ones, with lots of light-hearted action, noise and destruction all with some witty one-liners and comedic self-consciousness thrown in. The Marvel universe is decidedly fictional, a piece of escapist fantasy…whereas something like Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy for example, is more grounded in a recognizable, but very dark, “reality”. Marvel’s lack of grit has always irked me because their line up of characters is chock full of archetypal riches which are begging to explored in a psychologically and culturally serious way.

But with that said, I have also loved a few of Marvel’s formulaic films, with Infinity War and Thor: Ragnarok being prime examples. Infinity War is easily the best film in the MCU and that is because its narrative is the darkest and most consequential of all the movies. While Endgame has a certain darkness to it, is not as nearly as good as Infinity War, but it isn’t awful either.

Endgame is really more an event than a movie, a culmination of the franchise that is the perfect embodiment of everything good and bad in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. On the plus side it has fascinating archetypal characters and great moments of poignancy and levity, but on the downside it also has some narrative incoherence, sense-assaulting battle scenes that are relentlessly vapid, and a heavy dose of cringe worthy “wokeness” and political correctness that is shameless in its corporate human resources level pandering.

All of that said, Endgame succeeds because it ultimately satisfies on an emotional, psychological and narrative level as a conclusion to the twenty-two film Marvel epic that has dominated popular culture for the last decade. The story leaves no loose ends or arcs unfulfilled, and that is really all you can ask from a movie like this.

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The sun at the center of this cinematic universe is Robert Downey Jr, whose skill, charisma and charm have propelled the MCU forward from day one. Without Downey Jr as Iron Man, none of this stuff works…none of it. Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Pratt, Mark Ruffalo and all the rest do solid work as their respective super heroes, but none of them could carry this franchise like Downey Jr. has. When Downey Jr. stops being Iron Man, and that day will eventually come, Marvel/Disney is going to take a big hit…I promise you that.

The ensemble of Endgame all do decent if unspectacular work with a few notable exceptions. On the plus side, Paul Rudd and Chris Hemsworth are fantastic, as both of them fully commit and have impeccable comedy chops (who would’ve thought that Thor would be the comedy gold in the Marvel universe?). As for the negative side…good lord…Brie Larson is just dreadful. Now to be fair, I have not seen Captain Marvel…so maybe she is great in that, but in Endgame you could’ve replaced her with a cigar store wooden Indian and it wouldn’t have made the slightest bit of difference. Larson is so dead-eyed it seems like she died on the table while undergoing a charisma bypass and we are left to watch her corpse be animatronically maneuvered throughout the movie.

There are also some issues with narrative incoherence in the film, mostly dealing with the topic of time travel. The lack of “time travel rules” clarity makes the whole enterprise pretty confusing and logically unstable if you try and follow it too closely. The best approach is to leave logic at home, where it is hopefully safe and sound, and just go with where the movie takes you. The logic/time travel issue though is a big reason that the film doesn’t soared like Infinity War did, which had a very clear and concise plot from which all of the action seamlessly flowed. In Endgame the plot feels more like a manufactured way for Disney to escape any commitment to what took place in Infinity War that could dare harm the corporate bottom line by taking away some cash cows.

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While Endgame is the end of this phase of the MCU, Disney has a plethora of Marvel movies lined up for the next few years as they keep the assembly line going. As stated, the next phase is going to have a bumpy time of it as Disney is trying to transition to younger and more diverse stars to refill some roles. Disney is betting big that Brie Larson and Captain Marvel will be the female equivalent of Robert Downey Jr. and Iron Man, the new sun at the center of the Marvel universe. That is a bad bet, as Larson has big shoes to fill and very little feet with which to fill them.

Disney’s desire for more diverse Marvel movie characters, like a Black Captain America or a Latina Hulk, may (or may not) be a noble idea, but just as it did in comic book sales, it will negatively affect the bottom line at the box office. In my opinion it will also affect the artistic and cultural value of the films, for as I keep saying, “wokeness kills art”….but that is a painful discussion for another day.

In conclusion, Avengers: Endgame is a worthy finish to this phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise. The film has its ups and downs but ultimately is a satisfactory ending for the long journey we’ve all been on with these characters over the last decade. If your a fan of super hero movies, you should plunk down your Disney tax and help pad Bob Iger’s bank account by seeing the movie in the theatre. If you have just a passing interest in super hero movies, then wait for it to come out on cable or on Disney’s soon to be active streaming service, which will no doubt bring in even more gobs of money for Mickey Mouse. But Mickey should enjoy this ride while it lasts, because it won’t last forever. Just over the horizon there could be some some stormy weather waiting for Disney.

©2019

Peterloo: A Review

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

My Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation: SKIP IT. A noble failure of a film, but a failure nonetheless. The cinematography of the film is, for the most part, exquisite, and cinephiles into that sort of thing should go see the movie in theatres, but ultimately for most everybody else the film is a misfire.

Peterloo, written and directed by British auteur Mike Leigh, tells the story of the events that culminated in the Peterloo massacre of 1819 in Manchester, England. The film’s ensemble cast includes Rory Kinnear, Maxine Peake and Pearce Quigley among many others.

Mike Leigh is well-known as being a master of realist, character-driven, intimate dramas such as Vera Drake, Secrets and Lies, and Naked, whose use of prolonged rehearsal periods, which emphasize improvisation in order to develop character and narrative, is his signature directing style that often leads to stellar work from his actors. Peterloo is a bit of a different beast from his previous work though, as it is a historical drama that must accurately capture the grand sweep of history while accounting for the impact of that history upon regular folks.

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While Peterloo is a politically profound story for our times, the film suffers from a lack of both narrative coherence and character cohesion, and ultimately is never as good as it needs to be. Leigh’s direction on Peterloo lacks vigor and specificity and thus the film’s deliberate pace leads to aimless wandering and pronounced lags for numerous periods of time. The biggest problem of all though may be the fact that the film’s climax is poorly crafted and dramatically underwhelming and instead of being a crescendo it feels more like stumble across the finish line.

On the bright side, the film’s cinematographer, Dick Pope (A Mickey Award winner for his work on Leigh’s Mr. Turner), does stellar work for the majority of the film. His interior shots are so exquisitely lit and framed they are as beautiful and texturally rich as any Vermeer or Rembrandt, and could hang in any museum in the world. Added to this are Pope’s expansive shots of nature that pop with a crisp and delicious color, most notably a lush green, that are spectacular to behold. Pope’s framing and use of color, shadow and light throughout the first three acts of the film is sublime, but in the climactic battle scenes, Pope’s and Leigh’s work falls flat and is shockingly second rate.

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The staging and blocking of the actors and camera in the big climactic “riot” scene reveals both Dick Pope and Mike Leigh to be out of their element. These action sequences are clumsy, cluttered and so poorly executed that they sink any chances the film had to be worthwhile. It is asking a lot for a director and his cinematographer to be so versatile as to pull off such varying shots as intimate interiors and dynamic battle sequences, but this is what the story required and Leigh and Pope failed to fully deliver.

The cast of the film are all fine, but the film’s failure to generate any dramatic momentum leads to the cast’s work being lost in the shuffle. Rory Kinnear, who plays the rebel dandy Henry Hunt, gives his usual top-notch performance. Kinnear’s Hunt is both magnetic and narcissistic, and his complexities make the moral and political Manichaeism of the film more nuanced and compelling.

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Maxine Peak also gives a solid performance as Nellie, the cynical and skeptical wife and mother whose working class family gets caught up in the protest. Peak’s weathered face tells a story all its own about the injustice and unfairness of life in England in the 1800’s.

What frustrated me the most about Peterloo’s cinematic and dramatic failure was that it is such a vital story for our time. Peterloo focuses on the systemic exploitation of working people by ruling aristocrats, who view “regular” people as nothing but serfs to be exploited for profit or as cannon fodder in war for empire and resources.

The same underlying structural problems of government, economic and social injustice highlighted in Peterloo are the same problems that torment us now. The modern-day ruling elite, just like the English elite in Peterloo’s time, still squeeze regular people for everything they’ve got and yet are perpetually immune from any consequences from their actions. And when the modern day proletariat push back or organize against the injustice of our system, the Aristocrats crush them now just as effectively as they did in Manchester in 1819.

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The totalitarian, corporate police state in America is more subtle in its brutality than the one on display at the climax of Peterloo…but not by much…just ask the Yellow Vests in France who have lost eyes and fingers to the rubber bullets of the police. The same structural weapons used back in the 1800’s, debt, fear and intimidation are used today to keep the populace either paralyzed, placid or pliant. The brute force of government, in the form of the police, are used by the elite like a moat, to impose law and order upon the oppressed and to keep them at a distance. The law is the ruling class’s cudgel not to maintain order but rather to maintain “The order”…you know “The order”…the one where they are on top and the rest of us scrap and claw to eat their crumbs at the bottom. Any true challenges to “The order” result first in character assassination, followed by physical violence, prison or both if necessary. For an example of the Establishment’s playbook regarding threats see Assange, Julian.

The lesson of Peterloo is this, the system is rigged and the ruling class despise us, so we must decide to either live as their slaves by maintaining the status quo or arm ourselves and fight for our freedom. Sadly, the dramatically anemic Peterloo is not compelling enough to attract or maintain America audiences who desperately need to learn the vital lessons the movie teaches. At the end of the day, the cold, hard reality is that we are all Soma-addicted sheep being led to the slaughter and we have grown accustomed to authoritarian boots in our face.

In conclusion, Peterloo is a noble effort but a decided failure. Mike Leigh seems to have bitten off more than he can chew by trying to tackle this complex historical narrative. If you are a cinephile who has a distinct love for great cinematography, then I recommend you see Peterloo in the theatre, but everyone else should skip it because, sadly, it simply is not captivating enough to spend your hard earned money and sparse free time upon.

©2019

The Mustang: A Review

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

My Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation: SKIP IT. Really no need to see this uneven film which thoroughly misunderstands the true nature of American masculinity.

The Mustang, directed and co-written by Laure de Clermont Tonnerre, is the story of Roman Coleman, an anti-social prisoner in a Nevada State prison who gets put into a program where prisoners train captured wild mustang horses to be sold at auction. The film stars Matthias Schoenearts as Roman, with supporting turns from Bruce Dern, Connie Britton and Gideon Aldon.

I like horses…I don’t own one or anything, but I have been known to wager a few dollars on one at Santa Anita. I also think horses are actually a wonderful archetypal storytelling device and am down for giving most any movie about a man and his horse a try.

All I knew about The Mustang prior to seeing it was that it was about a horse and it starred Matthias Schoenearts, an actor I like. I had some expectations about what kind of movie The Mustang would be, but none about whether it was good or not. That said…I certainly wanted it to be good…but sadly, it isn’t.

The story of The Mustang is about broken men trying to break horses but at its essence the film is really about the current state of masculinity, particularly American masculinity, which is deeply in crisis. This narrative and sub-text is right up my alley as it is something I think and write about a great deal, especially being a man myself and a father to a young boy.

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The problem with The Mustang though is that it is completely clueless about the true nature and experience of masculinity in general and American masculinity in particular. When the film ended and the credits rolled I quickly discovered why the film felt so foreign to me…the director was a French woman, Laure de Clermont Tonnerre. Now there is certainly nothing wrong with a French woman directing a film, hell, the last movie I saw prior to this was High Life directed by the fascinating auteur Claire Denis, a French women, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The problem with Tonnerre though is that she is biting off way more than she can chew about a topic of which she has no comprehension. Tonnerre writing and directing this movie about American masculinity is the equivalent of me writing and directing a movie about the experience of women in a remote Amazon tribe…that isn’t to say that I couldn’t do it, but maybe that I shouldn’t do it.

Mustangs are singular American archetypes, symbols of powerful wildness being harnessed as the country moved into the vast expanse of the west. The Mustang is a quintessentially American story set in the west about American masculinity trying to find its way in the modern world. The fatal flaw of the film is that writer/director Tonnerre has a deep and profound misunderstanding about the true nature of not only America, but about masculinity. Tonnerre brings little but surface assumptions and presumptions to the story which make profundity on her themes an impossibility. Tonnerre is telling a story of American masculinity through the eyes of French femininity and that was bound to fail. It is the equivalent of a tourist trying to pontificate on the finer points of a complex local issue…it brings no light to the topic but only succeeds in accentuating the foreignness of the tourist.

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Tonnerre is also never able to penetrate the subject of masculinity deep enough to discover what is in the DNA of the American male. It is no surprise that Tonnerre fails to grasp the intricacies of American masculinity, it is an unwieldy topic that most film makers, regardless of gender, fail to adequately understand.

Tonnerre also lacks any sort of understanding of the complexities and politics of the American prison system. Her ignorance of this very lethal form of brutal interpersonal politics undermines her story to a great extent. It seems like all Ms. Tonnerre knows about the American penal system is what she learned watching bad American television and old movies.

I couldn’t help but think of American screenwtiter and director Taylor Sheridan (Wind River, Hell or High Water, Sicario) as I watched The Mustang, as he is one of the rare writer/directors who could have successfully tackled the subject matter of this film. Sheridan understands masculinity, particularly American masculinity, on a primal level, and is able to explore the psyche of man as a resident, not a tourist.

On a film making level, the film’s narrative is structurally and rhythmically unsound and there are numerous plot lines that are unclear, unneeded or unfulfilled. The lack of clarity and storytelling cohesion wears thin as the movie meanders without any significant or satisfying dramatic payoff.

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The movie does boast some decent acting, with Matthias Schoenearts giving a brooding and at times explosive performance as Roman, the combustible felon. Schoenearts certainly elevates the weak material he is given, but ultimately even his dark charisma is not enough to save the film.

Bruce Dern gives a quirky and engaging performance as Myles, the man in charge of the horse training. Dern is a compelling actor and he does his very oddball best in the role, but again, it isn’t enough to raise it from its depths.

The horse in the movie, Marcus, is a beautiful animal, but Tonnerre fails to adequately exploit the animal’s beauty with her middling camera work. Marcus’ natural power and grace are never captured enough to make the horse anything but a prop.

In conclusion, The Mustang was a disappointment because it tried to tackle a very important topic but did not have the requisite understanding of that topic to be able to conjure even the remotest amount of insight. The film feels like a terribly wasted opportunity to tell a profound story about the tortured state of American masculinity, which is a story that desperately needs to be told and understood. At the end of the day Ms. Tonnerre was unable to control The Mustang which, like the American Male, was just too powerful and wild a force to tame.

©2019

United Sheep of America: Assange, Fascism and Liberal Hypocrisy

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Estimated reading Time: 3 minutes 48 seconds

LIBERALS BETRAYING ASSANGE EMPOWER FASCISM

 Establishment liberal’s loathing of Julian Assange has emboldened fascists across the globe.

Fascism, which the Oxford dictionary defines as “extreme authoritarian, oppressive, or intolerant views or practices”, is a relentless force that, whether it be out in the world or in our own hearts, is always on the march. The world is, as they say, full of little men (and women) in search of a balcony, and we are all iron-fisted, tiny tyrants-in-waiting.

Proof of that was easily observable this past Thursday, April 11th, 2019, which is a date that will live in infamy, as it is the one where any pretense of liberal resistance to fascism finally crumbled and chose to live on its knees rather than die on its feet.

On that date, the founder of Wikileaks, Julian Assange, was dragged out of the Ecuadorian embassy in London by British police after the U.S. unsealed an indictment for “conspiracy to commit computer intrusion” against him in the Eastern District of Virginia and sent an extradition request to the British government.

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The vindictive actions of the authoritarian U.S., British and Ecuadorian governments are not what will taint this date in history though, as their behavior is entirely predictable in terms of its immoral and despotic nature, instead what will echo throughout history regarding Assange’s arrest will be the gleeful reaction by my fellow liberals to the thuggish behavior from their government.

The liberal cries of delight at the sight of Assange being manhandled by British police are a turning point in the war for America’s soul, just as symbolically significant and crucial as Winston Smith’s spirit being broken when he finally relented and declared that “2 + 2 = 5” in Orwell’s 1984.

