"Everything is as it should be."

                                                                                  - Benjamin Purcell Morris

 

 

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90th Academy Awards: The 2018 Oscars Prediction Post

Estimated Reading Time: 6 minutes 66 seconds

As February has come and gone without the Academy Awards happening, March now roars in like a hungry Oscar lion. Due to the Winter Olympics monopolizing Sunday night television for the last two weeks, the Oscars were pushed back to the first week of March, and now our interminable wait for the most important night of the year is finally over. 

The Oscars are the most Holy of all the High Holy Days here in the People's Republic of Hollywood and are the culmination of thousands and thousands of years of human evolution which will reach its apex this Sunday night. From the first time a million years ago when ape-men tossed their animal bone weapons into the sky in the shadow of giant black monolith, to Steve Guttenberg inventing movable type and printing the first bible in 1450 to Andy Kaufman being the first Man on the Moon, we have been hurtling towards the evolutionary perfection of Sunday night's Oscar ceremony.

The anticipation for this year's Oscar's is palpable, especially after last year's Moonlight - La La Land Best Picture fiasco, everyone is tingling with anticipation over what will happen this year. It is my duty as a card carrying member of the People's Party of Hollywood to express my thoughts, feelings and beliefs regarding this most glorious of events, the Oscars, so I have written my predictions for the awards below.

Last year I had an uncharacteristically bad time in predicting the awards. The reason for my off year was because last year was the first year of the "New Academy"…you see after the #OscarsSoWhite nonsense of 2016, the Academy exiled a plethora of older White members and brought in a cavalcade of younger members who were non-White and female. With no history and voting trend data for me to analyze and base my predictions upon, I struggled to keep up my usual stellar prediction standards (I have never lost an Oscar pool…ever, including last year…although I did tie with somebody once in the dark year of 1998). 

This year I have the benefit of one year New Academy data under my belt, so hopefully I won't be as dreadful as I was last year…but old habits die hard and I am no doubt prone to falling back into the ways of the traditionalist thinking of the Old Academy. We'll see. 

Back in the dark days of the Old Academy, the rule of thumb regarding categories that you had no idea about like best documentary, documentary short or short films was a cynical formula that everyone knew about but no one was comfortable saying out loud. The formula was basically this…if any film dealt with the Holocaust, pick it to win. If there were no Holocaust movie to choose, then the Oscar winners would be, in descending order of likelihood, films about gay issues, particularly the AIDS epidemic, or films dealing with civil rights/race issues.

In this current era of identity politics, the New Academy has a formula to its choices as well, the hard part is figuring out what it is. For instance, does the New Academy lean toward Black films and gay films over other issue movies, and therefore if you have a Black-gay film like Moonlight...you can win Best Picture?

Due to the powerful sway of identity politics in the New Academy, I have decided to make a new and somewhat uncomfortable addition to my Oscars predictions article, I will not only tell you who should win, and who will win, but also will handicap the "New Academy" and how they may see the Oscar race. Some may deem my blunt talk of the harsh reality of identity politics in the New Academy as insensitive or "racist" but I feel if I were to ignore this blatantly obvious issue I would be doing my readers a disservice. 

It is important to remember that these new Academy members who are mostly people of color and women (or women of color!!), were brought in to nip #OscarsSoWhite in the bud, and so last year they did just that by giving Best Picture to Moonlight and awarding two African-American actors statuettes. The New Academy people understand that the only reason they are in the Academy is to reward artists of color and women, and that is important to keep in mind when trying to guess how they will vote. My "Handicapping the New Academy" sections may seem terribly cynical, and they are, but that doesn't mean they aren't based on the reality of Hollywood in general and the New Academy in particular.

With all that said…it is time…are you ready? I hope so! I ask that you please sit back, relax…and remember that The Oscars are a Holy endeavor so no wagering please…now dive head first into the shitshow that are my blind guesses as to who will win the most coveted prize in the history of the universe…THE OSCAR!!

 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Mary J. Blige - Mudbound: I have bad news for you…I haven't seen Mudbound. I think this may mean I am a racist, I'm not sure…but I hope not. I promise I will see it though…soon. You know who else probably hasn't seen Mudbound…Oscar voters. 

Allison Janney - I, Tonya : Allison Janney devours every scene she inhabits in I, Tonya. Her performance is not all flash and no bash though, as she crafts a genuine human being out of what could have been a caricature in lesser artistic hands.

Lesley Manville - Phantom Thread: Leslie Manville's work is simply stunning in Phantom Thread. Her mastery of stillness and specificity of intention is staggering and her performance a marvel to behold. Young actors would be wise to study Ms. Manville's Phantom Thread performance and steal as much of it as they can carry.

