"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

Shoplifters: 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. I thoroughly enjoyed this intimate yet deeply profound and philosophical film, but be forewarned, this is a foreign, arthouse film, so those with more conventional cinematic tastes should stay as far away from this movie as possible.

Shoplifters, written and directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda, is the story of a poor family in Tokyo who rely on shoplifting and petty crimes in order to make ends meet. The film stars Lily Franky as Osamu - father of the family, and Sakuro Ando as Nobuyo the mother, with Kairi Jo playing their son Shota and Miyu Sasaki their daughter Yuri.

Shoplifters is a distinctly foreign film in that on its surface it may seem to the less cinematically sophisticated to be innocuously mundane and even boring, but to those patient enough to peer beneath that veneer of the ordinary, they are rewarded with the discovery of a sublime universe teeming with human drama and intrigue.

Shoplifters is an original and fascinating film that explores the meaning and purpose of truth, knowledge, family and the need for human connection. Like a Russian Matryoshka doll, Shoplifters appears to be one thing, but once you look inside another and another and another layer is revealed, and everything you’ve previously seen takes on a different meaning in hindsight.

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On the surface, Shoplifters is a rather deliberately paced story of an ordinary family as they endure the suffocating nature of working class poverty in modern day Tokyo. This social/cultural narrative is insightful enough all on its own, as it is a profound statement on the cancer that is 21st century capitalism, where everything is commodified, including our humanity. But as the story progresses and more truths are discovered and revealed, the viewer’s perspective shifts, and the foundation upon which you’ve made assumptions about this seemingly simple family sways uneasily under your feet.

As more truth is revealed, the social commentary of the film doesn’t lose its impact, but quite to the contrary, it becomes even more profound. The film’s cultural critique gains a staggering degree of power and profundity as it adds narrative dimensions in the second half of the film.

Shoplifters forces us to question all of the assumptions we have about the things we know…or more accurately…the things we think we know. As the film shows, the rock upon which our own moral, ethical and intellectual beliefs are built may very well be sand. Shoplifters shows us that we are swimming in a deep and mysterious ocean and yet, as the saying goes, “fish don’t even know he’s wet.”

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After I watched Shoplifters I kept thinking of the line from Oliver Stone’s 1991 masterpiece JFK, where one of the characters, frustrated with the challenge to his conventional thinking, shouts in retort, “but you only know who your Daddy is because your Momma told you so!” And so it is in our world of manufactured consent, incessant propaganda and unlimited marketing and manipulation where we are led around by our nose and suffer from an interminable myopia and narcissism. Like subjects in Plato’s cave watching shadows dance upon the wall, we all think we know what we know, but when we walk outside the cave we realize we know nothing…and have known nothing all along. In that way, Shoplifters, although it is the polar opposite in most ways as it contains no action and is very slow and plodding, is a philosophical cousin to The Matrix films.

Hirokazu Kore-eda, who has directed such notable films as Nobody Knows, Still Walking, Like Father, Like Son and After the Storm, has a deft and confident directorial touch with Shoplifters, as he never pushes the pace but rather lulls the audience into a false sense of security and suckers them into projecting their own bourgeois assumptions onto the story and characters.

Kore-eda’s masterful camera movement and shot composition draw the viewer into the family at the center of the story, as we share their intimate world we too become members and collaborators in their life of petty crime.

Kore-eda creates a stultifying sense of claustrophobia and a lack of personal freedom in this darker side of Tokyo, where much like in our current techno-dystopian world, privacy is a fleeting luxury. For example, Shota is forced to sleep in a small closet more akin to a coffin than a bedroom, Aki (a pseudo-Aunt) makes a living anonymously exposing her private life to strangers, and Osamu and Nobuyo can’t remember the last time they shared a moment alone together.

Kore-eda is one of the masters of Japanese film working today, and Shoplifters is a testament to his cinematic skill and storytelling prowess as it uses the intimate and unique working of this one family to tell a philosophically serious and politically insightful story of our troubled times.

The acting in Shoplifters is solid across the board. Sakuro Ando is exquisite and transcendant as the mother of the family, Nobuyo. Ando’s Nobuyo is at once pragmatic and ruthless but also gentle, kind and loving. Ando imbues Nobuyo with a deep and palpable wound (symbolized by a burn scar on her arm) that is forever a mystery but always lurking within her soulful eyes, that are keen enough to see the same wound in Yuri.

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Lily Franky as Osuma is terrific as a man who desperately tries to be a father, but whose road to hell is paved with good intentions as he is only capable of, at best, making it all up as he goes. Osuma is a fascinating and compelling character, and it is a testament to Lily’s talent that he is simultaneously both a deplorable and sympathetic character.

Mayu Matsuoka brings a sense of wounded allure and innocent danger to the role of Aki, that in lesser hands may have been lost in the wash. Aki is the one of the group most naturally equipped to survive but also the one most vulnerable to being a victim to her own weakness. Unlike Nobuyo, Aki’s wound has no scar over it. Matsuoka does a wonderful job of creating a sense of melancholy and ennui about Aki that at times feels both dangerously combustible and also self-destructive.

The child actors, Kairi Jo and Miyu Sasaki also give excellent performances that feel genuine and grounded because they don’t feel like they are acting at all and the same is true of the grandmother, expertly played by the late Kirin Kiki.

In conclusion, Shoplifters is a film that subtly morphs and changes with every second you watch it, and as I have learned since seeing it, with every minute that passes after its over too. It is, in its own way, mesmerizing and hypnotic, enticing viewers into a story that appears to be one thing but ends up being another. I loved the film, but I love foreign films in general, and Japanese films in particular. If you are not a devout devotee of the arthouse, and in this case, the Japanese arthouse, Shoplifters’ deliberate pace, cryptic dialogue and unusual narrative will be much too much to endure. But if you love Japanese cinema or have a taste for the art house, definitely go check out Shoplifters as it is a fascinating ride, one that I’m not sure I have fully completed.

©2018

JFK and the Conspiracy Conundrum

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Estimated Reading Time : 9 minutes 11 seconds

TO BELIEVE OR NOT TO BELIEVE, THAT IS THE QUESTION

This past weekend the news broke that President Trump, in accordance with a law passed in 1992 (thank you Oliver Stone!), was going to allow the National Archives to finally release the remaining files on the JFK assassination that have been kept secret for the last 54 years. In Trump's tweeted statement he did leave himself room to change his mind, but as of right now, the document release is set to happen on October 26.

As everyone knows, the mainstream media is consistently awful, but nothing gets their goat quite like the topic of the JFK assassination. After reading of Trump's announcement, I turned on cable news to get their reaction…and it was just as you would expect. There was a lot of eye-rolling and sneering at conspiracy theories and theorists, which is always funny considering the media hates conspiracy theories except when they don't…like with the Russia investigation. 

THE USUAL SUSPECTS

MSNBC was particularly abysmal, like when "reporter" John Harwood went to great lengths to let his viewers know that HE believes the Warren Report is the final and faithful word on the assassination…good to know, John, thanks for sharing. I found the vitriol and venom directed toward people who believe Oswald did not act alone to be very strange since various hosts throughout the day also kept repeating the fact that polls show over 60% of Americans believe Oswald did not act alone. Way to alienate your audience guys.

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As I switched back and forth from MSNBC to CNN (I am incapable of watching Fox at this point in my life…sorry Rupert) some recurring themes presented themselves. Namely that the Warren Report was the "official" word on the JFK assassination, and of course, that Lee Harvey Oswald killed the president by himself. These two statements were repeated early and often and never once went challenged, which I found...curious. 

The cable news coverage was most curious because everyone kept banging home the talking point about the Warren Report and the "official determination" that Oswald acted alone. If a viewer did not know any better they would come away from watching cable news coverage of this story thinking that the final "official government determination" in the assassination of JFK was that Oswald acted alone. Technically, this is factually incorrect. 

John Harwood and the rest of the empty heads on MSNBC and CNN are being at least disingenuous if not downright deceptive when they claim that the government determined Oswald acted alone…either that or they are historically illiterate. 

HSCA IS MIA ON MSNBC AND CNN

Here is a fact…the United States Government, in the form of the House Select Committee on Assassinations, made the determination in 1978 that President Kennedy "was probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy". The HSCA report is most certainly controversial and its conclusions and the science behind them are contentious, but equally if not more contentious is the science behind the conclusions of the Warren Report. 

In addition, the HSCA report determined that the FBI and CIA weren't just deficient in their duties in regards to the assassination, but were also deficient to the point of malevolence in regard to their interactions with the Warren Commission. Unlike the scientific conclusions of the HSCA report, the conclusion regarding Intelligence agency subterfuge is not in contention. In other words, the CIA and FBI lied, withheld crucial information and undermined the Warren Commission investigation at every turn, which is as good a reason as any to deem the Warren Report to be at a minimum insufficient, and at a maximum, manufactured propaganda. 

Regardless of your thoughts on the Warren Report and the HSCA, what I found so curious about the cable news coverage of the new JFK story was that the HSCA was never mentioned at all. Not once. This seemed to me to be more than a mere oversight, it seemed to be an intentional obfuscation of the facts and of history. 