The acquiescence of many liberals to the establishment narrative regarding Assange, that he is a rogue, narcissistic hacker, rapist and cyber-terrorist, is the death knell for any serious intellectual or political resistance to the powerful and brutish beast of American fascism, corporatism, oligarchy, plutocracy, aristocracy and the totalitarianism of the military and intelligence industrial complex.

You would think that the mainstream media, usually so adversarial toward Trump, would furiously condemn him for arresting Assange, but that is not the case. The majority of the corporate media are in lockstep agreement with Trump regarding the Assange indictment.

The New York Times stated, “The administration has begun well by charging Mr. Assange with an indisputable crime”.

The Grey Lady aided and abetted the Bush administration’s Iraq War lies as well as their surveillance and torture programs, so their support of Trump’s assault on the First Amendment via Assange is in keeping with their boot-licking character.

The Washington Post claimed, “Julian Assange is not a free-press hero. And he is long overdue for personal accountability.”

The Washington Post’s current position on Assange’s is curious since the underlying evidence in the case has not changed since Bradley Manning was court-martialed for espionage in 2013 and sentenced to 35 years in prison. In 2013, The Post reported the Obama administration considered indicting Assange for the Manning leak, but decided against it because,

“If the Justice Department indicted Assange, it would also have to prosecute the New York Times and other news organizations and writers who publish classified material, including the Washington Post…”

As former Bush Assistant Attorney General Jack Goldsmith opined in 2011 in The Post, “A conviction would also cause collateral damage to American media freedoms. It is difficult to distinguish Assange or Wikileaks from The Washington Post.”

It seems that time has not healed the corporate media’s old Assange wound but rather has made it fester, so much so that they would prefer to cut off their nose to spite their face.

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The media and liberal reaction to Assange’s arrest proves that American fascism’s ruthless march to total victory won’t just be televised, it will be greeted with approval by those who claim to be fearless and tenacious opponents of it.

The liberals who responded to Assange’s arrest with the most craven and ignorant cheers are the same ones who decry Trump at every turn, frantically raising the alarm over press freedoms when he attacks the media and labels journalists the “enemy of the people”. These supposedly devout anti-fascists and anti-Trumpists love to compare Trump to Hitler and vociferously decry his assault on the press, yet they shriek with joy when their nemesis arrests Julian Assange, an actual, and extremely effective, journalist.

To further highlight the hypocrisy, the fact that with the Manning leak, Assange and Wikileaks exposed a cavalcade of war crimes committed by the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan, which included the murder to two Reuter’s journalists, apparently holds no water with these charlatans, as it is never mentioned when they boldly assert that Assange “is not a journalist”.

Assange and Wikileaks have routinely pulled back the veil of respectability and revealed the duplicity and depravity of the American government, and yet, the damning truth is that the criminals they exposed walk free and Assange and Manning sit rotting in jail. Liberals who disgustingly celebrate this fact are entirely devoid of any moral authority whatsoever.

These liberal resistance ne’er-do-wells are so intellectually, politically, philosophically, spiritually, morally and ethically emaciated that their only animating principle is an outrage fueled emotionalism born of tribalism that blinds them to the fact that with their subservience regarding Assange’s (and Manning’s) persecution, they have handed Trump and their other enemies a powerful weapon which will certainly be used against them.

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Anti-Trump resistance poseurs like to talk about “Russia-gate” and Trumpists being Putin’s “useful idiots”, well, there may be no more useful an idiot than the one who doesn’t sell you the rope with which you intend to hang them, but just gives it to you as a gift, like establishment liberals just did by supporting Trump’s prosecution of Assange.

These supposed stalwarts of liberal values in the anti-Trump resistance have repeatedly revealed their true nature by slavishly sanctifying and deifying insidious intelligence community criminals like John Brennan, James Clapper, Michael Hayden and Robert Mueller. Now, with Assange’s arrest, they once again align with the evil establishment against those who would expose the mendacity, criminality and corruption of those in power.

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I would say that Assange’s arrest and the liberal reaction to it is a case of American fascism crossing the Rubicon, but the truth is the Rubicon is so far in the rear view mirror the next river crossed will be the Congo. We are now deep into the heart of darkness and Assange’s incarceration (and the liberal joy over it) is akin to the extinguishing of our last light source as the long, cold night of tyranny descends.

It is clear to see that these Assange-loathing liberals and resistance dilettantes are just as totalitarian and fascist as Trump. The cold, hard reality is that you cannot both cheer Assange’s arrest and also believe in transparency and accountability and you also cannot both advocate for Assange’s prosecution and also for a free press. Silencing Assange is the silencing of any true resistance, but obviously these self-anointed and self-reverential liberal “resistors” are not really interested in actually resisting authoritarianism, only in posing and preening.

Liberals who believe and propagate the establishment’s narrative about Assange are nothing but shills, dupes and dopes complicit in empowering fascism. Those that cheer Assange’s detainment are enemies of freedom and liberty and they will get the fascist, tyrannical, authoritarian government they have earned. And when that totalitarian beast comes for them like it did for Julian Assange, they will have no one to blame but themselves.

©2019

The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley - A Review

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****THIS REVIEW REVEALS SOME MINOR INFORMATION FROM THE DOCUMENTARY!! NOTHING MAJOR - BUT YOU’VE BEEN WARNED!!****

My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation: SEE IT/SKIP IT. This documentary is mildly entertaining but lacks insight and depth. Not awful, but not transcendent either…if the subject matter intrigues you then check it out.

The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley, directed and produced by Alex Gibney, is an HBO original documentary film that examines the meteoric rise of “inventor” Elizabeth Holmes and her health technology company Theranos.

There is nothing quite as enjoyable to me as a great documentary. I can watch truly great documentaries over and over as they feel like miniature master degrees in whatever subject they dissect. Film’s like Charles Ferguson’s Inside Job, Errol Morris’ The Fog of War or just about anything by Adam Curtis are films I revisit nearly every year and never regret it.

I was excited to see Academy Award and Emmy Award winning director Alex Gibney’s new documentary The Inventor, as he definitely has a knack for choosing fascinating topics. That said, Gibney, who won his Oscar for the profound Taxi to the Dark Side (2007) and multiple Emmys for the stunning Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God, can be an uneven filmmaker who often explores intriguing topics in his movies but at times fails to adequately document his subjects to a deep enough degree to satisfy beyond a passing and surface interest.

The Inventor is one of those type of Gibney films that tackles an interesting topic but fails to do so in an in-depth enough and compelling enough way. The Inventor reminded me a little bit of his highly praised (it won 3 Emmy awards) film about Scientology, Going Clear. I liked Going Clear and found it to be engaging to a certain degree, but ultimately it fell well short of being an earth-shattering revelation. Similar to Gibney’s film on Wikileaks and Julian Assange, We Steal Secrets, a pretty shameless and embarrassing hatchet job on Assange, with The Inventor Gibney seems to be seeing his subject through a biased lens. With We Steal Secrets, Gibney’s was decidedly against Assange, but inThe Inventor he is most definitely biased in favor of Elizabeth Holmes….but more on that in a bit.

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With The Inventor, Gibney once again dives into a riveting subject, but only swims in the shallow water of it and fails to give viewers much to sink their teeth into beyond the headlines. Elizabeth Holmes is a character for the ages, but Gibney barely scratch the surface of who she REALLY is in this film. On top of that Gibney never gets deep enough into the weeds of what exactly Holmes was trying to create at Theranos and how she planned to do it, to ever make viewers feel like anything more than just another mark for her con.

The film, while entertaining to a certain degree, is problematic for a variety of other reasons as well. The most glaring of which is the blind spot the filmmaker has in regards to his subject. Yes, Gibney exposes Holmes’ fraud, but he never exposes HER for being a fraud. Instead, what Gibney does is cloak Holmes in a protective blanket which imbues on her with only the best of intentions and the inability to be consciously or maliciously deceptive.

In this way Alex Gibney is recreating the same psychological, mental and emotional gymnastics that Elizabeth Holmes’ targets did when they fell under her spell. Holmes weilded her femininity like a martial art against the patriarchal system within she worked. Holmes’ juijitsu turned the unconscious sexism and paternalism of the men she targeted against them. The paternalism, sexism and soft misogyny of the powerful men she conned, who are a Murderer’s Row of Hall of Fame assholes that include men like Bill Clinton, General Mattis, David Boies, Henry Kissinger and George Shultz (who proves what a ass he is by siding with Holmes over his own grandson) among many others, caused them to fall for Holmes’ lies for two reasons. The first is that they overestimated her intellect and value because, ironically, they wanted to be seen supporting a women in order to quell their fear of being labelled sexist. The secondly, due to their paternalism and sexism, they underestimated Holmes’ ability for villainy, and she exploited the weakness of these men to her benefit.

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The irony of Holmes’ epic story is that these powerful men treated Holmes different and held her to a different standard BECAUSE she was a women. The reporters and writers who aided her rise to the status of media darling and science and business genius did the same thing, failing to adequately doubt and question her simply because they never considered she was capable of straight out lying to them. Even the reporters who spoke with her AFTER her scam became public, men like Sanjay Gupta and Jim Cramer, didn’t hold her feet to the fire like they would have with a man. Holmes was able to keep her scam alive for so long because these men treated her with kid gloves.

Interestingly enough, Holmes’s scam almost never got started because of a women, Professor Phyllis Gardner, her advisor at Stanford, who basically told Holmes her idea was scientifically impossible. Instead of trying to change her advisor’s mind, Holmes changed advisors…which is a perfect encapsulation of Elizabeth Holmes approach to life. In my eyes, at best, Holmes’ suffers from a the most acute case of cognitive dissonance on the planet, at worst she is a conniving and manipulative criminal mastermind. For director Gibney, who refuses to consider that Holmes was driven by greed for money, power and fame, Holmes is earnest in intent but misguided in execution. According to Gibney, Holmes’ greatest sin is being too much of a zealot for her noble cause.

The reality is that if Holmes were a man, the idea that she wasn’t anything but a greedy and evil con artist would never even remotely be considered…and rightfully so. Think of all the Wall Street snakes who scammed Americans out of their savings with the housing bubble, nobody thinks, “oh gee…they just wanted everyone to be able to own a home”…no…people think that those pricks were trying to get rich off the backs of working people…because that is exactly what they were doing.

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In the case of Alex Gibney’s film, he seems to suffer from an unconscious bias that makes him hold Holmes to a very different standard and lets her off the hook for her nefariousness activities. An example of this is that besides lowering Holmes intent and responsibility regarding fraud, he also lowers the standard for her regarding her sexual relationship at work. Holmes started dating Sunny Balwani, a tech entrepreneur twenty years her senior, when she was 19 and he was married to another woman. Balwani was a key advisor to Holmes in the early development of Theranos and after he got divorced from his wife, Holmes moved in with him. Balwani eventually became second in command to Holmes at Theranos but when the sham was exposed and things went bad for the company, she broke up with him and fired him. If a man had behaved the way Holmes did in her personal life, it would have been a much greater focus of the story of The Inventor, and would have been used to establish the lack of moral and ethical fiber of the person running the company. But in The Inventor, the fact of Holmes questionable conduct with Balwani is reduced to nothing more than a throw away line near the end of the film.

At the end of the day, Holmes captivates our imagination because she is so representative of the surreal age in which we live. Holmes is emblematic of our scam culture where style overwhelms substance, the subjective trumps the objective, where shortcuts are the only way to travel and truth is a punchline.

Holmes is similar to Trump in that her con is so obvious that it is stunning that anybody falls for it. Like Trump with his signature (and ridiculous) hair-do and his never buttoned blue suits with long ties, Holmes literally wore a costume, all black with a black turtleneck, a cheap imitation of her hero Steve Jobs.

Her use of story and language was also absurdly obvious as to her dishonesty as she simply regurgitated and repeated the same origin story over and over again and then used pseudo-scientific/tech marketing talk to cover her lack of any substance. Words like “inflection point” and “paradigm shift” or the use of “chemistry” as a verb were dead giveaways to her deceitful intent.

The most glaring giveaway though was her voice. Good Lord that voice. Her voice is so phony and put on it is remarkable no one did a spit-take in her face upon hearing it. But the voice gives away the game that she is an obvious fraud and walking lie…and those that fell for scam did so BECAUSE THEY WANTED TO FALL FOR IT. These people, and they were mostly men, wanted Holmes’ story to be true so they convinced themselves that it was.

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In this way Holmes is also the symbol for today’s neo-feminism, which alleges to want equality but only accepts the diminishing of standards and the lowering of bars for women. Neo-feminism loves to demand equal opportunity but also loves to shirk equal responsibility. That said, it is pretty amusing that Holmes used the patriarchy’s literal and symbolic desire for her and their shameless politically correct yearning to be seen as “allies” to women, to advance her scam and sucker investors and big names to support her fraudulent project.

None of these types of subjects, like Holmes as symbol for modern feminism, or the ingrained sexism of the men who fell for her, or the soft treatment she got because she was a women being integral to her scam flourishing, are ever broached by Gibney in his film. Instead Gibney sticks to a very straightforward and very forgiving narrative that never gets too deep or too insightful and the film suffers because of it.

According to Gibney’s movie, Holmes’ scam is just something that happened that is not indicative of anything else and is not symbolic of the age of fraud in which we live. The reality is very different, as one glance at the news will tell you that Elizabeth Holmes is the poster girl for our times. Our charlatan president, the Russiagate hysteria, the Fyre Festival nonsense, the college admission payola scam, Jussie Smollett’s shenanigans and on and on and on including our fraudulent economy and political system…are all hoaxes, scams and frauds. This is why Elizabeth Holmes is the poster girl for our times and it is a shame that Alex Gibney did not have the insight, self-knowledge and skill to bring that much deeper and more important story to light.

In conclusion, while The Inventor is entertaining on a certain gossipy level, it lacks the insight, depth of subject and profundity to be considered a great documentary. The film is currently airing on HBO, so if you want to spend two hours being mildly amused at the absurdity of it all, then you should check out The Inventor, just don’t expect transendance.

©2019

High Life: A Review

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

My Rating: 3.8 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation: SEE IT. But be forewarned, even though it is in English, it is a very “French” film and is definitely at home in the arthouse. If you have conventional tastes in movies, this one is not for you, but if you are a cinephile defintely check it out in the theatre.

High Life, written and directed by French auteur Claire Denis, tells the story of Monte, a young man who is caring for a baby on a mysterious voyage into deep space. The film stars Robert Pattinson as Monte with supporting turns from Julliette Binoche, Andre Benjamin and Mia Goth.

Claire Denis, the writer/director of High Life, is the critical darling of French cinema and the American arthouse. Denis has a distinctive film making style that appeals greatly to film critics but that the general public often finds impenetrable. A good example of this is that her last film, Let the Sunshine In (2018), which starred Juliette Binoche and could sort of be described as a French/arthouse romantic comedy, has an 86 % critical score and a 29% audience score at the review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes.

Part of the problem with Denis work, at least for American audiences, is that if you market a film as a romantic comedy, Americans will expect a rather simple Tom Hanks-Meg Ryan cute fest and not the verbose philosophizing, existential thesis that is Let the Sunshine In. Expectations play a big part in audience perceptions and thus in the ultimate success or failure of a film.

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High Life may face the same marketing struggle as Denis’ other films, at least in terms of the general public. High Life is being sold as a sort of action-thriller, science fiction, space movie…in the vein of Ridley Scott’s Alien. High Life is a lot of things, but action-thriller is not one of them, and if audiences are aware of that and understand how to digest the film, they may come away with a greater appreciation for it…because there is a great deal to appreciate.

High Life is not Alien meets 2001, but rather is a beguiling, at times bewildering, dark, moody, existential and philosophical meditation on the meaning of life and what it means to be a human. The film is Claire Denis at her very best, using her signature style to create a deliberately paced, deliriously claustrophobic, non-linear dream/nightmare that is intentionally disorienting.

