"Everything is as it should be."

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Peterloo: A Review

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

My Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©2019

United Sheep of America: Assange, Fascism and Liberal Hypocrisy

Estimated reading Time: 3 minutes 48 seconds

LIBERALS BETRAYING ASSANGE EMPOWER FASCISM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©2019