DEMOCRACY DIES IN DARKNESS…SO LET'S KEEP THE LIGHTS OFF

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Upon reading the Washington Post and New York Times on the subject of the JFK document dump I found two other things to be very curious. Both newspapers basically wrote the same exact story, even including similar quotes from authors Philip Shenon and Larry Sabato, Jr. and a link to a Politico article they had co-written on the subject published last Friday. Shenon and Sabato's article declared that releasing the documents would be a "fiasco" and would only “help fuel a new generation of conspiracy theories,”. I found it particularly ironic that Shenon and Sabato's obvious disdain for transparency was printed under the Washington Post's new moniker,  "Democracy Dies in Darkness", which loomed like an Orwellian doublespeak blimp over the article that quotes these men so extensively. 

Both the Times and Post also included in their reports near identical quotes from Shenon about what these secret JFK files may reveal. 

The New York Times wrote -

They (Shenon and Sabato) wrote that the documents relate to what they call a “mysterious chapter in the history of the assassination — a six-day trip that J.F.K. assassin Lee Harvey Oswald paid to Mexico City several weeks before the president’s murder, in which Oswald met with Cuban and Soviet spies and came under intensive surveillance by the C.I.A.’s Mexico City station. Previously released F.B.I. documents suggest that Oswald spoke openly in Mexico about his intention to kill Kennedy.”

The Washington Post wrote -

“I’ve always considered the Mexico City trip the hidden chapter of the assassination. A lot of histories gloss right past this period,” said Philip Shenon, a former New York Times reporter and the author of a book on the Warren Commission, the congressional body that investigated Kennedy’s killing. “Oswald was meeting with Soviet spies and Cuban spies, and the CIA and FBI had him under aggressive surveillance. Didn’t the FBI and CIA have plenty of evidence that he was a threat before the assassination? If they had acted on that evidence, maybe it wouldn’t have taken place. These agencies could be afraid that if the documents all get released, their incompetence and bungling could be exposed. They knew about the danger of Oswald, but didn’t alert Washington.”

I found those quotes, and the fact that the Washington Post and New York Times highlighted them in their articles to be…curious….just like the cable news coverage. Why did I find them so curious? 

TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

The Post and the Times have for decades been used as mouth pieces for the intelligence community. They aren't so much news organizations as they are useful organizations for those in power to control narrative. In other words they are propaganda tools. You think I am paranoid? Well, just go look at the coverage during the lead up to the Iraq War, or the Bush torture…oops, I mean "enhanced interrogation" and surveillance programs. Or better yet, go read up on Operation Mockingbird. Mockingbird was a CIA operation that operated internationally and domestically (which is illegal in and of itself as the CIA is prohibited from operating on U.S. soil) which planted reporters, writers and editors in all of the major news organizations in America and the across the Globe from the 1950's to at least the 1970's. 

Think there isn't some form of an Operation Mockingbird operating in the media right now? Recent history reveals to us the Bush administration program involving the Pentagon/Military contractors and their use of paid analysts on cable news in order to "control narrative".

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And then there is the story of former Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune reporter and current NBC News National Security reporter Ken Dilanian, who got exposed for literally sending his articles to the CIA so that they could sign off on them before he submitted them. Dilanian is still paraded out on NBC as a serious journalist even after his CIA lapdog status was revealed. If you think these are isolated incidents, you are either willfully blind of hopelessly naive, these types of stories are just the tip of the iceberg. 

This is why when I read the almost identical stories in the Post and Times regarding the JFK document release and heard the uniform embrace of historical illiteracy and sneering at "conspiracy theories" on cable news, my bullshit detector went off.  

NEXT STOP - SPECULATION STATION

This is just speculation but considering the context of the pre-release media coverage, this is what I think the "narrative" will be once the release of the new JFK assassination documents occurs.

First off, there is always a chance that there is nothing of interest in these documents, meaning that there are no bombshells or any information that reflects poorly on the intelligence services. I sincerely doubt there is a paper trail to the grassy knoll so to speak, and if one does exist, the intelligence agencies are not in the business of incriminating themselves so they would have removed or destroyed those documents a long time ago. 

That said, if there is new information that is damning to America's national security apparatus  or other powerful figures, then I think that there are three tactics the establishment press will use to manage the story. Here they are in order of seriousness and likelihood, from least to most.

1. The new documents and any damning or alarming information contained within them will simply be ignored by the mainstream media. Establishment news outlets will say that there is nothing of relevance in the documents and will let the story drift off to the nether reaches of the internet that they condescendingly call the "fever swamps". "Serious people" will understand that to engage in talking about the documents or any damning information they may bring to light is a one-way ticket out of the Kingdom of Serious People. 

This approach is pretty standard, in fact, we have an example of it just recently with the release of information that shows that the United States played a pivotal role in the genocide in Indonesia 53 years ago. 

The New York Times covered the newly released documents but deep into the paper and with a very innocuous and misleading headline, "U.S. Stood by as Indonesia Killed a Half-Million People, Papers Show". In the heart of the article this sentenced appears,  "In 2015, Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico reintroduced a resolution in the Senate calling for Indonesia to face up to its traumatic history. He also held the United States to account for its “military and financial support” there, which included providing lists of possible leftist sympathizers to the Indonesian government and, as one cable released Tuesday showed, pushing to bury foreign news coverage of the killings." Providing kill lists and managing a news blackout are not "standing by", that is considered active participation by most folks, just not by the people at the New York Times.

The U.S.- backed Indonesian genocide story has been successfully swept under the rug for over a half century and counting, you still won't hear it spoken of on cable news, that is for damn sure. But killing a half-million Indonesians 53 years ago does not equal the killing of one president 54 years ago in the eyes of the American people, so this head in the sand strategy might be ineffective in regards to the JFK file release. As stated earlier, over 60% of Americans believe there was a conspiracy to kill President Kennedy, so the whistling past the graveyard, nothing to see here approach seems to have already failed and trying it one more time might be a useless endeavor.

2. Anyone who claims to find something important that challenges the "establishment narrative" of Oswald being the lone shooter or who contends there is a connection between Oswald and the CIA, will be mercilessly ridiculed. Any unflattering information that hints at conspiracy will be intentionally ignored and any people who claim a conspiracy will be crucified, demeaned and belittled as tinfoil hat wearing loons.

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"Conspiracy theorist" will be thrown around as a slur and the new damning revelations in the documents will be twisted beyond recognition until they are no longer deemed a threat to the establishment narrative. In this case the game plan will be to obfuscate, obfuscate, obfuscate. 

 

Again, this tactic has been used over and over again but as poll numbers indicate, Americans are seemingly becoming less and less enchanted with this approach. That said, the "fake news" taking point has certainly thrown the media-truth paradigm into chaos, so who knows if this tactic would be as successful this time around as it was years ago. 

3. If the documents reveal any truly damning information that could be seen as an indictment of the intelligence/national security community, such as a clear connection between Oswald and the CIA, like proof that he was on their payroll, then the national security establishment and their toadies in the media will quickly pivot and make the rather lame case that Oswald "went rogue" or they will bring out the big guns and blame Russia and Castro/Cuba for the assassination. Both are possible, but considering recent context, I think the latter is much more likely.

This would be the most interesting turn of events and frankly the most alarming. The Washington Post and New York Times quotes I mentioned above (and the Chris Matthews monologue I cite below), hint at this game plan and plant the seeds for it to come to fruition.

THE RUSSIANS ARE COMING!

The intelligence community and their puppets in the establishment media will use any damning new information, if it exists, and contort it to their advantage. This sort of narrative jiu jitsu is the type of propaganda at which the national security state excels. As previously mentioned, over 60% of Americans believe in a conspiracy, so instead of fighting that fact the propagandists will finally embrace it. Admitting a conspiracy in the assassination, but only one that involves Russia/Cuba, is a devious masterstroke for the intelligence community trying to avoid exposure for their misdeeds. It will also psychologically buttress the argument for Russian manipulation of the 2016 election by making clear that conspiracies can occur and that Russians are the ones behind them.

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So, if Oswald is shown to have been connected to the CIA, the agency will simply claim that "yes, he was an intelligence asset and we sent him into Russia as a phony defector, but while in Russia he was "turned" by the KGB and unbeknownst to us, he returned to the U.S. playing both sides of the fence". The CIA will claim that the Soviets used their KGB double agent Oswald to assassinate President Kennedy. 

A story has circulated for years that during Oswald's alleged trip to Mexico City a few weeks before the assassination, that he met with the head of the KGB assassinations operations in the western hemisphere Valeriy Kostikov. He also allegedly went to the Cuban embassy and supposedly spoke openly about killing Kennedy. Famed "former" CIA agent Robert Baer extensively propagated these stories on his short lived 2017 History Channel program JFK Declassified: Tracking Oswald

Considering the current pandemic of Russophobia among the mainstream media and the U.S. populace, I have no doubt that the national security community and the press will run with any cock and bull story blaming the Soviets/Russians for JFK's death. The framing of the narrative will be that "Russia killed our President in 1963, and killed our Democracy in 2016!"

STRAIGHT SHOOTERS AND SAINTS

The stage for this nefarious duplicity has been set over the last year as the media have lavished the highest and most sanctimonious praise on the Intelligence community over the rather dubious Russian election interference story.

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For instance, MSNBC dolt Joy Reid recently described former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former Director of the CIA John Brennan as "the straightest of straight shooters"  when they came out and said Russia "hacked" our election. Ms. Reid must have a very different definition of "straight shooter" than I do, because James Clapper committed perjury when he lied to congress about NSA surveillance, and John Brennan oversaw the CIA as it spied on congress, which is not only a crime but an egregious act of treason. 