Laurie Metcalf - Lady Bird: Metcalf has received many accolades for her work as Lady Bird's mom, but I felt her performance was one note and rather shallow. A lot of the problems with the character are probably due to the script, but I felt Metcalf was a bit underwhleming in the role regardless.

Octavia Spencer - The Shape of Water: Octavia Spencer is as solid and reliable an actress as you'll find working these days. She has the innate ability to create genuine and grounded characters of multi-dimensions and deep humanity that never fail to enhance any film in which she appears.

WHO SHOULD WIN: Lesley Manville - I think Manville's work is technically superior to every other actress nominated. Manville's work is less showy, but more technically proficient and precise than any of the competition and it isn't even close. 

HANDICAPPING THE NEW ACADEMY: The New Academy would want to reward Mary J. Blige or Octavia Spencer, but Ms. Spencer has already won the award and Ms. Blige appears in a Netflix film, which is something even the New Academy hasn't figured out how to properly judge. 

WHO WILL WIN: Allison Janney: Ms. Janney has won all the other awards leading up to the Oscars, and her performance is crowd pleasing…so I think she walks away with the easy win here. It also helps that Ms. Janney is very highly regarded and well liked out here in Hollywood. 

 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Willem Dafoe - The Florida Project: I really like Dafoe as an actor, but I thought his role in The Florida Project was not Oscar worthy. It is not that he does a bad job, just that there isn't much for him to do in the movie. 

Woody Harrelson - Three Billboards: I thought Woody Harrelson was fantastic in Three Billboards, or as I keep calling it Three Dildos, creating a complex character of real depth. Harrelson has matured into a top-notch actor in his middle age and Three Dildos is proof of his undeniable skill and talent. That said, he was even better in War for the Planet of the Apes this year

Richard Jenkins - The Shape of Water: Jenkins is phenomenal in The Shape of Water, as he never falls into the trap of caricature or maudlin preening. Jenkins is always a terrific actor, and The Shape of Water may be the best work of his stellar career.

Christopher Plummer - All the Money in the World: I haven't seen All the Money in the World…I know, I know, I am a terrible person. Plummer is an old pro and he no doubt got this nomination simply because the Academy wanted to send a signal of disgust to Kevin Spacey who originally shot the role but was disappeared down the memory hole by director Ridley Scott. 

Sam Rockwell- Three Billboards: Rockwell makes lemonade out of the one dimensional lemons the script hands him. Rockwell plays his racist, dim bulb character with aplomb and is able to subtly turn a shallow potential caricature into more than just a punch line. 

WHO SHOULD WIN: Richard Jenkins - Jenkins work in The Shape of Water is simply superb and far and away the best in this category. 

HANDICAPPING THE NEW ACADEMY: This is a weird category as there are no minorities nominated, that said Jenkins does play a gay man, which in the Old Academy would have given him a leg up on the competition, but not now. Rockwell has gotten some heat because his character is an irredeemable racist, which could spell trouble for him even though he is the front runner. 

WHO WILL WIN: Sam Rockwell - Rockwell has won all of the other awards leading up to the Oscars, and I think the campaign against him revolving around his character being a racist will ultimately fail. I think the biggest reason it will fail is because there are no minority actors who could potentially supplant him. 

 

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

The Big Sick - I haven't seen the Big Sick…and yes, I am well-aware that makes me a really bad person. It is funny as I have gotten more marketing material in the mail from the Big Sick than any other film this past year, including a screener of the film, and still haven't watched it. Just more proof that I need to budget my time much better. 

Get Out - I finally saw Get Out about a month ago and was entirely and totally underwhelmed by it. The idea that this movie, script, director and lead actor are nominated for an Oscar is a joke. It is a moderately entertaining horror-comedy…like Scream…not exactly the stuff of Oscar gold. 

Lady Bird - Lady Bird is a poorly written film that is more akin to a CBS sitcom along the lines of The Big Bang Theory, than an Oscar worthy movie. But the Academy loves their manic pixie dream girl Greta Gerwig for some mysterious reason…so she has a real chance. Hell, Woody Allen has won numerous Oscars and he sucks…so Greta has a good chance. 

The Shape of Water - Del Toro's script is a masterfully layered piece of work that never diminishes it's characters by going down the road of the simple and easy. Del Toro also successfully weaves political and religious themes throughout his unconventional love story, proving his skill as a screenwriter.