The film opens with Pattinson’s character Monte caring for baby all by himself on a space craft. The film then unwinds and reveals the who, what, when, where, why and how this strange combination of Monte, a baby, and deep space, came to be.

Being a parent is hard. Being a single parent is a Herculean task. Being a single parent in deep space is a circle of hell that Dante could never have dreamed up. Monte’s struggle to care for this baby is palpable, and as the child’s cries pierce through Monte’s space suit to his core, they also cut viewers to the bone. This scenario of the deep space single parent and the vulnerability of an infant, intensifies the suffocating sense of claustrophobia and heightens the ominous sense of foreboding that permeates the entire film.

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Pattinson’s work as Monte is extraordinary. Monte is a psuedo-monk, struggling to control his human desires in order to, ironically enough, stay connected to his humanity. Pattinson gives Monte a very specific internal intentionality that illuminates his every action and drives him through every scene. Pattinson is an actor I never would have given a second thought to after those dreadful Twilight movies, but his fine work in the not so good The Lost City of Z (2017) made me take notice. Here in High Life he commands the screen without ever demanding attention, in fact, it is Pattinson’s use of introversion bordering on camera shyness that make him so intriguing and compelling in this role.

The rest of the cast do solid work as well. Juilette Binoche as the witchy Dr. Dibs chews the scenery like a starving women hurtling through the universe looking for her final meal. Mia Goth also does notable work as Boyse, a destructive and self-destructive anima figure, the polar opposite of Monte.

Claire Denis knows what she is doing when it comes to making movies, and High Life is a testament to that. The film is technically first-rate, as the cinematography, particularly the framing and lighting, as well as the editing, are superb but never overwhelm the tone and theme of the movie.

High Life is deliberately paced, and may be too slow for more conventional tastes, but I found the film to be captivating to the point of hypnotic. Denis’ ability to disorient the viewer’s perception of space and time was a master stroke that simulates for the audience the psychological, emotional and philosophical vertigo that Monte must struggle with and through as he goes along his hero/anti-hero’s journey.

High Life asks a lot of questions but gives no clear answers, which is maybe why I liked it. There were no easy escapes from the void of space or the existential issues raised. Ideas as varied as human value, spirituality, morality, physical purity, incest, humanity, witchcraft v. science, and even cats v. dogs, all come up in the movie and propel the philosophical narrative forward, backward, up, down and all around.

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At the end of the day, High Life, like most space movies, is really an homage to, and imitation of, Kubrick’s masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey. High Life is no 2001, but to Claire Denis’ credit it is a very distant, but worthy enough, cinematic step-cousin, as it wrestles with the same question of human evolution and being born into, and cast out of, the Garden of Eden with nothing but our humanity to guide and protect us.

Space is cold and forbidding, and the struggle to maintain life amidst that black void is colossal, but not nearly as gargantuan (or heroic) as the struggle to maintain humanity. Monte’s evolution…which may result in being reborn the Starchild from 2001 or left to an eternity in the empty void of nothingness, lies on the other side of a black hole. He isn’t sure he is ready to make the trip…are you?

If you have the courage, and the open mind, I recommend you set aside your expectations and conventions and make that journey with Monte. Yes, there are some bumps along the way, the most noteworthy being a rather odd scene with Juliette Binoche (you’ll know it when you see it - it was the catalyst for two sixty-something women in my screening to make a hasty exit) that serves a certain and minor purpose but which goes on for a distractingly and interminably long time. But if you can simply get into the rhythm of the film, and not try and figure it out as it washes over you but rather experience it and all of the good and bad that comes along with it, I think you may find it as satisfying a cinematic experience as I did.

Again, this movie is not for everyone…even though it is in English, it is a very, very French film, and it reeks of the art house, so if you simply cannot or will not overcome your cinematic conditioning for clear narratives and resolutions, then you should skip this one. But if you are feeling adventurous and in the mood to contemplate the meaning of life and humanity amidst the unrelenting sea of darkness that is space, then gear up, strap in and take the plunge. You may find you enjoy the high life.

©2019

Russiagate: Puzzlements and Lost Causes

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Estimated Reading Time: 9 minutes 11 seconds

On Sunday, March 24, 2019, Attorney General William Barr released a brief summary of Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller’s findings regarding the Russiagate matter. According to Barr’s summary, while Mueller makes no determination regarding obstruction of justice, the special prosecutor does declare that there was no collusion or conspiracy between Trump, his campaign, and the Russian government during the 2016 election.

This finding came as a great shock to the mainstream media and many Democrats who had been touting Russiagate as a weapon to bring down Trump’s presidency. It would seem, at least according to Barr’s summary, that these folks were wrong.

The reality appears to be that Russiagate was a ruse, a hoax perpetuated by the establishment media over the last two and half years and swallowed whole by the vast majority of liberals. This Russiagate fraud came about through the perfect combination of mendacity and greed on the part of the media and Democratic elites and confirmation bias, cognitive dissonance, denial and delusion on the part of the #Resistance, liberals and anti-Trumpists.

Not everyone was wrong about Russiagate though, as people like Glenn Greenwald, Aaron Mate, Michael Tracey, Matt Taibbi, Caitlyn Johnstone, Jimmy Dore and others maintained a healthy and accurate skepticism regarding the Russiagate claims being made by the establishment press and Democrats. You know who else didn’t buy into the Russiagate hype? Me.

My first comments on the Russiagate story came in December of 2016 after Donald Trump’s upset win in the presidential election, when I wrote an article about how Democrats, liberals and progressives should proceed in the age of Trump. This article, the contents of which led to me being ex-communicated from the Church of the Woke and expelled from the Society of the Right Thinking, was titled “A Practical Handbook to Survive and Thrive in the Age of Trump”. Here is an excerpt from that piece.

The final point I will make to you is this...I know this story circulating lately about Russia interfering with the election in Trump's favor is tantalizing, but please do not embrace it. I am telling you, the more you want a story to be true the more skeptical you should be of it. This "Russia hacked our election" story…is fools gold. These stories being breathlessly reported by the establishment media are all based on unnamed official sources. Please just wait until there is actual, tangible evidence put forth, and even then be very, very skeptical. This whole Russia hacking episode reeks of the wishful thinking that was going around (especially in establishment media circles) in the build up to the Iraq war. There was no evidence then either, but people wanted those stories to be true so they gave them the benefit of the doubt. This Russia story is even less credible at the moment and even more dangerous…Do not fall for this Russia story trap. Don't do it, one way or another you will live to regret it. I promise you that.

That was published in December of 2016. For nearly two and a half years now I have consistently preached skepticism regarding the Russiagate story, and for nearly two and a half years I and other Russiagate skeptics like Greenwald, Mate, Taibbi et al, have been persistently attacked for that position and have had such slurs as Putin shill, traitor and the worst of all…Trump supporter, thrown at us.

Yul Brenner sums up my feelings toward Russiagate best with a song…and yes…I am aware that Yul Brenner was Russian.

It would seem, at least on the surface, that in regards to Russiagate I was right and my numerous detractors were wrong. Of course the possibility certainly exists that Barr’s summary is directly at odds with Mueller’s findings, and I have no doubt that Mueller’s report contains much more damage to Trump than Barr lets on. But with that said, it seems highly unlikely that Mueller would quietly sit by and let Barr distort his work without speaking up*. Proof of this is that this past January Mueller broke his silence to shoot down a Buzzfeed story claiming that Trump ordered Michael Cohen to lie to Congress, so he is obviously comfortable pushing back against falsehoods being disseminated in the public sphere. (*Please see Addendum at the bottom of this article)

Even though Mueller has found “no collusion or conspiracy” regarding Russiagate, it is also worth noting that from day one I have never trusted Robert Mueller and have repeatedly warned Democrats about embracing him (it should also be noted that I don’t trust Barr either, as both Barr and Mueller are creatures of the deep state who are right at home in the swamp) . I have often reminded liberals of Mueller’s long list of “problematic” behavior, such as his pushing the Iraq/WMD lie, his abuse of civil liberties and rounding up of Muslims after 9-11 and his botching of the post 9-11 Anthrax investigation. But instead of being wary of Mueller, the #Resistance deified and sainted him, putting him on a pedestal like some golden calf they could worship. St. Mueller was, to mix various horror story metaphors, the noble Van Helsing who had the silver bullet that would bring down the Trumpenstein monster. The #Resistance believed in him faithfully and fully…and since he hasn’t given them Trump’s head on a platter as they expected, they are left with egg on their faces.

Obviously, I was not shocked by Mueller’s alleged findings as I have been saying all along that it was clear there has not been any evidence brought forth that would substantiate the “collusion” claim. Sure there have been a lot of news stories and pundits claiming to know for a fact that Trump did “collude” with Russia, but there was never any solid evidence to back up this speculation. I was certainly always open to the possibility of collusion and open to any evidence brought forth, but none ever was.

CONSPIRACY THEORY

One big indicator that the media was more interested in conjuring Russian boogey men in order to knee-cap Trump and less interested in the Truth, was the language they used regarding Russiagate. The term “collusion” is a non-legal word that was continuously bandied about but is so amorphous that it could mean just about anything. The proper term for what was alleged in Russiagate is Conspiracy. Conspiracy is not only an accurate descriptive term but also a clearly defined legal term.

When the media refused to call Russiagate a conspiracy, it was a strong hint that there wasn’t much evidence underlying their conjecture. The reason for this is that you can twist “facts” to fit a nebulous charge like “collusion”, but it is much harder to do the same thing to a specific legal charge like conspiracy.

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The other, and maybe more telling, reason that the word conspiracy was never used is that the media has spent the last sixty years or so denigrating the term and turning it into a cudgel to be used against enemies of the establishment. From the JFK assassination to 9-11 and beyond, anyone who deviates from the establishment narrative is labelled a “conspiracy theorist” in order to destroy their credibility without ever engaging their actual arguments. The problem for the media now though, is that Russiagate was an alleged conspiracy, and media speculation on Russiagate is the definition of a CONSPIRACY THEORY…because it theorizes a conspiracy.

As I wrote in September of 2017 in an article titled “The Media Hates Conspiracy Theories…Except When They Don’t”,

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

The failure of the corporate media to call Russigate what it is/was…a conspiracy theory…was a giant red flag that the story was at best being manipulated and at worst manufactured. The semantics used by the corporate media around certain stories, like Russiagate, is extremely enlightening as the choice of words they use, and don’t use, reveals a great deal about motive and intent. For instance, since Attorney General William Barr’s letter regarding the Mueller report came out declaring “no collusion”, the establishment press has referred to Barr as Trump’s “hand-picked” Attorney General. This indicates an intent to deceive the viewer/reader as anyone who has a rudimentary understanding of civics knows that ALL ATTORNEY GENERALS ARE HAND-PICKED…that is how you get the job. By adding the qualifier that Barr is “hand-picked” you can quickly deduce that the person saying that phrase is not an honest broker and is twisting facts to fit an agenda.

In terms of the “conspiracy theory” idea, another blurb from my September 2017 article,

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

Maddow may end up being totally right about Russia, and everything she is reporting true, but there has not been any solid, tangible evidence put forward to date to corroborate the claims of Russian interference she embraces. None.

What is ironic is that the same media that refused to describe Russiagate as a conspiracy theory, were quick to equate it with two events that attract quite a bit of conspiracy theories. Many in the establishment pundit class described the alleged Russian election interference as the modern day equivalent of “Pearl Harbor” or “9-11” and as an “act of war”. Of course, thousands of Americans died heinous deaths at Pearl Harbor and on 9-11, so the analogy was always painfully hyperbolic as well as very extremely dangerous since if it were an “act of war” that would mean we would be obligated TO GO TO WAR WITH RUSSIA. Once again, these sorts of semantic flourishes such as relating Russiagate to 9-11 or Pearl Harbor and calling the alleged interference an act of war, reveal a stark dishonesty and lack of credibility.

Regarding Russiagate and 9-11 comparisons, it is interesting that in terms of evidence, there is considerably more evidence in the public domain that 9-11 was an “inside job”, which is another amorphous term like “collusion”, than there is that Trump conspired with Russia or even that Russia ever hacked the DNC or interfered in the election at all.

Even though that is the case, the media would never in a million years allow people to come on cable networks and espouse the belief that 9-11 was an “inside job”, and they sure as hell would never make that the official position of their networks and dedicate years of coverage to it like they did with the conspiracy theory of Russiagate. The New York Times would never grant a “conspiracy theorist” like Alex Jones the prestigious position of space on their op-ed page to speculate on Bush being involved with the 9-11 hijackers through his family’s connection with the House of Saud…but they did basically the same thing when they let certifiable conspiracy loon and fantasist Louise Mensch write an op-ed about Russiagate.

RUSSOPHOBIA, MICROWAVE WEAPONS AND CRICKETS

The truth is that the establishment media loathes all “conspiracy theories” except for the ones they love. And when they love a conspiracy theory they don’t call it a conspiracy theory…they simply call it news. Russiagate is obviously one example of that, but there are a plethora of other Russia related stories that fit the bill as well.

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Remember the story that broke this past September where both the New York Times and NBC News breathlessly reported that the reason that a group of U.S. “diplomats” in Cuba had fallen ill was because the Russians had attacked them with a mysterious microwave weapon? I wrote an article for CounterPunch in September titled “A Curious Case of Mystery Attacks, Microwaves and Media Manipulation”, shredding those “microwave attack” stories as being obvious nonsense and anti-Russian propaganda.

After meticulously dismantling the outrageous claims made in these news reports about a “Russian mystery microwave attack”, I ended my piece with this,

These incidents may very well be proven to be attacks, and Russia may ultimately be responsible for them, but we should wait for actual evidence and not accept whispered innuendo wrapped in a slavish deference to intelligence agency authority as proof…

Similar to the delirious fever for war in the lead up to Iraq, the media are currently suffering from a virulent hysteria, this time of the anti-Russian variety. Now more than ever it is imperative to maintain a healthy and vigilant skepticism whenever Russia is blamed for misdeeds but there is a dearth or absence of concrete evidence. If we succumb to the corporate media’s Siren’s call of compulsive Russia blaming, our new Cold war may just turn very hot, and that will be a catastrophe for all of us.

Months later it was reported that scientists studying the incidents and illnesses that sparked the
”microwave weapon” speculation, now conclude that they are not the result of a “microwave attack”, but rather a reaction to the noise made by a particular type of cricket during mating season.

The “collusion” claims made by the media seemed to me to be very similar to the “microwave weapon attack” story in that they fell flat on their face upon closer inspection. There is a long list of similarly dubious anti-Russian stories in recent years and they all crumble upon even the most rudimentary examination. There was “Russia hacked the Vermont electrical grid”, “Russia hacked C-Span”, “DNC emails were altered”, “Russian spy-harlot used sex to infiltrate America”, “Russia could turn off the heat in the U.S.”, “Michael Cohen went to Prague”, “Manafort visited Assange” and on and on and on. These stories all garnered lots of attention and lots of headlines and then a few days or weeks later had to be retracted or amended because they were at best misleading and at worst outright fabrications.

ASSESSING THE ASSESSMENT

Just like these other fabulist anti-Russia stories, Russiagate was bound to collapse because it was built on an unstable foundation that was devoid of facts and evidence and rife with innuendo and assumption. The founding document of Russiagate is the aptly titled “Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent U.S. Elections”. This assessment, which was published on January 6, 2016, was such a flimsy, tenuous and superficial document that it was utterly startling, and frankly alarming, to witness it being taken so seriously.

The document contains not a single shred of hard evidence of Russian interference in the election, and only uses outdated and specious claims against the Russian news channel RT as proof of Russia’s nefarious actions and intents during the 2016 election. For example, here is a quote from an article I wrote in January of 2017 titled “Through the Looking Glass” where I describe the case made in the assessment for Russia’s guilt regarding election interference. (FULL DISCLOSURE - While I was not a contributing writer for RT at the time I wrote “Through the Looking Glass”, I am now.)