Ms. Reid's comrades over at MSNBC, like known liar Brian Williams, echo the same sentiment as they speak in the most hushed and reverent tones about "the brave men and women of our intelligence services". Yeah, the brave men and women who are responsible for the recent coups and the murders of innocents in Ukraine, Egypt, Turkey, Syria and Yemen just to name a few.

This current deification of intelligence agencies will continue in the aftermath of the JFK document release because the intel agencies and their puppets in the media, will make this claim...that the only reason that the CIA undermined and lied to the Warren commission and the HSCA about their connection to Oswald is because they knew the Russians/Castro killed Kennedy, but they did not want to start World War III.

In other words, they will claim that they lied to us for our own good, to protect us. The narrative will be that this is the type of sacrifice that good, noble people, like those in the intelligence community, routinely make in order to save the world from armageddon. Not only will they beat the rap for the Kennedy killing by blaming the Russians/Castro, but they will explain away the cover-up following the crime and will be made out to be heroes. Pure genius.

THE JOYS OF SCAPEGOATING AND LIVING IN DENIAL

It will all be nonsense, as Russia and Castro were not involved in the assassination at all, and in fact not only gained nothing from it but lost a president who was fast becoming a partner for peace. As it often is when dealing with the government and intelligence agencies, the real casualty in all of this, besides JFK and our democracy, will be the Truth.

Sadly, the American people, with a big assist from our repugnant media, will buy this story, hook, line and sinker because it tells us what we want to hear, namely that a conspiracy took place, which supports the view of a majority of Americans, AND that it was outside forces, those dastardly Russians/Cubans who did this horrible act to us, and not us. Thus we never have to do any introspective self-examination at all which is a psychological win-win for Americans.

As a result of our reflexive scapegoating of the "other" (Russia/Cuba) and our shirking of self-refelction upon, and responsibility for, our own actions, we will get another cold war, bordering on a hot one with Russia. This will please the Military Industrial Complex no end...and we may even finally get our revenge on Cuba for daring to free itself from our imperial clutches, in the form of a coup or maybe even worse. No doubt we will eventually be treated to staged and choreographed scenes of Castro's statue being torn down by "freedom loving" Cubans. 

THE CONSPIRACY CONUNDRUM - THANK YOU FOR PROVING MY THESIS, MR. MATTHEWS

On Monday, after I had written the majority of this piece. I had to step away for a bit to see a client and then after the client left I turned on the television for just two minutes and I caught Chris Matthews' final segment of his show which was titled "Let Me Finish". In the segment Matthews talked about the pending JFK document release and I fully expected his usual spittle flecked, vacuous ranting against JFK conspiracies. Matthews said he was hoping that the soon to be released JFK files had information in them about Oswald and whether he acted alone or "had help". He also wanted to know what went on during Oswald's trip to Mexico City to meet with Russians ands Cubans and whether the CIA and FBI dropped the ball in watching him. Matthews' monologue was littered with half-truths, innuendos, outright factual inaccuracies and lies. 

Matthews concluded the segment and the show by saying he wants to definitively know if Oswald worked alone "OR IF HE HAD HELP FROM THE HAVANA OR MOSCOW". Upon hearing that statement, any trepidation I may have had about writing this piece quickly evaporated as Chris Matthews had proved my point for me.

Matthews made it clear that there are only two options regarding the Kennedy assassination…a lone nut or a Russian/Cuban conspiracy. This is the only thing Mathews and his ilk are now able to conceive, that Oswald either did this on his own or he was aided and abetted by the Soviets and Cubans, who Matthews hints in his monologue may have been accessories after the fact. Matthews inability to even contemplate that the CIA , FBI and National Security apparatus could be guilty of anything but "dropping the ball" regarding the assassination says all you need to know about him and his intellectual impotence. The thought of the CIA, FBI, the Pentagon or some rogue element of any or all of those groups being nefarious actors in the JFK assassination is entirely inconceivable to Matthews.

What is very intriguing about Matthews' hedging towards a Russian/Cuban conspiracy is that in 2013 he was adamantly opposed to ANY conspiracy related to the assassination. In an interview with Vincent Bugliosi, who had just published a mammoth book on the JFK assassination titled, "Reclaiming History", which went to great lengths to dispel any conspiracy in the murder of JFK, Matthews said he "agreed 100%" with Bugliosi's claim that Oswald acted entirely alone and that is was impossible for a conspiracy to have taken place. 

The Matthews - Bugliosi love-fest just four years ago made it abundantly clear that Chris Matthews would absolutely not even contemplate any inkling of a conspiracy. Now, in 2017, on the eve of the release of previously secret documents regarding the assassination, he changes his opinion and seems to be suffering from a conspiracy conundrum. 

 Matthews' conspiracy conundrum is very curious behavior indeed, and it is made even more curious by the fact that he fails to acknowledge his previously vociferous anti-conspriacy stance. I wonder what changed in the last four years regarding the case that Matthews is now not poo-pooing all conspiracies, but rather hinting that it was a Russian/Cuban conspiracy? 

NORMAN ROCKWELL SYNDROME AND WHO STOLE THE CHICKEN?

There is a scene in Schindler's List where the Nazi Amon Goth, masterfully played by Ralph Fiennes, lines up a group of Jewish prisoners and demands to know which one of them stole a chicken. When no one answers, the he shoot a man with his rifle and then a guard shoots the man again in the head. As the man lay dead in front of his fellow prisoners, his dark blood pooling everywhere, a young boy, shaking with fright, steps forward weeping. Goth asks the boy if he took the chicken, the boy shakes his head no. Goth surmises the boy knows who took the chicken and asks him who it was. The boy sobs that he does know who did it…and then emphatically points to the dead man laying on the ground and shouts…"HIM!"

It is a great scene and if something untoward pops up in regards to the release of JFK files, the establishment will be the scared little boy, and the Soviet Union and Fidel Castro will be the dead man laying on the ground taking all the blame. The Soviet Union and Castro are no more, and therefore are unable to defend themselves, which means they are the perfect foil and diversionary target for the intelligence community to lay the blame. 

Maybe I am wrong. Maybe the CIA and the national security establishment will acknowledge the role it played in the assassination and America will have a glorious come to Jesus moment and realize what actually happened 54 years ago and how it still affects us today. The gaping wound at the heart of America is the Kennedy assassination and the rot in our national soul springs from that event and the lies that surround it. Maybe if we just got a little bit of the Truth, we could start to heal that wound and maybe try to save ourselves. If not, if the lies continue, then rest assured that the wound to our national soul is surely as fatal as President Kennedy's head wound. It is only a matter of time before we bleed out and fade into eternal darkness.

It is anathema to Chris Matthews and the rest of his media cohorts to ever consider anything but the most benevolent intentions emanating from the establishment to which they are so beholden. These media establishmentarians like Matthews or even famed documentarian Ken Burns, whose recent Vietnam documentary opens with the delusional lines, "the war was begun in good faith by decent people out of fateful misunderstandings, American overconfidence and Cold War misunderstandings", suffer from what I call Norman Rockwell Syndrome. For those with Norman Rockwell Syndrome, America is always and every time the good guys who only act out of benevolence and and never act out of malice.

It is human nature to want to embrace denial and avoid introspective self-reflection and clearly seeing the worst part of oneself (or one's country) at all costs and to project those shadow feelings onto the "other". When Matthews and his fellow Norman Rockwell Syndrome sufferers in the media shun self-reflection and go blind to national misdeeds and atrocities, like the JFK assassination or Vietnam, they are just displaying the usual symptoms of the syndrome, which are identical to the symptoms associated with the terminal disease of empire.

The disease of empire is corrosive on the spirit and soul of our nation and is a pestilence upon our democracy. On November 22, 1963 everything changed. It wasn't just the President of the United States, the myth of Camelot and the dream of America that died that day in Dallas, it was the Truth. 

Watch the two Chris Matthews' segments and you will get a taste of what is to come from the rest of the media in the awake of the release of the JFK files. Any thinking person with eyes to see and the courage to look will quickly recognize that, once again, the fix is in and we are never going to learn who stole that damn chicken because Truth doesn't stand a chance when lies rule the roost. 

©2017

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

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Estimated Reading Time : 6 minutes 38 seconds

KOOKS OF THE TINFOIL HAT BRIGADE

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

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

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

"SERIOUS PEOPLE" VS. CONSPIRACY THEORY AND MAGICAL THINKING

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

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

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

THE SCIENCE IS SETTLED

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

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

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

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

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

CONSPIRACIES DON'T EXISTEXCEPT WHEN THEY DO

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

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

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

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

RACHEL MADDOW LOVES SCOOBY-DOO

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

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

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Maddow may end up being totally right about Russia, and everything she is reporting true, but there has not been any solid, tangible evidence put forward to date to corroborate the claims of Russian interference she embraces. None. There was an Intelligence Report, that I wholeheartedly encourage people to go read (that Ms. Maddow tells her viewers to only read from select sections and not get bogged down in the details) that makes assertions that the Russian government tried to influence the 2016 election, but even that official report is completely devoid of evidence. That doesn't mean the story isn't true, it just means there is no evidence the story is true.

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

EMOTION AS A WEAPON

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

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

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

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

THE LADY DOTH PROTEST TOO MUCH, METHINKS

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

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

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

CONCLUSION

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

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

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

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

©2017

 

Snowden : A Review and Commentary

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

ESTIMATED READING TIME : 12 MINUTES AND 39 SECONDS

MY RATING : 3 out of 5 Stars

MY RECOMMENDATION : If you saw and liked Citizenfour, see Snowden in the theatre. If you don't like Edward Snowden, or are indifferent, see it on Netflix or Cable.