Three Billboards - Three Dildos is a script that shows a foreigners distorted view of what they think America is, filled with caricatures and one dimensional, simplistic characters. It has all the nuance and subtlety of a Kid Rock song about France. 

WHO SHOULD WIN: The Shape of Water is the best script in the bunch and it isn't even close. 

HANDICAPPING THE NEW ACADEMY: In the old days, Three Dildos would be the favorite because it is written by a successful playwright and the Old Academy loved them some playwrights. But the new academy is either going to go with Jordan Peele for Get Out or Greta Gerwig for Lady Bird. The question becomes will gender trump race or race trump gender…hmmmm…it'll be a nail biter. 

WHO WILL WIN: Get Out - I think Peele will get the trophy as a sort of condolence prize since they won't give him Best Director…but that said…don't be shocked if Gerwig gets the win because unlike Jordan Peele, she has been out beating the bushes and campaigning hard for votes.

 

 

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Call Me by Your Name - A dreadful movie and a dreadful script that is at the very least morally questionable…but Hollywood never considers morals in the moment, only in hindsight, i.e. #MeToo.

The Disaster Artist - Not a great script, and the fact that James Franco is on the #MeToo shitlist means that this movie is persona non grata on Oscar night. 

Logan - A terrific adaptation of a graphic novel. Logan was a terribly under appreciated last year but was one of the better films of the year and the script is the major reason why. A truly fantastic piece of writing.

Molly's Game - I haven't seen Molly's Game, but it is written and directed by Aaron Sorkin. Sorkin's writing is difficult to direct, and frankly, I am willing to bet that ironically, he is not a good enough director to master directing his own script.

Mudbound - I haven't seen Mudbound…yeah, yeah, I'm an incorrigible racist…but I do look forward to seeing it, so there's hope for me yet.

WHO SHOULD WIN: Logan - The best script of this bunch by a mile. Logan turned the moribund X-Men franchise on its head and created a dark, grounded and stunning world in which Wolverine becomes a fully fleshed out character and not just a simple super hero. 

HANDICAPPING THE NEW ACADEMY: Mudbound should appeal to the New Academy because the writer, Dee Rees, is an African-American lesbian woman, but the problem is that it is a Netflix film and even the New Academy is struggling to embrace the Netflix model. Call Me By Your Name is the next best option for the identity politics of the New Academy though, as it is a story of homosexual love written by an older gay man. 

WHO WILL WIN: Call Me by Your Name - I think Call Me by Your Name ekes out a win over Mudbound here. I think the Netflix thing hurts Mudbound, and the fact that James Ivory has such a stellar resume filled with prestige films will put him over the top. 

 

 

BEST DIRECTOR

Christopher Nolan - Dunkirk: Nolan's Dunkirk is a master class in technical proficiency in the art of filmmaking. Dunkirk was inarguably the most difficult film to make of all the nominees and Nolan proved himself a brilliant craftsman. Sadly, I think Dunkirk will be overlooked in the more popular categories, but I think it will win multiple technical awards, most specifically the sound awards.

Jordan Peele - Get Out: This nomination is a complete mystery to me. Get Out is a decent if unremarkable directorial debut for Peele, but the film and his direction are so below the classic standard for Oscar material that it is absurd. 

Greta Gerwig - Lady Bird: Greta Gerwig's direction and writing on Lady Bird are the two worst things about the film…which is a pretty big deal. Manic Pixie Dream Girl Gerwig is adored by the New Academy though and so she is poised to potentially win big on Oscar night. Gerwig has won points with the New Academy by being so vocal against Woody Allen, which is ironic because she is a quirky, female version of Allen…and that is not a compliment.

Paul Thomas Anderson - Phantom Thread: Anderson is far and away the greatest auteur of his generation and the greatest filmmaker working today. Phantom Thread is a staggeringly fantastic piece of cinema. I fear though that PT Anderson, like fellow genius of cinema Stanley Kubrick, is destined to be one of the greatest filmmakers of all-time who will not win an Oscar.

Guillermo del Toro - The Shape of Water: Del Toro is a true visionary, and his work on The Shape of Water is a testament to his originality and his unique artistic vision. 

WHO SHOULD WIN: Anderson/Nolan- If either PT Anderson or Christopher Nolan won, it would be sweet justice, since neither of them have ever won an Oscar for directing, which is a crime. 