Another section…will come as quite a shock to liberals and Democrats…in the lead up to the 2012, again, to be clear, this is not the 2016 election but the 2012 election, RT aired a documentary on Occupy Wall Street that the report described like this…"RT framed the movement (Occupy Wall Street) as a fight against the ruling class and described the current US political system as corrupt and dominated by corporations". Is there any rational and uncompromised human being on the planet who would describe the US political system any other way?

…other parts…of the report say that RT "alleges widespread infringements of civil liberties, police brutality and drone use" in America. Another part says that RT is attacking the US by criticizing "alleged Wall street greed." Let that one sink in for a minute. I hope liberals and Democrats are starting to understand how this report, and the intelligence community that prepared it, are not your friends, not by a long shot. Neither are they friends of Truth. 

Every single liberal I spoke with about the assessment agreed with it fully…but not surprisingly none of them had ever laid eyes on it. I encouraged everyone to read it but most never did. I would ask these liberals if they were against fracking and police brutality and supportive of Occupy Wall Street and to a person they all said they were…and when I informed them that the assessment asserted that RT covering those subjects was evidence of a nefarious Russian plot to undermine American democracy, they were left befuddled. To me it was obvious that the intelligence community was using anti-Trump hatred and fervor among the #Resistance as a way to surreptitiously criminalize left wing political beliefs through this assessment. Of course people thought I was crazy and ignored my warnings and instead put their faith in the intel community and eventually in St. Mueller.

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Without fail, the media and Democrat talking point regarding the assessment was that it was “all 17 intelligence agencies” that declared that Russia interfered in the election. This establishment media talking point of “all 17 intelligence agencies” quickly became the chorus of the hit song “Intel Assessment”, the first single off of the album Russiagate, and was meant to stifle dissent, debate or questioning of the assessment and its findings. Everybody sang this tune…from establishment court jesters on Late Night TV to the journalists at tony institutions like the New York Times to the blathering buffoons of cable news and cocktail party goers who wanted to sound informed. Of course, the problem was that the talking point was patently false. It wasn’t “all 17 intel agencies”, it was parts of four intel agencies…the Office of the Director of National Intelligence with specifically selected analysts from the NSA, CIA and FBI. This is just one of many false narratives that were implanted into the public consciousness by the media and that became ingrained in individual’s minds and solidified as “fact”.

CONFIRMATION BIAS

Speaking of people’s minds, this might be a good time to examine why it was that so many people, in the media and out, fell for the Russiagate hoax hook, line and sinker. I believe that the main reason for this is our old nemesis confirmation bias.

The reason the #Resistance embraced the assessment (even when they never read it) is because the assessment told them what they wanted to hear, and since the assessment made them feel better they didn’t want to dig deeper into it out of the fear they may find out it wasn’t the truth. This is how confirmation bias works.

The intel assessment in particular, and Russiagate in general, confirmed all of the biases of the #Resistance and the establishment. It allowed these folks to believe that Trump didn’t legitimately win, Hillary didn’t lose and more importantly, that they weren’t so spectacularly wrong.

Russiagate had a convenient scapegoat for all that ailed the #Resistance and the establishment…namely Russia. Russia had put Trump in office and Russia had denied Hillary her rightful place on the throne, because of this belief any and all stories and speculation about Russia (and Trump) were immediately assumed to be true. All Russia related claims weren’t taken as truth because after a reasoned weighing of the evidence conclusions were drawn, but rather because those claims on their face simply made people feel better.

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Declaring that Russia hacked the election, the DNC, C-Span, Vermont, American diplomat’s brains and all the rest, made people feel good…or at least gave them a brief reprieve from their Trump induced anxiety, fury or depression from which they suffered. That is what confirmation bias does, it excludes negative information that challenges your bias and heightens positive information that confirms it in order to buttress your belief system.

Confirmation bias is radioactive to the critical thinking function. This is why it is so dangerous for the #Resistance. Immediately after Trump’s victory there was a tsunami of “unfriending” in liberal circles where anyone who disagreed with Clinton supporters was exiled, I know this because it happened to me and some of my compatriots. Instead of self-examination in the wake of Hillary’s loss, Clinton supporters doubled down on their confirmation bias and tightened the lock on their echo chamber…which is part of the reason why they lost in the first place. It was in this echo chamber that Russiagate was born and prospered, like a fungus thriving in the darkness of intentional ignorance.

It is in these hermetically sealed echo chambers where “conspiracy theories” and “conspiracy thinking” flourish because ideas are never challenged and sharpened but rather are coddled and grow flaccid. The echo chamber insidiously replaces critical thinking with a proud and defiant emotionalism.

The lesson of all this is quite clear…allegedly ”serious” people love to denigrate conspiracy theories…except when those conspiracy theories confirm their biases. If a conspiracy theory tells people what they want to hear then it will gain traction in whatever community needs for it to be believed regardless of how tenuous the supporting evidence for it may be. In the case of the Russiagate conspiracy theory, it told millions of Democrats and establishmentarians exactly what they wanted to hear….that Trump was the lowest of the low, a traitor who only won by cheating…which made them feel good and allowed them to ignore their responsibility in his victory.

MEDIA MALPRACTICE

Media con artists and grifters, like the vacuous and repugnant frauds Luke Harding, Malcolm Nance, Jonathon Chait and David Corn or the coterie of professional liars from the intelligence community like John Brennan, James Clapper and Jeremy Bash or the journalistic poseurs at CNN or MSNBC, like the ridiculous Rachel Maddow. Nicolle Wallace, Chris Hayes and Chris Matthews, and at The New York Times and the Washington Post, pushed a plethora of Russiagate bullshit stories and narratives for all they were worth and made millions and billions by doing nothing more than making anti-Trumpists feel good by confirming their biases.

Harding, Nance and Corn all wrote books about the Russiagate story that alleged to show the “truth” but were little more than shallow and shameless attempts to pad their bank account at the expense of their #Resistance marks. The Mueller report has decimated the credibility of these men and their books, but that has only forced them to double down on their extravagant claims. And of course, no one in the media is being held accountable for their journalistic malpractice and malfeasance.

Speaking of malfeasance, former head of the CIA John Brennan was lionized by the corporate press as a paragon of truth and honor when he declared Trump a traitor. When Trump revoked Brennan’s security clearance last year, the media reacted as if Trump had sodomized Brennan on national television and excoriated the president for being so petty to a “true American hero”.

As I wrote in regards to the media and the #Resistance (in this case at a taping of Bill Maher’s HBO show) fawning over Brennan in an article last August titled “In a Fit of Anti-Trump Pique, Liberals Shamelessly Embrace Deep State Criminals”,

The nadir for the #Resistance occurred shortly thereafter as Brennan rumbled on stage and was greeted by the eruption of a raucous standing ovation by the liberal audience, with Little Bill calling it a "well-deserved standing ovation". Only in the bizarre universe where a silver-spooned, multi-bankrupted, reality television star is president does a former CIA director who has committed crimes and war crimes such as implementing and covering up Bush's rendition and torture regime, spying on the U.S. Senate and masterminding Obama's deadly drone program, get a delirious ovation from those on the left.

Brennan was deeply involved in Russiagate, as he was Director of the CIA when the alleged election meddling occurred. Brennan then used his “intel insider status” to get a job at MSNBC as a talking head and then spent his time on air making outrageous claims about Trump and the devious Russians. Now that Mueller has cleared Trump of collusion, Brennan says he must’ve gotten “bad information”…or as I have been warning for years now, maybe he is just a bad guy who is prone to lying…his history seems to back my assertion. Of course, liberals ignored my warnings on Brennan (and Mueller) because what Brennan told them confirmed their bias and made them feel better.

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MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow was the ringmaster of the cable news circus that was Russiagate. Maddow peddled any and all Russophobic conspiracy theory she could get her hands on and her audience ate it up. Maddow’s ratings shot to the penthouse as her integrity went to the bottom of the septic tank. Maddow exploited her audience’s desire for denial by going full Glenn Beck…and you never want to go full Glenn Beck. It is obvious that Maddow made the business decision to tell people what they wanted to hear (confirm their bias) as opposed to the journalistic decision to tell people the Truth.

What is so repugnant to me is that Maddow, Nance, Corn, Harding, Brennan and the rest of the corporate media lap dogs all preyed upon the grief of hurt Democrats in the wake of Trump’s election and sold them a bill of goods regarding Russiagate. MSNBC, CNN, NY Times, Washington Post and the rest of the corporate media exploited vulnerable people who were in pain for their own aggrandizement and monetary gain. These media con-artists did what all con-artists do, they told their marks exactly what they wanted to hear in order to bilk them and enrich themselves.

RUSSIAGATE AUTOPSY - HOW AND WHY

The foundation from which this perfect storm of fraud called Russiagate took root, grew and raged among the elite as well as the rank and file Democrats and liberals was the deep, profound and disorienting grief that staunch supporters of Hillary Clinton fell into after Trump’s 2016 election victory.

Some liberals (women in particular), with a large assist from the media, projected a great deal of cultural, political, psychological and personal meaning onto Hillary Clinton and her 2016 candidacy, understandably so considering she was the first woman to be a presidential candidate from a major party. These supporters projected themselves onto Hillary and she became an avatar and an archetypal symbol for their hopes, dreams, struggles and lives.

These projections fostered a deeply personal and powerful emotional attachment to Hillary among some voters (most particularly, but not exclusively, female Democrats). The problem with this type of projection and archetypal emotional connection is that it often breeds an emotionalism that leads to a crippling of the critical thinking function…and so it was with these particular type of Clinton supporters. The simple idea that Hillary could lose to, in their eyes, such a repugnant, sexist pig as Trump, was entirely inconceivable to these type of Hillary supporters (in the media and the public) because their projections and emotional attachment, and its accompanying emotionalism, caused a myopia and historical amnesia that led them to be blinded to reality on the ground.

TRAUMA

Due to this emotionally induced blindness, when Clinton lost the electoral college to Trump it wasn’t just a defeat or disappointment or shock to these Clinton projectors/supporters…it was a trauma….and I do not use that term lightly. Trauma is derived from the Greek word trauma, which means “ a wound, a hurt; a defeat”, and Clinton projectors/supporters suffered a trauma in every sense of the word as they were “wounded”, “hurt” and “defeated”.

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In psychological terms, Hillary’s defeat to Trump felt like an actual physical or sexual assault upon these Clinton projectors/supporters. I know that sounds crazy, but it is true, and proof of it is that Clinton projectors/supporters have been suffering from post traumatic stress for the past two and a half years.

If you look at the symptoms of PTSD they read like a perfect descriptor of Clinton projectors/supporters behavior since Trump defeated Hillary.

1. IRRITABLE OR AGGRESSIVE BEHAVIOR - Since Trump’s victory and Hillary’s defeat, Clinton projector/supporters have ranted and raved incessantly, called all Trump voters racist and misogynyst, advocated the punching of alt-right members and cheered when it happened, and also shouted at and banned right wing public figures from restaurants and certain spaces. Russiagate was also a form of this symptom of PTSD as evidenced by the wildly aggressive charges and conspiracies being bandied about by supposedly serious journalists.

2. RECKLESS AND SELF-DESTRUCTIVE BEHAVIOR - This is Russiagate in a nutshell. Instead of being rational and logical, Clinton projectors/supporters in the media and the general public threw ever more wild accusations at Trump thinking that Mueller would be the tool by which to remove him from office. The story was a nothing burger from day one…a total farce…but Clinton projectors/supporters were blind to it…and now they have handed Trump a powerful weapon for his reelection. Russiagate is a wonderful example of reckless and self-destructive behavior and cutting one’s nose off to spite one’s face.

3. HYPERVIGILANCE - This again took the form of Russiagate, as the media and Clinton true believers saw Russian boogey men and women around every corner. Rachel Maddow and her fans are the poster children for this form of nonsensical and hysterical hypervigilance.

4. EXAGGERATED STARTLE RESPONSE - Again…this is Russiagate in a nutshell as it is an entirely exaggerated startle response. See Rachel Maddow and her co-”conspirators” in the establishment press who are so quick to turn everything Trump does into a Russian conspiracy and the apocalypse. Clinton supporters also pretend like everything was fine before Trump and have an exaggerated startle response when he acts just like every other asshole president we’ve had.

ON DEATH AND DYING

Besides suffering from Trump related PTSD, Clinton projectors/supporters are also suffering from grief. All losses are accompanied by grief of one form or another, and political losses are no different. When reality does not conform to your dreams, then there is a grieving that occurs…but in the case of Hillary projectors/supporters, that grief was much, much more intense than usual. A female candidate didn’t just lose, which would be bad enough as it would signal or reinforce feelings of personal unworthiness among Hillary’s projectors/supporters, but she lost to a man deemed to be not just a misogynist but an abhorrent sexual predator and racist monster. Hillary’s loss seen through this lens, which is the lens that the Hillary projectors/supporters used, was a catastrophic political, moral and ethical defeat, a personal repudiation and a trauma.

In the wake of Hillary’s loss, these projectors/supporters dove into the deep end of the grief pool with the added complication of the burden of PTSD, and the result was that they frothed and flailed and raged about desperately looking for something for which to grasp. The Clinton campaign and the media tossed them a lifebuoy with “Russiagate” written on the side of it and these projector/supporters grabbed on to it with a maniacal fervor.

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According to the Kubler-Ross model, there are five stages of grief that in chronological order are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. These stages of grief never quite go in as linear a fashion as one might expect. Grief is usually a one step forward, two steps back type of process where the stage you are in can change from moment to moment and day to day, sometimes moving forward, sometimes moving back.

In the case of Clinton projectors/supporters, Russiagate short-circuited the grief cycle and created a grief vortex where they repeatedly vacillate between denial and anger. Russiagate allowed these wounded, confused, traumatized and grieving Clinton projectors/supporters to cling to the hope that none of it had happened, that none of it was real and that they had been “right” all along. The problem is that reality and time inevitably transform an open system of hope into the closed system of denial. Some of these Clinton projectors/supporters became such dead-enders that they still defiantly declare that Hillary should be sworn in because she is the rightfully and duly elected president…which is a very clear indication of denial winning the day.

HELLO, COG DIS MY OLD FRIEND

The bottom line was this, that Clinton projectors/supporters were in such pain in the wake of Trump’s victory that they would do anything to alleviate that pain. One way to alleviate that pain was through confirmation bias, another was through outright denial, and yet another was through our old friend cognitive dissonance.

As I wrote in my article “Truth, Justice and the Curious Case of Chris Kyle” back in 2014,

Cognitive Dissonance is "psychological conflict resulting from incongruous beliefs and attitudes held simultaneously". People will contort in all sorts of ways to avoid seeing the uncomfortable truth that is right in front of their eyes and facing that conflict.

In the case of Chris Kyle, his supporters vociferously attacked me for pointing out the incongruity of his tall tales regarding his shooting of two carjackers, his “discovery” of WMD’s in Iraq and a plethora of other lies. These Kyle supporters were struggling with the discomfort of reading information that was at odds with their previously held belief. In order to alleviate that discomfort, they ignored the new information and attacked the source of it…me.

In the case of the 2016 election, Clinton supporters suffered from a similar malady where they simply could not accept that Hillary lost the election, and maybe even more importantly, that Trump actually won it. They were so emotionally attached to Clinton and their dream of a female President that the new information, Trump’s win, caused tremendous psychological discomfort…and in order to alleviate that discomfort they simply denied the new information with the delusion of Russiagate.

Clinton projectors/supporters simply cannot accept the reality of Trump as president and Hillary as defeated because it is so damaging to their identity and their cosmology. So instead they suspend their disbelief by short circuiting their critical thinking, and embrace the delusion of Russiagate.

When news stories appeared that alleged to show Trump’s guilt regarding collusion, liberals would celebrate like it was Christmas morning and pass the stories around like gifts. Days, or even hours later, when those stories were shot down, liberals simply ignored the new information, preferring to live in the delusion upholding grandeur of the original story.