Snowden, written and directed by three-time Oscar winner Oliver Stone, is the story of famed NSA whistelblower Edward Snowden. The screenplay is based upon the books The Snowden Files by Luke Harding and Time of the Octopus by Anatoly Kucherena. The films stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Edward Snowden, with Shailene Woodley, Zachary Quinto, Melissa Leo, Rhys Ifans and Nic Cage in supporting roles.

Director Oliver Stone, like Edward Snowden, is a controversial figure who is despised and ridiculed by those in the establishment, which is a pretty good reason to like the guy. Stone has spent his career sticking his finger in the eye of those in power and their sycophants in the media. Stone and his films have been an important cultural counter weight to the prevailing winds of his time. During the height of conservative rule and thought in America during the 80's, when the nation was all too happy to forget its sullied not too distant past and corrupt present, Stone reminded America of its unresolved hubris with his Vietnam films (Platoon and Born on the Fourth of July) and his indictment of then U.S. foreign policy in Latin America with Salvador and the economic ruse of the times in Wall Street.

In the early 90's, while the nation was still basking in the warm glow of sunlight from Reagan's "morning in America", Stone pulled back the veil and tore off the scab to reveal the rot at America's core underneath the flag waving veneer with his films JFK, Nixon and Natural Born Killers.  Stone's insistence that America look at and acknowledge its true self was never warmly welcomed by those who need to deceive in order to succeed, thus the Washington and media establishment have always loathed him. All the more reason to admire the man and his work, which certainly struck a raw nerve for those in power.

Edward Snowden is also quite a controversial figure to say the least. As the marketing of the film tells us, some people call him a traitor, like those in the establishment and media, others call him a hero. The film Snowden itself is probably a Rorsharch test for viewers, with those who think Edward Snowden a hero liking it and those thinking he is a traitor hating it. The reality is that if you already think Snowden is a traitor, you probably aren't going to go see this film anyway. The people who believe Snowden is a hero are the most likely ones who will go and see this film.

With that context in mind, director Oliver Stone surprisingly pulls a lot of his punches in the film. In Snowden, Stone "bottles the acid", to quote Judge Haggerty from JFK,  and never goes in for the kill shot on the intelligence community, which is very out of character for the rebellious director. Considering Oliver Stone's past work, I found his indictment against the intelligence community in Snowden to be rather tame. That said, Stone certainly shows Edward Snowden in as positive a light as he can, and there is never any doubt as to Snowden's moral and ethical superiority throughout the story, but the scope, scale and magnitude of the evil being perpetrated by our intelligence community, and the impetus for Snowden to act, is under played and never fully fleshed out to satisfaction.

All that said, Snowden, while not a great film, it certainly is a good one. It is without question the best Oliver Stone film of the last twenty years or so since Nixon in 1995. The only other film of note from Stone during the second half of his career is 2008's W., which like Snowden, is also a Rorsharch test for viewers and is a good but not great movie. Both Snowden and W. pale in comparison to Oliver Stone's genius work during the first half of his career, when he made a bevy of tremendous films such as, Platoon, Salvador, Born on the Fourth of July, Wall Street, JFK, Nixon, The Doors and Natural Born Killers. When I speak of the futility in the second half of Stone's filmmaking career I am not counting his documentaries which can be quite good. His Showtime series Oliver Stone's Untold History of the United States is extremely well done and should be mandatory viewing for any citizen.

As for Snowden, as much as I enjoyed the film, the greatest issue I had with it was that it failed to use Stone's signature visual and editing style (think JFK) to tell the complex and mammoth tale of the various surveillance programs that Ed Snowden uncovered and revealed. This is the crux of the story as it shows why Snowden risked so much in order to inform the public as to what was being done to them and in their name to others. Stone does try to personalize the snooping that the programs do, but while that sequence is effective it isn't quite enough. Stone also under-uses actual news footage and cutting between it and the dramatic narrative of Snowden. Stone used that technique to great effect in JFK but fails to utilize it enough in Snowden, much to the detriment of the film. Stone's masterful work on JFK showed how to take an enormous and complex subject and whittle it down so that people could understand and digest it, he needed more of that approach in Snowden, not less. Oddly enough, Snowden almost feels like it was directed by someone other than Oliver Stone, as the film lacks his visual and storytelling trademarks.

As for the acting, Joseph Gordon-Levitt's performance is simply miraculous. Levitt's work is meticulous, detailed and vibrant. Levitt perfectly captures Snowden's unique vocal tendencies and looks strikingly like the man, so much so that in some shots I was wondering if that actually was Edward Snowden and not the actor. Snowden is not an easy character to take on, he is an enigmatic man, probably somewhere on the autism spectrum, who is both self conscious and self confident, sometimes all in the same moment. Levitt creates a genuine, complex human being with all of his intracacies and inhabits him fully, never letting the character slip into caricature or imitation. Levitt's Snowden is multi-dimensional and is a truly remarkable piece of acting work, proving Levitt to be among the best actors of his generation. In comparing Levitt's performance as Snowden to other actors in previous Oliver Stone films, the thing that is strikingly obvious is that other actors in Oliver Stone films were actors in "Oliver Stone films". For instance, Born on the Fourth of July is an "Oliver Stone film", not a "Tom Cruise film", the same can be said for Charlie Sheen in Platoon or Kevin Costner in JFK or Anthony Hopkins in Nixon, these actors all did solid work but were overshadowed by the talent and vision of their director Oliver Stone, hence they were in "Oliver Stone films" and not in "Sheen/Costner/Hopkins films". The very high compliment I can pay Joseph Gordon-Levitt is that Snowden is, without question, a "Joseph Gordon Levitt film", and not an "Oliver Stone film". Levitt outshines his director, which is a tribute to him as an actor, and a recognition of some creative slippage on the part of Stone the director.

The supporting cast is hit and miss. Shailene Woodley does a solid job in the terribly underwritten role of Snowden's girlfriend Lindsay Mills. Woodley is a strong actress, approachable and artistically honest, who has an undeniable charisma that lights up the screen. On the other hand there is Nic Cage, who is simply a dreadful actor of epic proportions, and frankly, contrary to popular opinion, always has been. Cage is in some very crucial scenes but is so distractingly bad that those scenes and the highly critical information they convey, get scuttled, much to the detriment of the film. It feels like Cage is in one of those god-awful National Treasure films and not a serious Oliver Stone film.

Zachary Quinto, Melissa Leo and Tom Wilkinson all do solid work as the documentarians and reporters Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras and Ewen MacAskill. The scenes with Snowden and the reporters in the Hong Kong hotel room are surprisingly compelling since they are scenes we have already seen in the documentary Citizenfourthat is a credit to the actors.

Snowden reminds me of two films, one, Citizenfour is pretty obvious. Snowden is a very nice companion piece to Laura Poitras' Academy Award winning documentary Citizenfouras it dramatizes and expands on what was revealed in that excellent film.

The second film I was reminded of is much less obvious, at least on the surface. That film is American Sniper. Here is the round-a-bout way in which Snowden reminded me of American Sniper. As I walked out of the theatre post-Snowden, I was wondering if Oliver Stone has simply lost his fastball as a filmmaker and was not able to land his punches quite as crispy and effectively as he was twenty five years ago in films like JFK, Platoon, Wall Street etc. Then I wondered if maybe Stone had just grown weary of the cultural battle to which he has dedicated his life, which seems never ending and futile at best. I thought this because of Stone's surprisingly conventional storytelling in Snowden, punctuated by an upbeat ending that, in my opinion, defies the reality we find ourselves in, in regard to surveillance and what the intelligence community is up to. And then I wondered if…and this gives a big benefit of the doubt to Oliver Stone, who, frankly, with the stellar filmography of his earlier years has earned that benefit, Stone had made a truly subversive film with Snowden, but it was hidden beneath the surface of the rather tepid bio-pic it was buried under. It could be that Snowden is Oliver Stone's answer to American Sniper, right down to mimicking its flaws?

Here is my theory…that Oliver Stone intentionally made Snowden to undermine the propaganda of American Sniper and reduce its power on the American collective unconscious.  Snowden the film and the man, are counter-myths to Chris Kyle and American Sniper. Like American Sniper, Snowden is structured as a standard bio-pic, almost hitting the same exact beats and with the same exact rhythm as American Sniper. Also like American Sniper, Snowden ties the dramatic film to the actual, real-life man in it's final scenes, blurring the lines between what is dramatized and what is real. That said, one real life difference between the films is that unlike with the Kyle family and American Sniper, Edward Snowden had no say or final approval of the final script, and received no money for Snowden.

I don't think those structural and narrative similarities between American Sniper and Snowden are accidental. If Oliver Stone is anything, he is a true-blue subversive and it is a stroke of genius to make Snowden a parallel to American Sniper. Oliver Stone has spoken of his masterpiece JFK as being a counter-myth to the prevailing myth of the Warren report. The only difference between the Warren report and JFK is that JFK readily admits it is a myth, while the Warren report holds onto the illusion and delusion that it is factual. And so it is similar with Snowden and American Sniper, as Stone sets out to counter Clint Eastwood in his bootlicking, ass kissing, myth making, propaganda with a counter-myth meant to celebrate the thoughtful, rebellious, principled subversive in the form of Edward Snowden.

Why do I think Oliver Stone is intentionally taking shots at American Sniper in Snowden? I think that because Stone has cast the remarkably wooden actor Scott Eastwood, American Sniper director Clint Eastwood's look alike son, as Trevor James, an NSA middle management type who never questions, or thinks, about what he is tasked to do, or much of anything really. It was seeing Scott Eastwood in the film that made me connect American Sniper and Snowden, and I think that that was not an accident. Stone could have cast a million other actors in that role, but he didn't, he cast Clint Eastwood's kid. Scott Eastwood being cast is not because of his superior talent (God knows) and it isn't a business decision, it is a creative and symbolic decision, and it is deliciously stealthy bit of cinematic intrigue.

Stone subtly and surreptitiously shows that Trevor James is, just like his father's American Sniper muse Chris Kyle, an unquestioning and unthinking fool who fights for tyrants and tyranny, as opposed to Snowden, who selflessly risks his life for the truth, and nothing else. That is what stands out the most to me in Snowden as a contrast to American Sniper, namely that Edward Snowden is smart and insightful enough to recognize the true enemy of America is within in the form of Bush, Obama, Clinton, Petreaus, Hayden, Clapper, the intelligence/political and media establishment et al. Stone is showing that Chris Kyle, like Trevor James, is a dupe, a sucker and a fool, who gives his life as a pawn for the powerful to exploit the weak, the stupid and the gullible. If Chris Kyle were a real man and the true American hero he has been sold to us as, he would not have gone to Iraq to keep us safe from phantom enemies a world away, he would have used his substantial sniping skill on the only actual threat to America that exists, namely the same tyrants who were sending him to war for their own benefit. Of course, Oliver Stone would be excoriated if he came out and said what I just wrote, and it is hard enough to sell movie tickets to a film about Edward Snowden, the man our country and culture has labelled a traitor, already, considering we live in a nation of propagandized flag waving dupes, dopes and dipshits who don't have a single clue between them and are as happy as pigs in shit about it. So Stone made a subtle and ingenious dig at Clint Eastwood, Chris Kyle and American Sniper, that only those cinematically savvy enough would be able to catch and I, for one, give him great credit for that.

One other thing to keep in mind in regards to Snowden and some parallels with American Sniper, namely that both of them may very well be pieces from the same propaganda puzzle brought to us by our power and control hungry friends who operate in the shadows (and are unaware of their own shadow - psychologically speaking!!). There is a part of me, and there is substantial evidence to back this up, that believes that The Legend Chris Kyle was created as a propaganda tool out of whole cloth. His story and his rise into public consciousness is very suspect to say the least, as we've seen from the revelations about his less than truthful depiction of his life and military career. The other thing to keep in mind though is that Snowden, as much as I admire what he did, he may very well be just another piece of counter intelligence propaganda meant to spread disinformation and to manipulate the masses. The reason I say that is because while Snowden revealed a great deal of government illegality, yet no one has ever been held to account for these crimes, which is quite convenient. One result of Snowden's revelations are that the public has become numbed into a shoulder shrugging apathy in regards to government surveillance. So with Snowden's revelations, the intelligence community gets to have the cover of being forced to  "come clean", meanwhile they can continue surveillance without anyone noticing or more importantly, caring.

In keeping with the intelligence communities playbook, right after Snowden's revelations the media went into hyper-drive to destroy Snowden personally. The usual suspects at the Washington Post and New York Times and all the television outlets painted him as a self serving, smug, fame hungry man trying to harm his nation for his own advantage. Even ferret faced "comedian" John Oliver got into the act. So now, any other whistleblowers will be reticent to come forward, and any other revelations of government criminality will be ignored. The cavalcade of information that Snowden revealed has been masterfully manipulated into having the effect of creating apathy in the general public and giving immunity to the intelligence community from any crimes committed.  Snowden may not have been a part of the bigger propaganda and counter intel project, but he was certainly useful to it.

Add to that that Snowden seemingly came out of nowhere…his life story reeks of someone who was snatched up by the intel community and groomed to be an asset. He never finished high school? Failed out of the Army Rangers? These are odd things for someone so obviously intelligent and highly functioning. To tie things back to Oliver Stone, Snowden may be a modern day Oswald, nothing more than a patsy. (Oswald too was a high school drop out and was seemingly much more intelligent than he seems at first glance, for example he allegedly taught himself to be fluent in Russian.)

The reality is that if I am to be suspect of Chris Kyle's story I need to be equally suspect of Edward Snowden's story, as both of them are littered with red flags, some waving higher than others. A giant red flag for both of them is that their stories were made into major motion pictures. Hollywood is a very useful tool to the intel community to shape culture and perception. The idea that Snowden is an intelligence asset meant to obfuscate the truth rather than reveal it may be a stretch to some people, but we must understand that nothing can be taken at face value. If you want to be a well informed human being, you have to be skeptical of everything you come across. Manipulation of the masses by the powers that be is as old as civilization itself, and one must always be vigilant against one's owns prejudices.  

The intel community could use Snowden's revelations to divert attention and distract us from what they are really up to, which is probably a hell of a lot more heinous than we can ever imagine. Maybe that is why Oliver Stone made such an un-Stone-like film. Maybe Stone had an inkling that not all was as it seemed in the Snowden story, and so he used the film as an opportunity to subtly undermine the military-industrial-propoganda complex by taking shots at American Sniper while telling a tepid version of the Snowden tale. Maybe…just maybe…Oliver Stone's Snowden is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. Or maybe my tinfoil hat is on too tight…who knows?

One final odd contradiction coming from people like Chris Kyle and his flag waving and ass kissing supporters, is that they are usually either Republicans or conservatives, and often times both. They dislike and rail against government, determined to reduce it to a size where they can drown it in a bathtub, but they fail to realize that the military, the intelligence services and law enforcement are all part of the government. In fact, military/intelligence/law enforcement are often times the most expensive form of government and the most dangerous to the things that I, and alleged conservatives, say we hold dear, namely, the constitution and our individual, GOD-given liberties. As Republicans and conservatives like to tell us, and as I certainly believe, government didn't give us our liberties, God did. So why are conservatives in general, and Republicans in particular, so infatuated with government power, violence and secrecy? It is odd. And don't get me wrong, the Democrats are usually just as awful as Republicans on these issues…look at the superstars who have been my Senators and representatives over the years, Jane Harman, Dianne Feinstein, Barbara Boxer, Chuck Schumer, Hillary Clinton…they are like a murderer's row for the military/Intelligence industrial complex and against civil liberties.

Which brings us to another point made in Snowden, albeit only in passing. Namely that all of these surveillance programs run by the intelligence community aren't meant to stop terrorists at all, they are meant for corporate and government espionage, and to scuttle civil unrest and protest. In the film, Nic Cage's character Hank Forrester describes to Snowden how he had developed a much better, much more accurate and much cheaper surveillance program than the one the CIA and NSA currently use, but they chose not to use it because they wanted to fill the coffers of the military industrial complex by using a bigger, less effective and more expensive by billions program. This sounds exactly like our trusted government in action. Even applying the most basic, Luddite logic, one would understand that the more information you sweep up, the less usable information you will actually be able to focus on. When you expand the haystack, needles don't get easier to find, they get harder.

This is proven by the fact that the NSA and CIA have never used these surveillance programs to stop a terror attack. They have CLAIMED to have stopped terror attacks using these surveillance programs, but there is absolutely no proof whatsoever that is true. Like the overwhelming majority of police work, these surveillance programs, at best, give the intelligence services something to do AFTER an attack, but never before. So what are these programs really about? These surveillance programs aren't about security, they are all about power.

If the U.S. government were so interested in stopping terrorists, then why do they bend over backwards to protect the home and heart of terrorists, Saudi Arabia. Bush's bestest hand holding buddy Saudi Prince Bandar, has been proven to be an accomplice and paymaster to the 9-11 hijackers, as was his wife. And yet, Bush and his successor Obama have moved heaven and earth to protect the Saudi's at all costs and to protect that information from coming to light…why? The Saudi's have been proven to have supported the 9-11 hijackers…think about that. Saudi Arabia was complicit in 9-11, where three thousand Americans were killed. 9-11 has been used as the catalyst and excuse for all of the intrusive (and illegal) surveillance the government has undertaken, and yet, that same government has no interest in pursuing justice in regards to the Saudi's. In fact, not only are they not holding the Saudi's accountable, they are actively arming and protecting them. Any rational human being could, in the light of this information, see the War on Terror for the Kabuki theatre that it is.

Further strengthening the case against the alleged use of surveillance in the war on terror is the fact that the U.S. is also actively working with, arming and supporting terrorists in Syria. ISIS and Al Qaeda are being used by the U.S. as weapons in their war against the Assad regime and its Russian benefactor.  We are doing the same thing in Ukraine where we supply and arm jihadists in the war against Russian nationalists in eastern Ukraine. We play our little public game of charades and pretend to deplore terrorists but behind the scenes we do everything we can to arm and empower them in Syria, Ukraine and across the globe. Is this the act of a nation so desperate for security that they would trample the Constitution and our civil liberties in order to stamp out terror? 