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The most glaring example of this is the infamous Steele Dossier, which alleged all sorts of suspicious activity on the part of Trump…the most embarrassing being the supposed “pee tape”. The Steele Dossier has been thoroughly debunked, so much so that even establishment shills like Michael Isikoff, who wrote an entire book with David Corn based upon the presumption that the Steele Dossier was accurate, have now declared it to be totally false. But liberals still cling to the Steele Dossier as if it is the gospel truth, and most believe that Trump is “compromised” (and in attempts to sound sophisticated use terms like “Kompromat”) by the Russians who have “pee tape” or something much worse on him.

The Steele Dossier claimed that Trump lawyer Michael Cohen went to Prague to collude with Russians and the media and liberals clung to this story as damning evidence of collusion. But when Cohen flipped on Trump he testified under oath before Congress he swore he had never been to Prague. Instead of accepting and integrating this new information, liberals and the corporate media instead posited that Cohen was telling the truth in his testimony about everything except the Prague stuff…this is what cognitive dissonance looks like in action.

More from my Chris Kyle article,

What usually occurs when people are presented with new information that clashes with their strongly held belief, is that they "seek to preserve their current understanding of the world by rejecting, explaining away, or avoiding the new information or by convincing themselves that no conflict really exists."

Russiagate was the magic bullet for Clinton projectors/supporters and the #Resistance because it allowed them to alleviate their cognitive dissonance through confirmation bias, which allowed them to live in a state of denial and delusion.

Russiagate may have felt like a lifesaver at the time for these traumatized and hurting Clinton projectors/supporters, but as I pointed out right after the election, it was not a life jacket but an albatross. Denial is normal and natural when grieving, but if you stay in it too long you never evolve and heal from the wound. In the case of Russiagate, the #Resistance and the Clinton projectors/supporters, denial became an addiction that needed to be fed to be maintained in order to keep the pain of reality at bay. This addiction, like all addictions when they are so acute, was accompanied by hysteria, mania and delusion.

NEO-CONNING

The biggest winners in the Russiagate fiasco are not the Trumps, but the neo-cons, who have long wished for a revived war with Russia, be it cold or hot, and now they have not only their conservative cohorts on board but a plethora of supposed liberals who have been duped by Russiagate.

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In a fevered attempt to take down Trump through Russiagate, the #Resistance made the calamitous mistake when they whole-heartedly embraced and rehabilitated the neo-cons from the Bush administration who lied us into Iraq and who were aided and abetted in that crime by the same corporate media that has been pushing Russiagate. The Decider himself, George W. Bush, has even been rehabilitated and transformed from being a war criminal and worst president ever to being hailed as a man of great principle and deep character all because he gave a candy to Michelle Obama at a funeral.

Other neo-cons, such as the reprehensible Bill Kristol and David Frum, are now held in the highest esteem by those who should know better just because they oppose Trump on stylistic grounds. Besides reviving the neo-cons and exorcising their Iraq ghosts, the #Resistance also warmly embraced the neo-liberals and their economics which gave us the 2008 housing collapse and the big bailouts among other notable disasters. Russiagate makes for strange bedfellows…but the #Resistance is going to find out that when you sleep with war criminals and banking fraud pigs, you wake up with blood on your hands and smelling like shit.

CONSEQUENCES

The long-term consequences of going all in on Russiagate for the #Resistance, Clinton projectors/supporters and the media are dire.

In their fever and fervor to bring down Trump, the media have handed him a gift of epic proportions by stripping themselves of any last vestiges of credibility they had left. Trump’s favorite claim is that of “fake news”, and when something comes out that makes him look bad, he labels it “fake news” and the media and #Resistance goes crazy. Now with Russiagate, the media have propagated the motherload of “fake news” and have legitimized Trump’s future claims of “fake news”, thus neutering themselves as a functioning and vital part of our Republic.

The Russiagate fiasco is a weapon that Trump will now use to bludgeon his enemies and to protect himself from any further charges of wrong doing (of which, I am sure, there are a lot), and it is entirely the fault of the fourth estate and the #Resistance for having gotten out ahead of themselves and the evidence.

Sadly, just as with their utter failure regarding the Iraq War and WMD’s, the media will face no consequences for their miscarriage of journalism in the case of Russiagate. The loudest media voices that got it wrong…AGAIN…will simply fail upwards and maintain their standing as guardians of the establishment just as they did after the Iraq/WMD mess. The corporate media in America is so tainted and so toxic that it is a cancer on our culture and simply cannot be trusted at all anymore…and that is dangerous for our Republic.

LOOKING IN THE MIRROR

While the media is certainly to blame for this Russia-Gate fiasco, at some point people need to take responsibility for their own thinking, or lack thereof. How many times does the media have to reveal itself to be a mendacious propaganda machine before people wake up and push back? The media malpractice in their coverage of the Iraq War/WMD lies, the housing collapse, the Chris Kyle fabrications, the cavalcade of anti-Russian misreporting, the Jussie Smollett nonsense, the Russiagate fraud, how many more times does the media have to prove itself to be untrustworthy before people start holding them accountable?

And this is not some frivolous question, this is crucial for the survival of the Republic. If the press cannot function with some semblance of impartiality, journalistic quality and professionalism then an authoritarian will simply use the public’s distrust and disgust with them to his advantage and will further erode our already tenuous civil liberties….oh wait…that is already happening!

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That is the most frustrating thing about the Russiagate horseshit…it has aided, abetted and emboldened Trump. This shouldn’t be surprising since the corporate media were already complicit in getting Trump elected the first time, but now with their incessant shrieking about the Russiagate “collusion” hoax they have given Trump a great boost for 2020.

At this point in the Russiagate story It isn’t about people having more knowledge in regards to Russia, or Trump or the media, it is about knowledge of oneself. Why do you believe what you believe…and where does your loyalty lie? If it lies anywhere besides the Truth, you are bound to be suckered by something or someone. Remember…if you desperately want something to be true, you should be particularly wary of those who you tell it is.

Regardless of how things go forward from here and whether the report gets released (which I hope it does) or if it gets buried, I ask the #Resistance to listen to me now. I warned you two years ago and you ignored me. Don’t make that same mistake again. My advice to you now is to stop being so God-damn emotional and weak. Get tough. Get rational. Get logical. Get strategic. And most importantly pledge your loyalty not to your party, ideology, country or identity but rather to the Truth. It will serve you and America much better in the long run.

ADDENDUM

As I was writing this piece this week a story titled “Some on Mueller’s Team Say Report Was More Damaging Than Barr Revealed” broke in the New York Times that claimed that people from the Mueller team were frustrated over Attorney General Bill Barr’s summary of their findings, and claimed that Mueller’s report is much more damaging to Trump that Barr makes it seem.

Well…that isn’t really what the New York Times article says…but that is how it is being “reported” in its headline and by cable news outlets like MSNBC. In fact, in an odd confluence of events, I was watching MSNBC when the story broke and got to see in real time how dubious their journalism really is as Chris Matthews “paraphrased” the Times article by saying that Mueller’s team is finally speaking up after two years of silence.

Here is the first paragraph of the Times article which caused such a stir.

Some of Robert S. Mueller III’s investigators have told associates that Attorney general William P. Barr failed to adequately portray the findings of their inquiry and that they were more troubling for President Trump than Mr. Barr indicated, according to government officials and others familiar with their simmering frustrations.

That is one hell of a paragraph…so let’s break it down.

Cable news and other media have declared that this story is really bad news for Trump because Mueller’s team is finally speaking out and is saying the report will be damning of the President. Of course, upon closer inspection, virtually none of the cable news pontification is even remotely backed up by the facts stated in the article.

For instance…even though the media is claiming this is Mueller’s team breaking their monk like silence…they aren’t. This isn’t Mueller’s team speaking out…these claims are allegedly being made by “associates” of Mueller’s investigators, not the investigators themselves. Beyond that, in that opening paragraph the Times also makes it clear that the sources for the story are “government officials and others familiar with their simmering frustrations”.

So let’s be perfectly clear as to what this story claims…that “government officials and others” have heard from “associates” of members of the Mueller team, that said Mueller team members believe that the Attorney General “failed to adequately portray their findings”.

This is like a bad game of telephone where the esteemed New York Times reports on third and fourth hand information that was allegedly told to “associates” of investigators on Mueller’s team, and then those “associates” told associates of theirs who are “government officials and others” who then told the New York Times who are now telling us.

Not surprisingly, MSNBC, CNN and the Washington Post all followed up the Times story with equally explosive claims but with similarly distant and dubious sourcing.

It is absolutely stunning when you break down the story and its sourcing and then consider the shock waves of glee this report sent through cable news and the #Resistance. Bill Maher, who is the id and village idiot of the center left, just last night was touting on his HBO show that treason is back on the table and so is collusion, all based on this extremely vacuous and flimsy report in the Times…which clearly states that the finding of “no collusion” is not in contention.

Maher is the hackneyed comedy version of cognitive dissonance with bad skin as on his show last week, the first since the Mueller Report was submitted and the Barr synopsis came out, he declared that he doesn’t need Mueller’s report because he KNOWS Trump is a traitor! This is textbook Cognitive Dissonance, where people “seek to preserve their current understanding of the world by rejecting, explaining away, or avoiding the new information or by convincing themselves that no conflict really exists."

This story and the media and the #Resistance’s rapturous response to it proves once again the seriousness of the maladies from which they suffer. This report and the liberal response to it highlights the conformation bias, cognitive dissonance, denial and delusion which I wrote about above. It is also emblematic of the media’s blatant dishonesty and unprofessionalism. This story is just one more piece of evidence for the thesis I laid out in the above article.

It is also a damning indictment that the #Resistance and its media cohorts like Bill Maher and MSNBC are irredeemable and a hopeless lost cause.

MY BEST GUESS

When discussing my skepticism regarding this whole issue, I am often asked what it is that I believe regarding Trump, Russia, collusion and the rest of it. Well, what I think is this…and this is entirely and purely speculation…that Trump is certainly “guilty” of obstruction of justice. I mean, Trump is a walking obstruction of justice…but the problem is that if there is no underlying crime, that makes both the legal and political case for obstruction much more difficult.

In addition, I have yet to see any clear evidence of the underlying claim that Russia hacked the DNC server and the Clinton campaign emails. In fact there has been no evidence released that even shows that the DNC server was hacked at all. Now that doesn’t mean the server wasn’t hacked, it may have been, it just means I haven’t seen any evidence of it. It also doesn’t mean that if it was hacked, that Russia hacked it, it just means I haven’t seen any evidence of those claims. I am not alone in my skepticism regarding the alleged hack, as the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), a group which includes Ray McGovern, Colleen Rowley, Mike Gravel, Philip Giraldi, Larry Johnson, John Kiriakou and Lawrence Wilkerson among many others, have stated their skepticism as well regarding this claim of a hack that is now assumed to be true despite the paucity of evidence for it.

And finally, in regards to the charge that Russia “interfered” in our election, I would say that the evidence put forth thus far is woefully inadequate to the point of absurdity. The Facebook and Twitter meme operation allegedly run by Russia is an absolute joke and is not proof of Russian interference in anything at all.

If people are serious about identifying and punishing nations for interference and meddling in our electoral and political process, then there are two criminal states that should be the entire focus of attention…Israel and Saudi Arabia, both of which a nefarious actors in our political process with tentacles into the highest echelons of power in America.

As I stated earlier and as I stated throughout the last two and half years in all of my writing…I am open to evidence of Russian interference in the election and any conspiracy with Trump or anyone else…and will gladly scrutinize that evidence if and when it comes forward, and accept it if it is credible. But until it comes forward I maintain the only logical and rational position there is, and that is of maintaining a pronounced skepticism towards these and all evidence-free claims.

For a glance at my previous writings on Russiagate over the last few years, here are some links.

Joe McCarthy Was Right!! Shocking Revelations From a Manchurian Op-Ed Writer

Deconstructing Criticism of Oliver Stone’s The Putin Interviews

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

Stephen Colbert Goes to Russia Looking For Laughs

Has the Fear of Putin Seized Hollywood?

Echoes of Totalitarianism in #MeToo and Russia-Gate

Hollywood’s Malicious Propaganda Dehumanizes All Russians

Captain America v Trump in Battle of the Useful idiots

In a Fit of Anti-Trump Pique, Liberals Shamelessly Embrace Deep-State Criminals

A Curious Case of Mystery Attacks, Microwave Weapons and Media Manipulation

©2019

Us: A Review

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

My Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Popcorn Rating: 2.25 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation: SKIP IT. A visually and narratively muddled disappointment of a movie that tries to be everything and ends up being nothing.

Us, written and directed by Jordan Peele, is a horror film that tells the story of the Wilson family who are hunted by their shadow dopplegangers while on vacation in Santa Cruz. The film stars Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Shahadi Wright Joseph and Evan Alex.

Jordan Peele’s last film, 2017’s Get Out, was a horror/comedy that was also a social commentary on race and white liberal guilt that made a remarkable 255 million dollars off of a 4.5 million dollar budget. The film was a cultural phenomenon and critical darling that besides making gobs of money also garnered Best Picture and Best Director Oscar nominations and actually won the award for Best Original Screenplay.

The context in which Get Out became a “thing” is important to remember though, as the #OscarsSoWhite hysteria was at a fever pitch at the time and Hollywood and the media were desperate for any artist, actor or director of color to succeed. Jordan Peele was at the right place at the right time with the right type of movie to become a symbol for all of those hungry for a cinematic savior of color.

When I saw Get Out my response was, “what is all the fuss about?” I was entirely underwhelmed by the film and thought it was at best a pedestrian work with a clever premise and political perspective with which I actually agreed. I also thought that critics were, ironically considering the film’s spot-on theme of White liberal guilt, over-hyping the film and Peele’s filmmaking skill due to a “woke” agenda where all things related to diversity are wonderful. It seemed obvious to me that the incessant and exuberant critical love for Jordan Peele and Get Out was a function of grading on a diversity curve as opposed to on merit, which as a cinephile I find grating and frankly unethical.

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Which brings us to…well..Us… Jordan Peele’s follow up to Get Out. It might come as a surprise to some that despite my misgivings about Get Out, I was actually really excited to see Us. The reason for my anticipation was that the trailer is absolutely fantastic. The trailer makes the film look super creepy, scary and bursting with thematic and symbolic potential and possibilities. Add in the fact that it dealt with dopplegangers, which I equated to the Jungian concept of the shadow (which intrigues me as an amateur Jungian), and I am all in for Us. As proof of my excitement for the film, I actually went and saw it at a 10:30 AM screening on the Friday it opened.

Then the movie started and my excitement dissipated and diminished with every passing second that the film played until I was left completely bored and uninterested for the final hour of the nearly two-hour film. I was not the only one who was bored, as in my screening there were only four people, me and three Black men in their twenties or so, who came in individually and sat by themselves. The “phone check index” with Us was very high, as every single one of those men checked their phones at least ten times times throughout the screening.

The biggest problem with Us is that for a horror movie, it isn’t even remotely scary. There are no legitimate thrills or chills in this movie and there is a startling lack of tension.

Another problem is, much like Get Out, it is poorly shot and not very well-made. There are a lot of shots of darkness in the film, which is to be expected in a “horror” movie, but they are poorly executed and end up being little more than just a murky, dark screen. I know that sounds bizarre to the uninitiated, but there is a difference between darkness and a lack of light. “Darkness” is created by using lighting techniques to create a crisp contrast where you enhance the mood but maintain visual clarity and with it interest. For an example of cinematographic “darkness:, go watch The Favourite from last year and see how well they shoot with just a single candle as the lighting. On the other hand, “lack of light” is simply a lack of a light source and brings with it little to no visual structure and fails to create or enhance mood but only diminishes visual clarity and capacity.

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In addition, how is it that the filmmakers couldn’t figure out that you need to light people with darker skin tones differently from lighter toned people when you shoot them in low light? Besides being exquisitely beautiful, Lupita Nyong’o is very dark skinned, so why wasn’t there any subtle light used to reflect off of her in the shots with lower light? Lighting her properly would not only make her visible to viewers but highlight her powerful performance and accentuate her exquisite bone structure and features (like was done in the photo to the left). By not lighting her effectively in the film, Nyong’o gets washed out by the faux darkness/lack of light, and even in the light Peele’s camera often loses the detail of her striking features. Maybe I am simply going blind or maybe the projector at my theatre was sub-par (I saw it at the Arclight, a high end theatre here in Los Angeles) or maybe the cinematographer, like cosmetic companies, doesn’t realize you need to light differently and use a different color palate to accommodate different skin tones. Again…maybe this is an issue with my vision or with the poor condition of America’s projectors, both of which are very distinct possibilities, but then again so is cinematic malpractice.

And finally, another problem with the film is that while the trailer presented an intriguing premise, the film’s narrative ends up expanding too broadly and in doing so dilutes any potential tension. Instead of making a focused and intimate film about just one family and their personal/familial shadow, Peele expands his thesis and by doing so neuters the film of all its power. The trailer had me thinking this film was sort of a crazy combination of The Shining, Straw Dogs and Cape Fear or something like that…all of which show families/couples under extreme pressure from relentless evil foes.

In narrative, thematic, symbolic, mythical and even political terms, Us is ultimately kind of a mess of a movie that feigns both artistic and popular entertainment pretensions whilst spoon-feeding its political/social message with such unsubtle and cringeworthy lines as '“We are Americans.”

Us is everywhere and nowhere all at once, and tries to be everything and ends up being nothing at all. Is the film about capitalism? Racism? Collective guilt? Collective shame? America’s shadow? The film is sort of about all of those things all at once and thus ends up not really being about any of them. The film lacks narrative cohesion, thematic coherence and dramatic compulsion and it never commands your attention.

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On the bright side, the cast do the very best they can with the little they are given. Lupita Nyong’o, who plays the Winston family matriarch Adelaide, should be commended for picking the movie up and carrying it on her back. Nyong’o is a magnetic screen presence and it is impossible to take your eyes off of her, which is why it is so frustrating that she is so poorly shot and lit. Nyong’o gives her all but the film fails to live up to her strong work in it.

Winston Duke plays Adelaide’s husband Gabe, and is another top notch actor who is poorly served by the film. Duke is a charming presence but is terribly underused in Us, and his character often feels tonally out of place with the rest of the film.

The two younger actors, Shahadi Wright Joseph and Evan Alex, play the Wilson’s children Zora and Jason, give solid performances that get scuttled by the visual and narrative mess that is the movie.

In the lead up to Us’s release, the media has once again turned on the hype machine regarding Jordan Peele. There are some who are actually calling him the new Hitchcock, which is pretty stunning considering he’s only made two films and both of them are painfully mediocre. Trust me when I tell you that Jordan Peele is not the next Alfred Hitchcock…he isn’t even the next M. Night Shyamalan…at least not yet. Maybe Peele will grow into being a Hitchcock or will have a few more moderate hits then be exposed for being a cinematic fraud like Shyamalan…anything is possible…but the latter seems much more likely, especially after seeing Us.

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The critical love for Us is transparently, blatantly and shamefully a result of a “woke” cultural agenda held by film critics which holds diversity and inclusion in much higher regard than it does the art of cinema. I get the excitement around Peele, I genuinely do, but at the end of the day there is simply no there there. Peele, much like his films Get Out and Us, is cinematic fool’s gold, and anyone holding him up as an a formidable auteur is going to be left looking very foolish…the ham-fisted attempts at making on-the-nose social statements in Us are proof of that.

I remember decades ago Nicholas Cage was revered as some sort of acting genius, like the second coming of Brando except funny. Well…I knew back then he was a fraud and no one listened…and history proved me right and exposed Mr. Cage’s artistic vacuity. I think the same will be true of Jordan Peele. And to be clear, I don’t dislike Jordan Peele and I don’t want him to fail, in fact he seems like a good guy and I wish him success because I want SOMEBODY…be it Peele or anybody else, to be the next Hitchcock or Kubrick or Altman or whomever because I love cinema and cinema needs great auteurs. I wish there were more great film makers in the world not less, but wishing doesn’t make it so, and all the film critics in the world wishing Peele’s movies were great doesn’t make them any better and it certainly doesn’t make him a great filmmaker.

The hype machine is doing Peele no favors either, at least not in the long run. Yes, it will drum up business…hell, the hype and the great trailer had me so excited to see Us I trudged out to the theatre on opening day and I was really hoping it was awesome. The problem though is that it wasn’t…and that is sort of a big problem. The critical hype around Peele can only last so long before audiences tune out or get angry. This is what happened to M. Night Shyamalan, whose early films were considerably more financially successful than Peele’s. Once the bloom came off the Shyamalan rose his career plummeted and he has been struggling for years to try and get his filmmaking head above Hollywood waters ever since.

On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, Us currently has a 95 critical score, which is extremely high. In contrast, the film has a 69 audience score, which in my eyes, and probably the eyes of the other audience members at my screening who would rather look at their phones than at Us, is a much more accurate assessment of the quality of the movie. It is striking that in the crazy world in which we now live, critics adore a supposedly crowd pleasing, populist piece of entertainment like Us much more than the crowd it is supposed to be pleasing. As previously stated, I think the critical love for this film and for Peele is mostly powered by the White liberal guilt of film critics, which means that while the film is not philosophically or politically insightful enough to be worthwhile viewing, the hype surrounding it and Jordan Peele is much more instructive and insightful about the world we live in than anything found in the film.

In conclusion, Us could have been a really fascinating movie, but it ends up being a terribly boring disappointment because it is so poorly written and executed. Us is too visually muddled, narratively incoherent and cinematically flaccid for me to recommend you see it in the theatre, but if you really do want to see it I say wait until it is on Netflix or cable and see it for free.

©2019

Leaving Neverland: A Review

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

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation: SEE IT. See it to see and hear the truth regarding one of America’s most famous icons.

Leaving Neverland, produced and directed by Dan Reed, is a documentary that tells the story of Michael Jackson’s child sexual abuse of James Safechuk and Wade Robson from the late 80’s to the mid-90’s. The film is four hours long and is broken down into two, two-hour segments, which originally aired on HBO on March 3rd and 4th and are currently still available on that channel.

Leaving Neverland is one of those documentaries that takes a nebulous perception and turns it into an unavoidable reality. Michael Jackson, who settled a child sexual abuse lawsuit for a rumored $25 million in 1993 and was acquitted of child sex abuse involving another boy in a separate case in 2005, has long been assumed to be a pedophile…Leaving Neverland removes all doubt from that assumption.

The film is basically a collection of very long interviews with Safechuk and Robson where they describe in extremely explicit detail their sexual interactions with Jackson when they were minors, in Robson’s case as young as 7 years old. While the explicitness of their stories is uncomfortable to hear, it is very effective in shattering any illusions that might cloud the cold-hard reality of Jackson’s perverse sexual predilections. The explicitness of the language used is very beneficial, as terms like “molested” or “fondled” sound less damning and less evil than hearing the precise descriptions of what Jackson was doing to these little boys.

Director Reed wisely cuts back and forth between the explicit interviews of the grown men and footage of when they were young boys at the age when they were abused. This approach is highly effective in bringing home the point of Jackson’s disturbing depravity and the scope and scale of his evil.

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Safechuk and Robson come across as forthright and believable in the interviews. If they are lying about the nature of their relationship with Jackson then they are two of the greatest actors to have ever walked the earth. Robson is much more camera friendly and articulate than Safechuk, but Safechuk’s pure being, his posture, his energy, the look in his eye, is devastating testimony in and of itself, and is a searing indictment of Michael Jackson.

The film does not have any interviews from members of the Jackson family or any counter arguments to Safechuk and Robson, and some may see that as unfair, I do not agree. For thirty years we have heard the Jackson story while the children he abused have been silenced due to his wealth and power. We’ve heard enough from Jackson and company, and Leaving Neverland gives the side of the story we haven’t heard yet and that is what makes it so valuable.

What is so striking about the documentary is the news footage from the height of Jackson’s fame in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Jackson’s pedophilia was hiding in plain sight for all of us to see…in fact he was even flaunting it. The footage of Jackson gallivanting around the globe hand in hand with little boys is disgusting as he acts like a rock star parading around in public with a super model as arm candy and trophy girlfriend. And just like some rock star would want the status symbol of being seen in public with the latest and hottest Hollywood ingenue, Michael Jackson did the same thing with little boys, going public with his “friendship” with first Emmanuel Lewis (of Webster fame) and then later with Macaulay Culkin.

Jackson is just a despicable and deplorable human being, but his staff, family and enablers are equally repugnant for aiding and abetting his blatantly obvious sexual predation. As the documentary shows, Jackson’s staff members were actively recruiting boys to be Jackson’s companions and were complicit in keeping parents away while the abuse was happening.

Leaving Neverland is not just an indictment of Jackson, but of us all. His fans, the media and the public in general refused to see or believe what was right in front of our eyes because it was easier to ignore it, laugh about it or pretend it wasn’t happening. How Jackson did not get his head caved in by either a raging father of an abused child or by a security staffer with a conscience, is beyond me.

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The documentary is very effective in revealing how Jackson didn’t just seduce little boys but also their entire families. The interviews with Safechuk’s and Robson’s mothers are very enlightening and at times infuriating. These women, whose job was to protect their kids, fell for Jackson’s schtick hook, line and sinker and their boys paid the price for it. The mother’s, especially Ms. Robson, inability to take responsibility for their failure is mind-boggling, and the fact that Ms. Robson STILL doesn’t want to hear what happened to her son is astonishing. But this is what the allure of fame does to people, it distorts and compromises their soul, and they end up selling their son’s youth and innocence for a shot at the brass ring.

After the airing of the second part of the documentary, HBO aired a special interview with Oprah Winfrey and James Safechuk and Wade Robson. Considering Oprah herself has talked publicly about being sexually abused as a girl and the intracicies of that, you would think she’d be a good choice to host program…but you would be wrong.

Oprah is a terrible interviewer as she always makes everything about her and her opinion…but she is an even worse human being because she is so devoid of self-awareness yet is delusional enough to think that she is entirely self-aware. During the post-doc interview Oprah has the temerity to tell Safechuk that he hasn’t evolved as much as Robson, which if Oprah were half as “evolved” as she thinks she is she would understand is a really vicious thing to say to a survivor, especially one in such a vulnerable state as Safechuk.

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What was stunning to me is that Oprah spent the hour pontificating on how wise she is about abuse and how it is really seduction, but she fails to ever mention that she interviewed Michael Jackson in 1993…and it was a patty cake interview if there ever was one. During that interview Oprah never held Jackson to account or held his feet to the fire for his “bizarre” and curious behavior with boys. Oprah…like the rest of America and like Safechuk and Robson and countless other boys and their families…was seduced by Michael Jackson and the allure of his fame and power, which is saying quite a lot considering Oprah’s fame and power…and it would have been interesting for Oprah to talk about HER experience of that seduction and how she was either wittingly or unwittingly blind to Jackson’s depravity…instead of doing what she did and giving her opinion on other people’s experience of that.

The enormity of Michael Jackson’s fame and celebrity, especially back in the 80’s and early 90’s is difficult to fathom in this day and age of such a fractured and fragmented popular culture. Michael Jackson wasn’t just a superstar, he was a supernova. Jackson was the most famous and identifiable person on the planet back then and more people knew his name than any other person’s in the whole world.

When you look at Jackson’s discography and album sales it is unbelievable. Jackson was considered a performing prodigy and was a superstar with his family band The Jackson Five at the age of 11. After an awkward adolescent transition, Jackson returned to glory as a 21 year old with his 1979 hit album Off the Wall, which is a terrific album that sold 20 million copies.

The follow up to Off the Wall was Thriller, which sold an estimated 66 million copies and is the greatest selling album of all-time. Thriller undeniably made Jackson the biggest pop star in the world. No one has ever or will ever surpass Thriller’s sales numbers.

After Thriller Jackson could have sold 20 million copies of any piece of crap he threw out there, and that is kind of what he did with the awful Bad (1987) and the even more abysmal Dangerous (1991), which sold 35 and 32 million copies respectively.

The success of Off the Wall, Thriller, Bad and Dangerous gave Jackson enormous amounts of wealth and power and with that money and power Jackson could do whatever the hell he wanted…and sadly…what he wanted to do most of all was to have sex with young boys.

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After watching Leaving Neverland and the Oprah special I sat contemplating what I had just seen and I had two thoughts. The first thought was how striking it is to me that in the 1980’s, a decade of America’s alleged rebirth and renewal under Ronald Reagan, the biggest and most beloved music star was Michael Jackson and the biggest and most beloved television star was Bill Cosby. These two men were very similar in a lot of ways in that they were two Black men whose success crossed color lines, who cultivated personas that exuded a gentle kindness and moral purity, and who were sexual predators who preyed upon the defenseless, in Jackson’s case young children and in Cosby’s case drugged and unconscious women. I have no idea what that observation means in a broader sense, maybe something about masks and facades and how to succeed in America, I don’t know, I just thought it was very curious that these two men were so successful in their careers at that time period but also so successful at getting away with their sex crimes for so long.

The second thought I had was about Conrad Murray, Michael Jackson’s personal physician, who was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in Jackson’s 2009 death from an overdose of propofol. Murray served two years in prison and was pilloried by the media for being responsible for “killing” Michael Jackson. After watching Leaving Neverland, I think Conrad Murray deserves a fucking medal.

In conclusion, Leaving Neverland is a difficult documentary to watch, but I highly recommend you do watch it because we must never look away from the truth, no matter how ugly it is or how uncomfortable it makes us.

©2019

Muse - The Forum: A Review

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MUSE - THE FORUM - MONDAY, MARCH 11, 2019

Last Monday night I ventured out among the hoi polloi to see the band Muse, whose Simulation Theory tour had rolled into town for a one night stand at the Los Angeles Forum.

Muse is a difficult band to accurately describe. The English power-trio made up of Matt Bellamy (lead vocals, guitar, keyboard), Chris Wolstenholme (bass, backing vocals) and Dominic Howard (drums) are sort of an amalgam of arena rock, prog rock, hard rock and electronica that over their twenty year career have consistently churned out a cavalcade of catchy alt-political anthems. If Roger Waters’ led Pink Floyd (Animals, Final Cut), Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust incarnation, Queen, Rush and The Who in their rock opera phase (in this case especially Tommy), were all thrown into a blender and mixed together, you’d get Muse. That is not to say that Muse is as good as any of those bands but just to give you an indication of their rock and roll DNA.

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Muse have released eight studio albums, all of them in one form or another specifically themed “concept albums”, that have examined everything from alienation in space to physics to conspiratorial militarism to propaganda and nearly everywhere in between. The band’s latest, Simulation Theory, is a synth-driven, pop-rock psuedo-opera exploring a manufactured video-game/matrix reality and political dysfunction that taps heavily into science fiction and 80’s pop culture. The album cover is reminiscent of the poster for Spielberg’s 80’s nostalgia film from last year Ready Player One, and the album touches upon similar themes.

Muse can be a polarizing band, some think they are one of the best rock bands in the world while others think they are a derivative, cheesy embarrassment. I understand the conflict even if I don’t agree with it. Muse are undoubtedly full of bombast and artistic ambition…I mean what other modern rock band has the confidence, if not arrogance, to continually make concept albums and rock operas? But with that said, this is rock and roll and a certain level of bombast and artistic arrogance is helpful if not required.

I am not a Muse cultist, but after discovering them when their 2006 radio-friendly album Black Holes and Revelations was in heavy rotation, I certainly became a fan. That album, which featured the hits “Take a Bow”, “Starlight”, “Supermassive Black Hole” and “Knights of Cydonia”, was like a guitar-driven breath of fresh air for rock…or the genre’s last gasp…depending on your perspective.

Black Holes and Revelations then led me to their earlier albums, Absolution (2003) and Origin of Symmetry(2001), both of which energetically lay the groundwork for their later breakthrough success.