In conclusion, I have an opinion of what Edward Snowden that is probably right in synch with Oliver Stone's, thus I enjoyed the film. I think it could have been much better, but in the final analysis I think it was good enough. I am sure people on the other side of the argument will loathe the film. I believe that if Edward Snowden is the man he says he is, this is the type of man we as a nation should celebrate and hold in the highest regard. It is a sign of our culture's decadence, intellectual indifference and moral and ethical decay that Edward Snowden has successfully been labelled a traitor and an enemy by those in the establishment. He may be an enemy of the state, but he is undoubtedly a hero for the people. If we plan on getting our country back from the oligarchs, aristocrats, corporatists and military industrialists who currently reign over us with their Eye of Sauron intelligence apparatus, the people will need to wake up and fight back. The film Snowden is not perfect, and seeing it will not be a cure-all for the fear, weakness and stupidity that cripple us as a people, that said, seeing it would be a small and positive step in the right direction. 

©2016

 

Oliver Stone : Top Five Films

Today, September 15, 2015 is director Oliver Stone's 69th birthday. The ever opinionated, and often controversial Stone has been both lauded and loathed, celebrated and denigrated during his thirty plus year career as a writer and director. After nearly two decades of artistic and box-office mis-steps, it is easy to forget that at one point in time, from 1986 to 1995, Oliver Stone was arguably the most powerful force creatively, politically and financially in both Hollywood and the culture. It is also easy to forget that Oliver Stone is one of the most important filmmakers in the history of American cinema.

To celebrate Oliver Stone's birthday, let's take a look at his meteoric, tumultuous and often-times brilliant career. Here are what I consider his top five films of all time.

OLIVER STONE'S TOP 5 FILMS

. THE DOORS (1991) 

Oliver Stone, like many of his fellow baby boomers,  excavated some of his most glorious inspirational treasures by going back to his formative years in the turbulent 1960's. In 1991 Stone went back to his, and my, favorite rock band, The Doors, and their iconic lead singer Jim Morrison.

Years ago I watched the dvd extras for The Doors which had a series of interviews with Stone and the actors talking about the process of making the film. It was pretty standard dvd-extra fare, until the very end of an interview with Stone. In it he talks about what Jim Morrison meant to him, both as a young man and as an artist, and Stone speaks eloquently about what Morrison represented, what he symbolized, and then he says, rather poignantly, with his voice breaking, "I miss him". It was a strangely moving, oddly touching and intimate glimpse into Stone, who is often portrayed in the media as a hyper-masculine, misogynistic boor. What that interview reveals is that The Doors was not just a bio-pic of Morrison, but also a deeply personal film for Oliver Stone and his artistic soul. That is what makes it both very good to some people (Me and John Densmore) and very bad to others (Ray Manzarek and Robby Kreiger). 

The Doors is a remarkably hypnotic film with Val Kilmer's magnetic performance as its center. The concert scenes are among the most vibrant and realistic ever captured on film. While the film is less a bio-pic of the band and Morrison than it is an exercise in cultural myth making and personal/psychological exploration, it still has a seductive and fascinating dark energy to it…not unlike its main character and its director.

4. NIXON (1995)

In 1995 Oliver Stone once again went back to the 1960's well and made a sprawling and peculiarly sentimental bio-pic about disgraced former president Richard Nixon. Shakespearean in its scope and execution, Nixon is a testament to Stone's skill as both writer and director. As a writer Stone is able to coherently and dramatically weave countless historical events amid intimate personal motivations all the while spanning multiple decades. As director, Stone coaxes a uniquely powerful and fantastically courageous performance from Anthony Hopkins in the lead, and Joan Allen as Pat Nixon. The supporting cast is terrific across the board, with James Woods and Paul Sorvino doing especially great work.

Nixon is a staggeringly ambitious film that only Oliver Stone would have made, could have made, or should have made. Nixon may be the last great film Oliver Stone ever makes, but even if it is, it is a worthy testament to his artistry and skill.

3. PLATOON (1986)/ BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY (1989)

When Platoon came out in 1986, I went and saw it and like most everyone else, I was blown away by it. The four time Oscar winning film, including Best Picture and Best Director, was an original and unique perspective on the daily grind of the regular soldier toiling away in the morass of the Vietnam war.  Ten years later I caught the film again when it was on tv somewhere and was terribly underwhelmed by it, the film simply did not hold up to the test of time at all. The main problem was that visually, the film looked flat and washed out. I came away thinking the film was, like another Stone film from that period, Wall Street, a superb script, but unlike his early 90's films , JFK, The Doors, Nixon and Natural Born Killers, a rather cinematically sluggish film. I was more than happy to share my self declared brilliance with anyone who would be foolish enough to listen to my insufferable ravings on the visual failings of Platoon versus Father Time. Now of course, I am unable to rave too loudly as my throat is stuffed with crow. Why the change of heart you ask? Well, I recently saw a restored version of the film, and boy oh boy, it looks really magnificent. Stone's longtime cinematographer, the brilliant Robert Richardson, creates a subtly vibrant and layered look to the film that shows an incredibly deft and masterful hand on his part.

The film also boasts powerful performances from a wide array of actors, including Charlie Sheen, of all people, in the lead. Stone is such a great director that he makes Charlie Sheen seem like he could be the next big thing in acting. Sheen would have been wise to keep his wagon hitched to the Oliver Stone band wagon rather than venturer off into the land of Young Guns, ahhh…what could have been. Willem Dafoe and Tom Beringer also give standout performances as the ying and yang of the American psyche in regards to the Vietnam conflict and the conflict over Vietnam.

The one thing that does hurt Platoon in retrospect is that it is compared to other films of the same Vietnam War genre. In 1987, one year after Platoon came out, Stanley Kubrick's vastly superior Full Metal Jacket hit theaters. Oliver Stone joins a long list of other great directors, in fact, every other director, who has failed in comparison to the singular genius of Stanley Kubrick. Platoon is, without a doubt, a truly great film, probably the third greatest Vietnam War film ever made, behind Full Metal Jacket and  Francis Ford Coppola's iconic masterpiece Apocalypse Now.

In keeping with the Vietnam War genre, Stone's second foray into that most personal of wars (he was a Veteran of the war and Bronze Star and Purple Heart recipient), was 1989's Born on the Fourth of July. The film is the story of Ron Kovics, a Long Island born and raised, flag waving patriotic son of America, who enthusiastically enlists in the Marine Corps to go fight in Vietnam.  

Born on the Fourth of July won Stone his second Best Director Oscar, and for good reason. The film is a remarkable piece of work for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that it is easily the best performance of Tom Cruise's long career. As good as Cruise is in the film, and he is in nearly every scene, it is an indication of Oliver Stone's power as an artist that you never feel like you are watching a Tom Cruise picture, but rather an Oliver Stone picture.

Like many of Stone's films, Born on the Fourth of July covers a staggeringly vast amount of history, and it is also able to personalize that historical struggle by poignantly showing the gut wrenchingly emotional struggle of its main character Kovics. 

The film is really a love story, with the love being between a man and his country. The man, Kovics, discovers that his lifelong love, America, has betrayed him by not living up to it's values, the war in Vietnam. This is wonderfully portrayed in a secondary narrative of unrequited love between Cruise's Kovics and his high school sweetheart played by the luminous Kyra Sedgwick. The film is at once heartbreaking and invigorating, and only Oliver Stone, with his deeply intimate relationship with Vietnam and America could have made the it. 

2. NATURAL BORN KILLERS

Yes, I know, Natural Born Killers at number two? Many people, maybe even most people, would more consider Natural Born Killers AS a number two rather than AT number two. I realize I am in the minority, but I don't mind. I think Stone's frantic, ultra-violent assault on the media and the culture is a genuine and daring masterpiece prescient in it's foresight.

The film precedes and perfectly captures the vile cable news era and the odious reality tv era. Remarkably the film came out a mere month after O.J. Simpson's wife was murdered and well before the sickening media and cultural circus of his trial. (As an aside, I hope you join me in praying that they find  the real killers!!).

Critics thought the film was a bombastic and vacant orgy of  sex and violence. Of course, what makes the film so genius is that it is a satire of American culture, which is a bombastic and vacant orgy of sex and violence. If you don't believe me, turn on any cable news channel at any time of the day, a reality show or a prime time network sitcom. In fact, one of the most inspired parts of the film is when it wonderfully eviscerates the vapid and insipid sitcom which had become the staple of the American tv diet at the time.  

What Stone did with Natural Born Killers was show how hyper, frenzied and frenetic our culture had become and how toxic that was to our collective and personal psyche. Of course, since 1994 our culture has only become more frenetic and frenzied. Our thirst for violence and our hunger for the salacious has increased infinitely since Stone showed us our true and more base impulses gyrating up on silver screens in cineplexes across America in the fall of 1994.

Once again the brilliant Robert Richardson does masterful work with the camera and gives the film a muscularly vivid visual style. There are also some great performances from some surprising places, most notably Rodney Dangerfield, (who you may remember previously "got no respect")  who deserved not only respect for his performance, but a Best Supporting Actor trophy for his work as a disgustingly repugnant sitcom dad, sadly he didn't get nominated. Woody Harrelson, Juliette Lewis, Tom Sizemore and Robert Downey Jr. all give inspired and memorable performances as well.

You may hate Natural Born Killers, and you wouldn't be alone, but the reality is that Stone accurately depicted the rot at the heart of the American culture, and that rot has only grown more aggressive and malignant as the decades have passed.

1. JFK (1991)

JFK is Oliver Stone's masterpiece. It is also the film that garnered him the most criticism and made him a marked man of both the Washington and media establishment. With JFK, Stone did the near impossible, he made a uniquely original, intensely captivating, coherent, heart pounding suspenseful drama of President Kennedy's assassination, all the while challenging the establishment narrative in the form of the Warren Commission and it's lapdogs in the media with his own self described "counter-myth". He also forced the movie going public to actually sit down and watch the Zapruder film, over, and over, and over again, making sure there was no doubt there now dead President's head snapped "back and to the left". 