The Resistance (2009), and its infectious call to arms “Uprising”, kept the bands momentum going by admirably following up Black Holes and Revelations. 2nd Law (2012) and Drones (2015) came soon after and were solid albums but failed to capture as much of the cultural imagination as their earlier work. Simulation Theory came out last year and even though it is more pop-oriented than the preceding albums, it too failed to get much attention from our rock-allergic culture.

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Which leads us to the Simulation Theory tour and Monday night at The Forum. I own the majority, but not all, of Muse’s albums but I have never seen them live. My friend, the music afficianado Fire Thorn, saw them on their last tour and highly recommended them to me, but I still hesitated to buy tickets. Then in a moment of weakness I recently noticed they hadn’t entirely sold out The Forum so I searched and found a good deal on some nice seats and I took the plunge.

The Forum is a terrific venue for music. My first experience there was thanks to a friend who is a big shot in the music industry who got me in to see Van Halen rehearse for their first reunion tour in 2007. Van Halen was one of my favorite bands when I was a kid, so getting to see a private show by the band at The Forum for me and 14 other people was a magical experience that emotionally attached me to the venue for life.

Getting to The Forum is pretty easy, but getting out of there after a show is a total traffic nightmare. My night got off to a good start though when I found a sneaky good place to park across the street from The Forum that only cost $5 more than the arena parking and helped us to escape quickly and unscathed after the show.

The opening act was the band Walk the Moon which I had never heard of, but then when they started to play I realized they had a song that my friends two year old daughter is crazy about titled, “Shut Up and Dance”. My first impressions of Walk the Moon were that I was not particularly impressed. As my date, the inimitable Lady Pumpernickle Dusseldorf noted, they are like if Flock of Seagulls and N’Sync had a baby….or as I added…had an abortion. To be fair, the band has talent, no doubt, but the songs were weak and it just wasn’t my thing. My one observation was that the lead singer has a decent voice but he is a little TOO good a dancer…and the general rule when it comes to lead singers is that they should move well (think Mick Jaggar or Jim Morrison) but not dance too well.

After Walk the Moon walked off the stage, which was followed by an interminably long wait that had John Carpenter music as its soundtrack, Muse hit the stage around 9 pm, and turned The Forum into ground zero in the war for rock and roll’s survival.

The band opened with the first song off of Simulation Theory, the mood setting Algorithm which brought the near capacity crowd to its feet. The audience was jumping and singing along from the get go and the energy ran high as they stayed on their feet for the entire two hour show.

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Rock is dead is a refrain I hear often, mostly because I am the one saying it, but I can attest that on Monday, March 11th, at The Forum, rock was alive and well and kicking…hard. Muse put on an astonishing show, one of the very best I have ever seen. That is the thing about Muse, they don’t just play music and play it exceedingly well, they put on a SHOW. The stage set, the costumes, the “dancers”…it was all a fantastic spectacle.

Any band that puts out concept album after concept album like Muse does is an artistically ambitious one, and that ambition was on full display at The Forum. Lead singer and guitarist Matt Bellamy, who at different times wore electronic goggles, an electronic suit, or both, was often accompanied by “dancers” that looked like a Kubrickian marching band of demonic robots. These dancers would sometimes hang from the ceiling in front of giant video screens, or bang large drums, or wear video face masks displaying an upside down American flag (the sign for distress), or would wield glowing light weapons.

In some ways the show that Muse put on could be interpreted as a parody of a rock show, with all the bells and whistles being a sign of decadence, but the one thing that stops that from happening is the impressive and impeccable musicianship of the band.

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Bellamy is a powerful singer whose voice maintains its strength and clarity even when he hits his falsetto, which is often. His guitar playing is spectacular as well, both muscular and precise, and rattles you to your bones. Bellamy is not the most charismatic stage presence on the planet, so he is greatly aided by the Greek chorus of techno-dancers from hell that amplify the story of each song.

Bassist Chris Wolstenholme is the hidden gem in the band. His bass playing is superb but it is his backing vocals that are even more impressive. Wolstenholme’s vocals perfectly bolster and mix with Bellamy’s, and give the band a rich vocal texture that elevates the material.

Drummer Dominic Howard is the heavy-handed beast who lays the foundation from which Bellamy’s voice and volcanic guitar blast off. Although the band is a power trio, they do have an added musician on tour, a keyboard/secondary guitar player, who is tucked next to Howard during the show and who adds to the gigantic tsunami of sound the band produces.

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The band played for two hours and not once did the energy in the building even remotely dissipate. Even though Simulation Theory has not sold very well, the audience absolutely loved the new material and much to my surprise knew the words to all of the new songs. My date Lady Dusseldorf had never heard Simulation Theory at all and even she got swept away by the tribal love for the new songs. In total, Muse played eight songs off of Simulation Theory and every single one of them was instantaneously met with rapturous cries of approval from the faithful.

The highlights of the show are almost too numerous to count as the whole thing was a supernova of highlights. But if I have to choose the best parts I would say Pressure and Uprising were the best songs in the first quarter of the show, with Mercy and the ferocious rebel anthem Time is Running Out being mid-show highlights. The climax of the show, from “Take a Bow” to the infectious “Starlight” to the ludicrously phenomenal encore medley to the closer, “Knights of Cydonia”, was deliriously and deliciously intoxicating.

Muse may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but if you like hard arena rock music wrapped in a captivating rock and roll spectacle, then I urge you to go see Muse live, I promise that you’ll be impressed…I sure as hell was. Rock may be dying, but last Monday night at The Forum Muse proved that they won’t let it go down without a nasty fight.

SET LIST

Algorithm

Pressure

Psycko

Break it to Me

Uprising

Propaganda

Plug In Baby

The Dark Side

Super Massive Black Hole

Thought Contagion

Interlude

Hysteria

The 2nd Law: Unsustainable

Dig Down

Madness

Mercy

Time is Running Out

Houston Jam

Take a Bow

Prelude

Starlight

ENCORE

Algorithm

Stockholm Syndrome/Assassin/Reapers/The Handler/New Born

Knights of Cydonia

©2019

Transit: A Review

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

My Rating: 3.75 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation: SEE IT/SKIP IT - Cinephiles should definitely check out this meditation on fascism, but be forewarned, this is a very “foreign” film so those not accustomed to such unconventional storytelling might want to skip it.

Language: German and French with English subtitles

Transit, written and directed by Christian Petzold and based upon Anna Segher’s 1942 novel of the same name, is set in modern times and follows the journey of Georg, a German trying to escape Fascists as their totalitarian reach stretches out of the Fatherland and across France. The film stars Franz Rogowski as Georg, with supporting turns from Paula Beer, Godehard Giese, Barbara Auer, Maryam Zaree and Ronald Kukulies.

Transit is a fascinating and politically prophetic and potent film that masterfully creates the visceral experience of modern world where fascism reigns supreme. The film is based upon Anna Segher’s novel about the Holocaust, but in its more modern setting it is equally chilling. The suffocating sense of impending and unstoppable doom that permeates this movie makes setting this story in modern times all the more chilling because it seems so effortlessly believable. The archetypal energy currently on the rise across the globe (and whether we want to acknowledge it or not, in our own hearts) is that of the fascist, and in the long shadow of the fascist, fear, isolation and resignation grow like poison mushrooms. Transit tells the story of those under the boot of fascism and the attempt to balance primal instincts to survive against the spiritual need for human connection and love.

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Director Christian Petzold’s strength in this film is in making fascism feel tangible and palpable. The ominous sense of danger that Petzold conveys in this film, be it with a simple siren, screeching tires, a women on a street corner pointing or refugees refusing to look each other in the eye, is electric.

Petzold’s minimalism in respect to creating this menace is magnificent. By not physically transforming the world in which we live, but simply distorting our perception of it, Petzold makes the fascist threat feel immediate, intimate and personalized.

On one level, Transit reminded me of Michelangelo Antonioni’s intriguing film The Passenger (1975), in that it deals with a man stealing the identity of a dead man and having to face the repercussions of that act. In Transit, Georg assumes the identity of a dead writer in order to escape Paris as it comes under the perilous grip of the fascists.

Georg’s escape out of Paris leads him on a odyssey that reveals his external desperation to survive and his internal yearning to maintain humanity at all costs. The fascist menace forces Georg to fight this battle between his instinct and his humanity, where he must choose what kind of man he is and what kind of life he will lead.

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Transit, which is in French and German with English subtitles, is a decidedly foreign film in that it does not conform to Hollywood conventions. This eschewing of storytelling convention can be somewhat frustrating for the uninitiated or for those not prepared for it, so consider yourself warned. Understand that this film is really about the pressures of living, or trying to live, under the toxic cloud of fascism, and how the existential fear of obliteration at the hands of totalitarians turns people upside down to the point where they behave emotionally and in ways that seem irrational to those on the outside. Seeing the film through this lens will hopefully help make any moments in the film that seem unclear or unrealistic much more palatable.

As for the cast, Franz Rogowski does stellar work as the conflicted Georg. Rogowski is Joaquin Phoenix’s German doppleganger, cleft lip scar included. Rogowski even has the same energy as Phoenix and he carries that burdensome darkness and despair with him through this film like an iron cross on the road to his Golgotha. Rogowski’s intensity is heightened by his silence and stillness, which are filled with a vibrant intentionality that acutely convey his internal struggle.

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The ever luminous Paula Beer (last seen in the Oscar nominated Never Look Away) plays Marie, a mysterious beauty who keeps stumbling into Georg on his journey. Beer is a captivating and dynamic screen presence whose Maria is a compelling cauldron of regret, determination and despondency that never falls into caricature or fails to surprise.

The rest of the cast all do solid work, particularly Barbara Auer as a steely architect turned maid, in creating the atmosphere of maddening, dehumanizing and frantic fear that descends upon those under the thumb of a fascist threat.

In conclusion, Transit is not for everyone as its unconventionality can be at times unsatisfying, but for those who make the leap, they have the chance to be rewarded with a film that isn’t perfect but that is rich in psychological drama and political poignancy. My recommendation is for cinephiles who enjoy foreign film to definitely see Transit in the theatres. For those with less sophisticated film tastes, maybe start by watching Antonioni’s The Passenger, it stars Jack Nicholson and can be pretty challenging but is a good place to dip your toe into the water. If you like that then it is worth giving Transit a shot when it becomes available on Netflix/Amazon or Cable because even if you end up thinking the movie fails as entertainment, you may find that it succeeds as prophecy.

©2019

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse : A Review

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

My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Popcorn Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation: SEE IT. A well-made and fun exploration of the Spider-Man mythos that is original and unique.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, written by Phil Lord and Rodney Rothman and directed by Rothman, Peter Ramsey and Bob Perischetti, is an Academy Award winning animated film that tells the mind-bending story of Brooklyn teenager Miles Morales and his introduction into Spidey-dom. The voice actors starring in the film are Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld, Mahershala Ali, Bryan Tyree Henry, John Mulaney and Nicolas Cage.

This past Friday, March 8th, was International Women’s Day, so to celebrate this momentous occasion I tried to get as far away from women as I could, so I went to the movies. Much to my chagrin, when I got to the theatre I discovered that the female powered Captain Marvel had 36 showings going on that day and would no doubt draw a multitude of feminist harpies. Not wanting to get caught up in a tidal wave of man-hating and menses I instead chose to make a stand and rebelliously vote with my wallet, so I went and saw… Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse! Take that Girl Power brigade!!

Ok…to be completely honest, not everything is the previous paragraph is true. Yes, it was International Women’s Day. No, I did not go to the movies to escape being near women. Yes, there were 36 showings of Captain Marvel on the day at the theatre. No, I didn’t see Spider-Man as a form of protest. The truth is I figured Captain Marvel would be packed since it was opening day and I greatly dislike seeing movies in crowded theatres…so I chose Spider-Man because it had been out a long time already and probably wasn’t going to be crowded or in theatres for much longer. Sure enough, I was the only person at my screening for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, which I was extremely happy about.

As for the film itself, I don’t have anything against animated movies, it is just rare that I actually see one. For this reason i really had no expectations heading into the theatre, so it was a nice surprise to discover that Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was a really energetic and compelling bit of fun.

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Animation is very creatively freeing as it allows audiences to suspend their belief to a much greater degree than with live action which is a very useful tool with a superhero narrative and the directors use it to great effect in this movie. Animation also allows for interesting world-building and the New York City the film is set in is proof of that. The animated city is so vibrant and visceral it becomes a character all its own.

Animation is also useful when it comes to superhero movies in that it enables the action sequences to be much more “believable”. In Spider-Verse the filmmakers play this up by not just focusing on what their animated creations can do, but more importantly on what they can’t do. The world and characters of Spider-Verse have limitations, and that is what makes them so satisfying.

The lead character of the film is Miles Morales, a Latino teenager trying to navigate the perils of adolescence which in his case include a strict police officer father and a new and academically rigorous school. I am not a teenager, although absolutely EVERYONE says I look young enough to be one, but this film does a remarkable job of transporting the audience into the immediacy of Miles’ world. Miles feels like a very real kid trying to juggle all the demands placed upon him while hormones torment his body and the world barely acknowledges him.

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As I watched Miles Morales on screen I couldn’t help but think of my neighbor, who is also a Black Latino teenager named Miles. My neighbor Miles is just the nicest kid on the planet and is always very kind, patient and generous with my own toddler son even when he doesn’t have to be, and what I appreciated about this movie was that it gave me an impression of the world through his eyes.

Considering this is an animated movie I was stunned at how thorough and genuine the relationships were. The characters were all multi-dimensional, even the villains, and the world they inhabited felt entirely real. This dramatic foundation in human relationship is what allows the film to expand its narrative into more and more complex areas. The movie’s multi-dimensions and multiple realities colliding would seem like a muddled mess if it weren’t for the film’s grounding in genuine human emotion and its established reality.

To its credit, Spider-Verse does not ignore the oddity of its premise, and is also able to poke fun at the superhero genre and its formulas while also using them to its storytelling advantage. This is a delicate balancing act, but the filmmakers are able to acknowledge the absurdity of the superhero genre while also taking their subject matter entirely seriously.

The film has an undeniable charisma to it, which is a function of both the first rate artistry of the animators, as the film is beautiful to look at, and also the pulsating soundtrack which includes Juice WRLD, Post Malone, Swae Lee and Nicki Minaj among others. The popular music in the film is not my taste but it is undeniably infectious and extremely effective in developing Miles as a character and conveying his perspective.

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I hope the success of this film, it has made $366 million with a $90 million budget, will convince studios to create more high-end animated feature films of their superhero properties. The DC canon (Batman, Superman Etc.) has been flailing around in their most recent live action Justice League ventures, and it seems to me that Warner Bros. would be wise to try and package those characters in high end animated features like Spider-Verse. This would give Warner Bros. an opportunity to create dark live action films, like The Dark Knight Trilogy, and offset that darkness with animated features that are sophisticated yet fun and geared towards kids 10 and up.

Another idea would be to do the darker material in animated form and the lighter material in live action. For instance, the film Sin City was a very dark, neo-noir animated drama that made a solid $158 million in 2005. The market for high end animation geared either partially or in full towards adults exists, and the studios, be it Warner Bros. or Disney, would be wise to exploit it.

At the very least, making quality animated superhero features helps to connect younger audiences with the characters and expands the life cycle of fandom. In addition, as Spider-Verse and the upcoming live action Spider-Man movie proves, you can have simultaneous story lines, one in live action and one in animation, that creates a scenario where studios can double dip into the wallets of superhero fans. As long as the movies are well-made, it is a win-win for everyone involved.

In conclusion, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is well-deserving of its Best Animated Feature Academy Award. While my son is far too young to go see a movie like this, when he gets older this is the type of film I’d want him to watch, not only because it is an example of well-made art, but also because it is a great myth for young adolescents to explore in order to help get them through the trials and tribulations of the teen years.

I don’t know how much longer this movie will be in theatres, but if you have a chance you should check it out, either at the cineplex or on Netflix/cable when it becomes available. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is a joyous film that is perfect for kids 10 and up (your mileage for your kids may vary) that carries a message that even resonates with kids grown old…like me.

©2019

Birds of Passage: A Review

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

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation: SEE IT. A unique and original take on the drug lord narrative that is heightened by its setting among an indigenous tribe in Columbia.

Language: Spanish, Wayuu, Wiwa - With English Subtitles.

Birds of Passage, written by Maria Camilla Arias and Jacque Toulemonde Vidal and directed by Ciro Guerra and Cristina Gallego, is a story that chronicles the rise of an indigenous Wayuu family who are key players in the birth of the illegal drug business in Columbia from the 1960’s to the 1980’s. The film stars Carmina Martinez and Jose Acosta with supporting turns from Natalia Reyes, Jhon Narvaez and Juan Batista.

Having just recently watched all three seasons of the Netflix show Narcos, which tells the story of Columbian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar, I was intrigued to learn more about the origins of the drug business in Columbia. Birds of Passage is a fantastic companion piece to Narcos, as it goes back to the beginning when the drug trade genie was let out of the bottle In Columbia.

Birds of Passage is part biblical fable and part Homeric saga that teaches of the perils of avarice, ambition and the betraying of core familial and tribal traditions. If you mixed the biblical stories of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel (along with dashes of Noah and Exodus) with The Iliad and The Odyssey, threw in the Prodigal Son and a plague, mixed them all together in a bowl of Jungian and Shamanic dream analysis you’d get the mythic core of Birds of Passage.

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The story is structured in the form of a historical epic poem sung to life by one of the tribal word-keepers/historians and is broken into five cantos (songs) that tracks the trials and tribulations of the protagonist family. At the epicenter of the birth Columbian drug trade were the indigenous peoples known as the Wayuu, who are a collection of various large extended families and clans. The Wayuu are culturally shamanic and it is their ancient traditions that kept the peace between the clans and the tribe functioning.

When a prodigal son of the tribe, Rapayet, returns from time away working with the distrusted alijuana (Spanish Columbians) and wants to marry the daughter of the clan’s steely matriarch Ursula, who is against the union, this story takes its first fateful steps.

Birds of Passage is sort of like a Columbian version of The Godfather, except maybe would be better titled The Godmother due to the matriarchal power on display. Rapayet is a Michael Corleone character, bound by traditions and a conservative temperament but surrounded by those who are less controlled and more reactive than he. Ursula is like Don Corleone, a looming presence whose reputation is the real power behind the throne.

The film is also reminiscent of other famous drug lord/crime saga stories like Narcos and Scarface but what sets Birds of Passage apart is the setting of this character arc within the highly structured Wayuu shamanic tradition. As the tag line of the film eloquently and accurately states, “Generations of tradition. Consumed by greed.”

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Having spent centuries fighting off other tribes and colonialism, the Wayuu are distrustful of outsiders. This sort of nativism is a survival mechanism and as Ursula continually points out, the Wayuu ignore this tradition at their peril. The drug business is the Trojan horse that invites the outside world into the protected enclave of the Wayuu. The tight circle of trust around the Wayuus even excludes Rapayet, but once he is let in the walls become thinner and it is easier for the alijuana to follow and with them the Americans and all the trouble.

As the film points out, the drug trade is a direct result of America’s fight against communism and its evangelizing of capitalism. Without capitalism and American imperialism, the drug trade never metastasizes, and the drug war never becomes a permanent state.

Birds of Passage is a meditation on capitalism and how, for good or for ill, it is an acid that destroys everything it touches. The futility of the drug war is intentional and that becomes glaringly obvious whenever you watch any film about drug lords because what makes illicit drugs so profitable is the fact that they are illicit. Because the drugs are illegal is also why violence surrounding the sale of them is inevitable.

The film is also a contemplates shamanism, traditionalism, tribalism and the loss of cultural memory. The cost to the Wayuu for the easy money made growing and selling marijuana is for their entire culture to be dashed upon the rocks of American capitalism with their history and sense of self lost forever.

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Birds of Passage visually looks terrific and a big part of that is the setting. The region of Columbia where the Wayuu live is part desert and part lush forest so the contrasts of the washed out white of the desert and the lush green of the forests makes for a sumptuous visual feast, as do the wide open expanses. Directors Guerra and Gallego also wisely use a lot of animal symbolism and some cinematically striking dream sequences to further heighten the film’s visual style.

The acting is also solid across the board. Jose Acosta as Rapayet is particularly good going from a brash young man (hunter) to powerful tycoon (hunted) without skipping a beat. Carmina Martinez as Ursula is terrific too, embodying the power of her position with an exacting precision.

Beautifully photographed, well-acted and profoundly insightful, Birds of Passage takes a distinctly original path through the familiar territory of the drug lord narrative. The perilous journey from rags to riches and beyond on display in this film doesn’t just apply to greedy Columbian drug lords, but also to those who created them in the first place…Americans. It seems obvious that, like the Wayuu, America has sold its soul to the highest bidder and will soon enough come to the same end as the Wayuu…victims of their own success and to their own addictive greed.

©2019

5th Annual Slip-Me-A-Mickey™® Awards : 2018 Edition

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Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes 12 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 OF THE YEAR

Aquaman - A garbled and muddied mess of a film that both scales the heights of Mount Ridiculous and dives to the bottom of the Sea of Inane, this movie is the equivalent of watching a toddler play with action figures in a puddle.

Mary Queen of Scots - If a corporate human resources department had the budget to make a period piece training film that espoused the virtues of diversity, inclusion, political correctness and woke culture…that movie would be Mary, Queen of Scots. An abysmal butchering of history and cinema, this movie is proof of my maxim “Wokeness kills art”.

Mission Impossible - Just when you think Tom Cruise and the Mission Impossible franchise can’t get any worse, the Scientology Messiah kicks it into high-flying gear and barfs out yet another stupid, unrelenting and unrelentingly stupid piece of action crap. This movie is a two and a half hour cinematic lobotomy.

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AND THE LOSER IS…MARY, QUEEN OF SCOTS - Congratulations to Mary, Queen of Scots for completely fucking up what could have and should have been a very good if not great movie. As a Scotsman (and Irishman), this movie was so irritating and abysmal I would rather dive head first into the Worst Toilet in Scotland than sit through this shitshow again.

WORST PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR

Alec Baldwin - Mission Impossible: Fallout - Alec Baldwin has a death scene in this movie that made me laugh so hard I had root beer flying out of my nose. Baldwin’s acting in this scene is so horrendously awful it felt like he was just doing it to pull a prank…sadly I think the joke was on us.

Mark Ruffalo - Avengers: Infinity War - Mark Ruffalo is a terrific actor who has done outstanding work in films such as Spotlight and Foxcatcher among many others, but in Infinity War it seems as if Ruffalo has stumbled onto set after a decades long nap. Like some thespian Rumpelstiltsken, Ruffalo awakes in this movie and finds himself entirely out of time and place. Ruffalo’s listless stroll through Infinity War is one of the most bizarre performances in recent memory.

Female Featured Extra - The Death Scene in The Wife - The Wife is a truly awful movie, but the cherry on top of its awfulness is the performance from the actress playing a female hotel employee during the climactic death scene. This young actress’s over-acting and mugging for the camera is so epic as to be amazing. Hopefully this actress goes on to great things in her career and can look back and laugh at how horrendous she was in this scene.

Armie Hammer - On the Basis of Sex: The extent of Armie Hammer’s acting in this movie is to perpetually give a soft and insipid smile and to never let you forget his character only has one testicle. Another in a string of truly deplorable performances, hopefully Hammer has either hit the low point of his career or has finally realized this acting thing is not for him.

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AND THE LOSER IS…ALEC BALDWIN : Alec Baldwin has been a good actor before, and hopefully will be a good actor again, but I think playing the brain addled Donald Trump has addled his own brain. Hopefully Baldwin returns to form sooner rather than later because the Trump shtick is fun but is most definitely wearing thin, and if his work in Mission Impossible is any indication, it is having a very detrimental effect on his commitment level and deteriorating his skill.

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WORST SCENE OF THE YEAR - The Mule Court Room Scene : The Mule is not a good movie…but to its credit it made me laugh out loud…not with it, but at it. The court room scene in question is just atrocious because 1. It is totally unnecessary and shouldn’t have been in the movie in the first place. 2. The acting in it is so over-the-top and ridiculous as to be absurd and it feels like something stolen from a telenovella. 3. The writing in this scene is even worse than the acting…which it quite an accomplishment.

If you want to see film making at its nadir, watch the court room scene of The Mule because it is a master class in superfluous shittyness.


MOST OVERRATED FILM OF THE YEAR

Black Panther - Black Panther is not even a good Marvel movie, nevermind a good actual movie, yet for some strange reason that I can’t quite figure out (hmmmm…what could it be?) it was nominated for Best Picture and some fools (like me) even thought it would win. Regardless of what the politically correct gatekeepers keep telling you, Black Panther is not a good movie, the acting is not good, the directing is not good and the writing is not good. None of this is good…can we please stop pretending that it is? Wakanda For Never!

A Star is Born - I get why Lady Gaga fans went goo goo over this film, but why on earth would anyone else? Lady Gaga can sing her balls off…but acting is not her strongsuit. Another weak point in the film is the trite script and the narcissistic cinematography. There were some who were clamoring for A Star is Born to sweep the Oscars…what the fuck is wrong with people? On this story’s fourth go around, this Star was still-born.

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AND THE LOSER IS…BLACK PANTHER: Good Lord, please enough with reducing art to being little more than the diversity Olympics. If you like Black Panther…fine…but let’s not pretend it is some iconic, Best Picture level piece of cinematic history. It is a middling Marvel movie that is much closer in quality to Doctor Strange than it is to Avengers: Infinity War.


SPECIAL ACHIEVEMENT IN CINEMATIC MALPRACTICE

Josie Rourke, director, Mary Queen of Scots: Josie Rourke is a theatre director whose first feature film was Mary, Queen of Scots. I genuinely hope Ms. Rourke is better at directing theatre than she is at directing film because she is abysmal at the latter. Ms. Rourke’s painfully bad decisions when it came to casting and her even worse decision to use colorblind casting, were equally awful when compared to her inability to do the most rudimentary blocking of scenes or to use the camera to tell and enhance her story. This film revealed such a pronounced level of directing malpractice as to be shameful. Ms. Rourke’s amateurish direction should cease her filmmaking career in its tracks…but because of her pronounced political correctness, I doubt we will be so lucky as to never have to see her work again.

POS HALL OF FAME

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MICHAEL JACKSON - A once in a generation talent who could sing and dance as well or better than anyone else we have ever seen, Michael Jackson is one of the great musical icons of the 20th century. Jackson was also a raging pedophile who flaunted his pedophilia by strutting around the world with young boys on his arm like a rock star with super model arm candy.

Jackson’s insatiable appetite for young boys seemingly knew no bounds and his depraved crimes were aided and abetted by those who were enthralled with his celebrity and his bank account or those cowed by his entertainment industry power.

My great shame is that Michael Jackson was not inducted into the Piece of Shit Hall of Fame sooner. Oddly enough, the reason it has taken five years for Jackson to achieve this great dishonor is that his crimes were so obvious it seemed passe to point them out. With the Leaving Neverland documentary currently airing on HBO and making headlines, now seems like an appropriate time to pay tribute to Michael Jackson, one of the all-time great pieces of shit.

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BRYAN SINGER - Just like his POS Hall of Fame fellow inductee this year, Bryan Singer has been a piece of shit for a long time. Singer’s sexual depravity and sweet tooth for teenage boys has been an open secret in Hollywood for decades. The fact that Singer basically started a pederast ring with fellow Hollywood scumbags that they used to exploit, abuse and pass around teenage boys like trading cards, officially came to light with a damning article in The Atlantic recently, but those of us with half a brain in our heads knew this was the reality regarding Bryan Singer for a long time.

Singer is not alone in Hollywood in his desire for underage and barely of age young boys...in fact he has some very high profile company. Hollywood has a very pervasive pedophilia and pederasty problem among its upper echelons. Some of the most well-known people in this business are involved in this evil. Some big names that are always on the periphery when it comes to these stories…including both Bryan Singer and Michael Jackson…are so powerful that no one dare ever even hint at their nefarious sexual proclivities. Hint: Think of the most successful and iconic film maker of the last 50 years whose films often star or feature young children.

It is for this reason that I have a funny feeling that Bryan Singer is not long for this world. Something odd will happen, an accidental overdose or a suicide or some other banal calamity that will end his horrid life and silence him forever in order to protect those higher up the totem pole that he could implicate for being partners in his degeneracy. But for now, Bryan Singer should bask in the stench of his induction into the Piece of Shit Hall of Fame…he’s earned it.


POS ALL-STARS -

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Lena Dunham - Lena Dunham is a perennial piece of shit all-star and her appearance this year is entirely predictable. Ms. Dunham made the POS All-Stars three years ago for lying about having been sexually assaulted, and two years ago for wishing she had an abortion. This year Ms. Dunham made the all-stars for lying to discredit an alleged rape victim and then making a self-serving non-apology apology for having been such a shameless hypocrite.

Ms. Dunham has been a strident and vociferous supporter of the #MeToo movement but even though she says she “believes all women”, when a women accused her friend and co-worker of rape she came to the man’s defense. This mere hypocrisy would not have been enough to get on her back on the POS All Stars though, what put her over the top was when she faced a backlash for her defense of the man she issued a rambling, performance art diatribe of an “apology” that was so self-serving as to be masturbatorial.

I pray to the almighty Thanos that he make Lena Dunham…GO. AWAY. FOREVER.

Jussie Smollet - Prior to faking his own hate crime, I had never in my entire life had heard the name Jussie Smollett. Little did I know how wonderful my world was before my Jussie Smollett bubble was so rudely shattered.

First things first…who the fuck names their kid Jussie? It’s not Jessie, it’s not Justin…it’s Jussie. Fuck you Jussie and your stupid fucking name. Secondly, how awesome is it that Jussie Smollett, of all the fucking useless individuals on the planet, is the one who so expertly exposes the identity politics crowd for the hysterical and emotionalist dipshits that they are.

And finally, not only is Jussie Smollett and awful actor, as proven with his Good Morning America performance which is sublimely absurd, but he is also an atrocious writer and director. This entire hoax was so poorly conceived and executed it felt like an Adam Sandler film or a Trump press conference.

Congrats Jussie, you made the POS All Stars, enjoy it while it lasts because I have a funny feeling this is as good as it will get for you for a long time.

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Brie Larson - Brie Larson is a terrible actress…you know how I know that? Because I’ve seen her work. Go watch Kong Skull Island or Trainwreck…she is painfully awful. Brie Larson is also a terrible human being…you know how I know that? Because I’ve had to listen to her talk. Not only is Ms. Larson a moron, she is a racist misandrist too.

Ms. Larson earns her all-star status this year for being a shameless hypocrite who demands inclusion but only judges people by their race and gender. For instance, this year Ms. Larson proclaimed, “I do not need a 40-year-old white dude to tell me what didn’t work for him about A Wrinkle in Time. It wasn’t made for him. I want to know what it meant to women of color, to biracial women, to teen women of color, to teens that are biracial.”

Great…I agree with Ms. Larson because I do not want to hear what a white braud has to say about superhero movies, or Scorsese or PT Anderson or Kubrick or Kurosawa or any other great filmmaker’s work because that work wasn’t made for them. And if Ms. Larson is so interested in diversity and inclusion, why is she playing Captain Marvel, and not a “women of color, or a biracial women”?

How about this Brie Larson…why don’t you judge people on the content of their work instead of the color of their skin or their gender? And if you cannot do that, if you cannot help yourself from labeling everyone by the identity that you deem to give them, then why don’t you just shut the fuck up and go away because you are a shameless hypocrite and an intellectual dwarf.

And thus concludes another Slip-Me-A-Mickey™® awards. If you are one of the people who “won” this year I ask you to please not to take it personally and also to try and do better next year….because remember…this years Slip-Me-A-Mickey™® award winner could be next year’s Mickey™® Award winner!!

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©2019