Stone wasn't saying that JFK was the absolute truth about what happened on November 22, 1963 in Dallas, what he was saying was that his film, an acknowledged piece of fiction, is as close to the truth as the Warren Commission, a supposed work of investigative non-fiction.

The best way to know that Oliver Stone was on to something with JFK, was in seeing the reaction of the establishment to it's release. The Washington and New York chattering classes went absolutely apeshit. Stone was attacked across the board, from those on the left, the right and the center. "Serious" people from "serious" news organizations told us that Stone was a mere "conspiracy theorist", so anyone who wanted to be taken seriously on any other subject, had to show their bona fides by knocking Stone as an unserious person and attacking the the film. This sort of thing has become old hat for the establishment. It is also a sure fire sign that the person they are attacking is cutting them close to the bone. If Stone were such an unserious kook, then ignoring him would have sufficed, but he wasn't and isn't, so the knives had to come out.  

As a result of the success of JFK and of Stone's tireless public work on the subject, Congress was persuaded to release some of the files relating to the JFK assassination. At the time it seemed like things might be changing, that all of the files might be released. That was over twenty years ago and still nothing has changed. The JFK assassination was over fifty years ago, yet we have barely gotten a glimpse of the vast seas of paperwork that remains classified on the subject.

As far as the film goes, Stone's script was, once again, Shakespearean in it's epic scope. His brilliant use of newsreel footage mixed with dramatic footage created an intense immediacy that brought the viewer ever closer to the edge of their seat. JFK was also cinematographer Robert Richardson's masterpiece as well. His use of multiple film stock was as vital a reason for JFK's dramatic edge as anything else, as was his impeccable camera work and framing. Editor Pietro Scalia also was a key figure in bringing this dramatic beast under control. Both Richardson and Scalia won Oscars for their work.

The acting was stellar across the board. Gary Oldman as Lee Harvey Oswald was particularly brilliant. Tommy Lee Jones was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his work as one of the alleged conspirators Clay Shaw. 

In many ways, all of Oliver Stone's other films, including his Oscar winning pictures, pale in comparison to JFK. JFK was a cinematic, artistic and cultural bellwether. It is one of the greatest cinematic achievements of all-time, and it is a towering monument to the legacy of Oliver Stone.

(For more on the JFK assassination, the media and Oliver Stone, check out this article from my archiveJFK AND THE BIG LIE  )

FINAL THOUGHTS

In many ways, Oliver Stone reminds me of Francis Ford Coppola. Both men won Oscars for screenplays, Coppola for Patton, Stone for Midnight Express, before they had tremendous runs of artistic and financial success as Oscar winning directors. Then both men, for reasons that I can't quite explain, fell off a cliff creatively and never recovered. Coppola of course, had his incredible run in the seventies with both Godfather films, Apocalypse Now and The Conversation, while Stone had his from '86 to '95 with the films listed above (among others).

I think it is a great loss for filmmaking that Oliver Stone has lost his cultural relevance. Cinema, and the culture, were much more interesting when he was at the top of his game and relevant. His willingness to stand for what he believes and to challenge the culture that bred him, are traits sorely lacking in todays Hollywood. My birthday wish for Oliver Stone, is that his next film, Snowden, lives up to his stellar previous work, and is as worthy a film as the subject at its center.

I tip my cap to you Oliver for your brilliance!! Happy Birthday!!

ADDENDUM:

I received a few emails regarding this post. One from a reader named "Captain Big Guy" and another from a reader named "Johnny Steamroller".

Capt. Big Guy wrote " In each of the 4 movies leading up to the 5th (#1), you described your thoughts on the lead actor - which I really enjoyed - BUT WHY NO MENTION OF COSTNER IN JFK?" In keeping with that thought Johnny Steamroller wrote, " Dude, you got me sooooooo interested in what you were going to say about Costner in JFK, your #1 movie!! Seriously, I kept reading. You do mention Gary Oldman and Tommy Lee Jones by name but zero mention of the lead actor in "Oliver Stone's masterpiece"?? Arggggghhhhhh!!!"

Both the good Captain and the esteemed Mr. Steamroller make an excellent point. In my haste to post this piece I overlooked Kevin Costner's performance in JFK . It was an egregious oversight. Maybe not as egregious as Waterworld, but egregious none the less. 

So without further adieu…my thoughts on Costner in  JFK .

Let's be clear, Costner isn't Marlon Brando. With that said, he didn't need to be Marlon Brando in JFK. What makes Costner effective in JFK is the fact that he was maybe the biggest movie star  in the world at the time of the films release. In addition his persona was that of an all-American, squeaky clean guy. His image and persona were a key part of why he works in JFK and why he was cast. Casting Costner accomplished two things for Oliver Stone in his most ambitious film. 1. In terms of the business, it got the movie made. I am sure the studio was much more at ease making this rather challenging film with the biggest movie star in the world, at the height of his fame and popularity, on top of the marquee. 2. In terms of creatively, casting Costner made Stone's challenging the establishment, and the public, much more effective with the persona of the all-American good guy making the case to the public for Stone. It was a very wise move on Stone's part to use Costner and all of the good will he had accrued with the public through his earlier work.

Remember, just two years before JFK, Costner had starred in Field of Dreams, which is as mythically and archetypal an American film as has ever been made.  And the year before JFK was released, Costner had won Best Picture and Best Director Oscars for Dances With Wolves. In many ways, not the least of which was symbolically, by the time JFK came out Costner had become the modern day Jimmy Stewart.

Costner's acting in the film is pretty paint-by-numbers, leading man stuff. As in all of Costner's work, he doesn't have too much range or depth. But because of the intangible traits and very particular image Costner the movie star (as opposed to Costner the actor) brought to the film, I believe he ends up being very much a net positive for the film, and a very wise and shrewd casting choice by Oliver Stone.

So thanks to Captain Big Guy and Johnny Steamroller for the emails!! Hope my answer was satisfactory.

 ©2015

JFK and the Big Lie

President-John-F-Kennedy.jpg

"Treason doth never prosper: what's the reason? For it if prosper, none dare call it treason."

- Sir John Harrington

 

I had the great misfortune to watch a segment of the Chris Matthews Show "Hardball" on MSNBC today. I usually never watch cable or network news but I made an exception this week out of my curiosity for how the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination would be covered. During his show today, Chris Matthews did a brief segment on the assassination with former prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi, author of the book "Reclaiming History" which sets out to debunk any and all conspiracy theories in the assassination of JFK. The segment was a wonderful piece of masturbatorial propaganda. Matthews and Bugliosi both thought it absurd and ludicrous for anyone to believe that a conspiracy had or could have taken place. So, they spent the entire ten minute or so segment tearing down straw men and acting flabbergasted at how anyone could ever believe such conspiratorial madness.

I don't know why I was the least bit surprised, Chris Matthews may be the most empty-headed, vacant and vapid person on television. On his best day he is an intellectual midget, on his worst he is a blathering, emotive, syphilitic baboon. Just to show you I'm not biased against Matthews because of his political view point, which I am sympathetic to on some occasions, let me share with you another commentator on television who may be even more disgustingly insipid and intellectually inept as Matthews, and that's the blow hard over on Fox, Bill O'Reilly. Years ago while O'Reilly was hosting the show "Inside Edition" he was outspoken in his demand that the JFK investigation be re-opened because he felt there were many unanswered questions. Fast forward to today and O'Reilly has put all doubt aside as he's become firmly entrenched in the establishment, as he became the co-author of the creatively titled book "Killing Kennedy". Both men are wonderful examples of what is wrong with not only the media in this country, but the country itself. They are frauds and phonies, poseurs and pussies. I would wager they don't have a single testicle between the two of them. They are establishmentarians, and they worship power like whores worship money, or pigs worship shit. That both profess to be 'men of the people' is a bad joke, since they are mouth pieces for the elite, nothing more than tools of propaganda for the powerful.

To be fair to Matthews and O'Reilly, they are not alone. All week long all of the major networks and cable channels have been doing stores on the JFK assassination. I include in this list, the History Channel, PBS and all the myriad of other cable channels. Without exception, there are no channels covering or exploring the idea of a conspiracy. Not one. There are documentaries on Oswald and how he acted alone, documentaries on JFK's final 24 hours before he was killed by a lone gunmen, documentaries on JFK's lost home movies of his life before he was killed by a lone gunmen and of course the "Definitive Guide to the JFK Assassination" which features Gerald Posner and Vincent Bugliosi, two staunch anti-conspiracy authors, and  much, much more. 

The media drumbeat for a lone gunmen is overwhelming, not a single contrarian voice is to be heard. Every show or segment on the assassination is a replica of the Matthews and Bugliosi charade, where everyone agrees that conspiracies are a joke and that Oswald acted alone of course.  What is so strange about this set-up is that these shows are allegedly predicated on there being contrasting views. You get one guy on the left, one guy on the right and you have them spout talking points for five minutes and the segment ends. Not with the JFK assassination, with this topic you get one or more people to come on and confirm the official story and say how ridiculous conspiracy theories are, the host agrees and everyone goes home happy in their superiority. I find this despicable and not the least bit surprising. The media always accepts the official story and puts all it's focus and energy on belittling alternative theories. The media's job has become to protect the establishment at all costs. The media has zero interest in the Truth, their only interest is in Power. Anything that challenges the establishment or it's power and superiority is eliminated.

One of the straw men that Matthews and Bugliosi dragged out was the idea that people believe in conspiracies because they cannot believe that a great man like Kennedy could be killed by a 'loser' like Oswald. This is the sort of speculative and emotive garbage that passes for thought in the media today. Couldn't the argument be made that people like Matthews and Bugliosi cling to the idea of a lone gunmen because they cannot comprehend the thought that the establishment would conspire to murder their chief executive? If that was the case both Matthews and Bugliosi would be unintentionally complicit in Kennedy's killing because they have worked to uphold the power of the establishment that killed him.  So, maybe we should put to bed the moronic idea that people can't comprehend that the great Kennedy could be killed by the nobody Oswald. Think of it this way, do we struggle to believe that a loser like Mark David Chapman killed the great man John Lennon? Do we conjure up imaginary conspiracies to prove that Chapman didn't shoot Lennon? No. So, let's stop with the pop psychological analysis of people who see the facts of the case and believe that a conspiracy took place.

The other strange thing that the media talking empty-heads do is never discuss the actual facts of the case. They accuse conspiracy theorists of doing nothing but speculating but then they themselves go ahead and do nothing but speculate. A great example of this is the book "Case Closed" by Gerald Posner. He complains throughout the book of conspiracy theorists speculating about events, and then he spends the rest of the book speculating as to what happened and what Oswald was up to, except he speculates that Oswald acted alone as opposed to in a conspiracy. Bugliosi and Matthews avoided any sort of discussion on facts today as have all the channels all week. Not a single person has appeared on television to talk about the facts of the assassination, except to say that conspiracy theorists avoid discussing the facts of the case.

Matthews also said one of the dumbest and most historically illiterate things I've ever heard today during his segment. He was foaming at the mouth recounting how when he asked Oliver Stone how the parade route in Dallas could have been moved to allow it to pass by the School Book Depository in order to allow Oswald to be present for the assassination, he said Stone told him that maybe LBJ had gotten the route changed. This made Matthews lose his mind, he said it was 'inconceivable' to think Johnson was involved in the assassination. The mind boggles at this sort of ineptitude. LBJ became president when JFK died. A brief glance at history will tell you that leaders often get killed (throughout history it is more often than not that they get killed), and the person who usually kills them is the one who assumes power after them. Matthews may not like this fact, but it is certainly a fact. Does that mean that LBJ had JFK killed? Not necessarily, but it does mean that it isn't 'incomprehensible' that he might want JFK eliminated. Also, he was a powerful Texas politician with great reach and sway in his home state and had a bitter feud with not just JFK but his brother the Attorney General Bobby Kennedy. You could say you think it's 'unlikely', sure, but "incomprehensible"? I think not.

That is the thing that bothers me the most. The historical illiteracy. If you study history you will learn that of all the theories of history, The Great Man Theory, Marxian Theory etc., conspiracy theory isn't only a valid theory of history, it is the ONLY theory of history. It takes a willful ignorance or a staggering idiocy to see it any other way. That doesn't mean that there is a grand conspiracy connecting all of history, it does mean that in every single historical era, conspiracies have ruled the day. The establishment media would have you believe that only our era is devoid of conspiracies. We are somehow immune to conspiracies at the highest levels of power. That is so absurd as to be comical. Does that mean that all conspiracy theories are created equal? And all are true? No, of course not, not even close. What it does mean is that a study of history teaches us that it isn't the conspiracy theory we should be most wary of, it is the "official story" that deserves our greatest skepticism. If you believe the "official" story given by the government (any government), you are officially an idiot.

One last dead horse that every single establishmentarian, "official story" believer keeps beating is the idea that "three people can keep a secret but only if two of them are dead". Bugliosi said that exact thing today. This statement again displays a robust historical ignorance. Conspiracies only come to light after the powers that executed them have been eradicated. So if the JFK assassination were a coup d'etat, the power elites wouldn't exactly want it to come to light any time soon. They prefer to convolute the story and label any sort of conspiracy theories as unhinged thinking. Why do you think they haven't released all of the files regarding the case? If there is nothing there, why not release the files? The answer is pretty obvious, they have something to hide. Also this belief that conspiracies are impossible because no one could keep quiet for long is a statement that can never be proven, for with every conspiracy that comes to light, that would prove that every other conspiracy theory must be false, you see the tortured, circular logic in that? Conspiracies usually, but not always, come to light after the conspirators and their ilk have been toppled…see Sir John Harrington's quote above in bold face. (One caveat to this is that when people do come forward they are ridiculed, diminished or die. For example, did you know that someone in the CIA has come forward and admitted to being a part of the conspiracy to kill Kennedy? Well, that someone is named below.)

In conclusion, do yourself a favor and never ever watch network or cable news. It is a cesspool filled with jackasses and idiots. It is a propaganda tool meant to lull you to sleep and convince you to not ask questions or search for answers on your own. The thing that the establishment media want to do at all times is to promote stories that are a tragedy and convolute stories that would outrage the populace against the establishment. The reason is simple, it is easy to manage a tragedy, it is difficult to contain an outrage.

Okay, now that I got that off my chest, let us take a quick look at some things you may or may not know about the Kennedy assassination.

DID YOU KNOW?

1. That the United States government officially believes that a conspiracy took place in the killing of JFK?

In the late 1970's the Church Committee, a U.S. Senate committee chaired by Senator Frank Church to investigate intelligence activity, found that a conspiracy to kill JFK was most likely. The committee forwarded their findings to the Justice Department and asked them to investigate the case. The Justice Department has declined to do so. Question, why do pundits and commentators in the establishment only believe the Warren Report and not the Church Committee?

2. E. Howard Hunt admitted on tape on his death bed to being involved in the conspiracy to kill JFK.

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E. Howard Hunt, of Watergate fame, was a CIA operative who many speculated was one of the 'hobos' photographed being detained by police in the train yard behind Dealey place the moments after the assassination. Hunt's CIA career is a pretty fascinating and/or frightening one depending on your point of view. His work involved but wasn't limited to the Bay of Pigs, Watergate and the Nixon administration. He confessed to his son St. John Hunt on tape. E. Howard Hunt claims that the following, among many, were involved in the conspiracy.

LBJ:  Gave the order to kill Kennedy and used his position of power to cover it up.

Cord Meyer:  CIA agent and husband of Mary Meyer, a mistress of JFK.

William Harvey: CIA agent connected to mafia kingpins Santos Trafficante and Sam Giancana.

Frank Sturgis: CIA agent, Bay of Pigs veteran and future Watergate conspirator.

Lucien Sarti: Corsican assassin and alleged 'Grassy Knoll' shooter.

A topic for another day is E. Howard Hunt's connection to George H. W. Bush, and Bush's whereabouts on Nov. 22, 1963 and his connections to the CIA well before he become head of the agency. 

3.  According to Roger Stone, a political operative in the Nixon, Bush I and Bush II political campaigns, there is strong fingerprint evidence and eyewitness testimony that LBJ hit man Malcolm "Mac" Wallace was in the sixth floor of the depository when the shooting took place.

In Stone's book "The Man Who Killed Kennedy: The Case Against LBJ", he ties LBJ to a series of politically motivated murders in Texas, all done by farmer Marine sniper and LBJ comrade Malcolm "Mac" Wallace. According to Stone, partial prints found in the sixth floor of the school book depository can be matched to Wallace. Stone also claims that eyewitness testimony places Wallace in the shooters nest prior to the shooting.

Here are two pictures of LBJ, the first is him taking the oath of office in Air Force One en route to Washington after the assassination. Kennedy's body is in the back of the plane. The second picture shows Congressman Albert Thomas (D) from Houston in the background giving LBJ 'The Wink'. Pretty chilling.

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4. The fascinating life and public death of Lee Harvey Oswald.

There is documented proof that Lee Harvey Oswald was an FBI informant, even though the FBI denied this fact for years and destroyed evidence that proved it. Oswald met with FBI agents on multiple occasions prior to the assassination, but the agents burned their notes for all of those meetings. Odd.

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Oswald also spoke Russian. He spoke it well enough for his future wife Marina to think he was a native Russian when she met him at a dance in Russia after Oswald had defected to the Soviet Union. Odd for a man with a ninth grade education and poor grades to master a foreign language he wasn't familiar with while growing up.

Oswald also had classified clearance into intel when he was in the Marines prior to his defection. He renounced his U.S. citizenship and turned over his passport when he defected to the Soviet Union.

When he returned to the U.S. he was given money to travel by the state department and given his passport back and allowed to bring his new Russian wife with him. His defection was seemingly forgotten and dismissed.

Oswald's tax returns are still classified and have not been released to the public fifty years after his death. A reasonable explanation for this would be that he was an active CIA operative who was on the CIA payroll, a fact which would be easy to discover if his tax returns were released.

Oswald had no gun powder residue on his hands or cheeks after the shooting of JFK. Proving he hadn't fired a rifle that day. His fingerprints were also not found on the murder weapon after the shooting. A single palm print was found on the rifle days after the shooting and after Oswald's own death by an FBI analyst. The print is somewhat suspicious since the FBI were with Oswald's body in the funeral home where it was being prepared for burial, and no witnesses were present for this time period with the body.

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In the final analysis, whatever you believe to be the truth, do your own research, do your own reading, come to your own conclusions. You may be surprised by what you find and how your pre-existing beliefs are challenged.