HANDICAPPING THE NEW ACADEMY: In the Old Academy, Nolan would be a slam dunk here because they loved them some intricate war movies. But the New Academy has zero interest in Nolan, or PT Anderson. Del Toro would, in theory, satiate the identity politics thirst of the New Academy, but oddly enough, Latino men winning the directing Oscar is something that is commonplace, they have won three of the last four awards, and that doesn't seem to quell the cries of Oscar favoritism to White men. Peele and Gerwig are not worthy of their nominations, but they are serious threats to win, Peele because he is African-American, and Gerwig because she is a woman. The fact that Gerwig has been very vocal about the #MeToo issue and has spoken out about Woody Allen, give her an advantage on Peele in this category. 

WHO WILL WIN: Del Toro. I know I am being foolish, traditionalist and hopelessly optimistic, but I think that talent wins out and del Toro gets the win. There is a very good chance though that Peele and Gerwig split the Best Screenplay and Best Director awards…stranger things have happened, and with the New Academy, anything is possible. Do not be shocked though if Gerwig wins for, ironically, being a female Woody Allen. Yuck.

 

BEST ACTRESS

Sally Hawkins - The Shape of Water: Hawkins is stunning as the mute cleaning lady at the center of The Shape of Water. An intricate and detailed performance that us a testament to Hawkins talent. 

Frances McDormand - Three Billboards: I found McDormand's work in Three Dildos to be rather shallow, vapid and one-note. Her perpetual anger may resonate with women at the moment, but artistically it is a vacant and foolish performance. 

Margot Robbie - I, Tonya: Robbie crushes it as Tonya Harding in this unique bio-pic. Robbie proves she is much, much more than just a pretty face as she dives into the deep end of a character that in lesser hands would have been vacuous at best. 

Saoirse Ronan - Lady Bird: Saoirse Ronan is a good an actress as we have working in film at the moment. She is virtually the only thing worth watching in the otherwise mundane Lady Bird. Her work in the film is a monument to her extraordinary mastery of craft, skill and enormous talent. 

Meryl Streep - The Post: It is old hat that Meryl Streep is nominated for an Oscar, but the truth is that she is spectacularly good in Spielberg's limp, piece of crap movie about the Pentagon Papers. Streep is the one and only reason to see this movie at all because she proves herself to be the real deal and still one of the greatest actresses to have ever lived. 

WHO SHOULD WIN: Sally Hawkins - Hawkins should win as she carries The Shape of Water without ever speaking a single word, which is an amazing achievement. 

HANDICAPPING THE NEW ACADEMY: Frances McDormand gets the leg up in the New Academy because she embodies the angry, fighting woman that the #MeToo movement in Hollywood perceives itself to be. 

WHO WILL WIN: Frances McDormand walks away with it…undeservingly so. 

 

BEST ACTOR

Timothee Chalamet - Call Me by Your Name: I have no idea why this kid is nominated. None. The film is awful, the performance unremarkable in every way. 

Daniel Day-Lewis - Phantom Thread: Daniel Day Lewis is allegedly retiring from acting and this is his final performance. What a way to leave the stage! Lewis is at his very best in PT Anderson's enigmatic film about fashion and love. Lewis imbues his character with a specific internal intentionality that radiates off the screen. An undeniable master gives a masterful performance. 

Daniel Kaluuya - Get Out: Another mystery nomination. Kaluuya isn't bad in Get Out, but he isn't noteworthy either. Kaluuya's nomination, along with the film's other nominations, is a testament to how low the New Academy has sunk in their quest for the holy grail of diversity in the age of identity politics. 

Gary Oldman - Darkest Hour: Oldman is one of the great actors we've had over the course of his career. Oldman defies stereotype and plays Churchill as a man plagued by self-doubt and ruled by fear. A truly terrific performance that is undermined by a rather lackluster film. 

Denzel Washington - Roman J. Israel, Esq. : I have not seen Roman J. Israel, Esq., but you can never go wrong with Denzel Washington, who is maybe the Best Actor/Movie Star we have had in Hollywood over the last thirty years or so. 

WHO SHOULD WIN: Daniel Day Lewis/Oldman- If either of these guys win then you cannot complain as they are great in these films but have also been great over the course of their esteemed careers. 

HANDICAPPING THE NEW ACADEMY: The New Academy is definitely leaning towards Kaluuya in this category. He is young, new blood and he is Black, all things they are desperate to reward. Kaluuya has a legit shot at winning, but I think the fact that he is a total newcomer may end up scuttling his attempt at Oscar gold. 

WHO WILL WIN: Gary Oldman - I admit that I am falling into the trap of traditionalism again, just as I did with the Best Director category. I could be wrong here, but I think Oldman is rewarded not just for his work in Darkest Hour but also for his long and outstanding career. I think Kaluuya is a legitimate threat to take the crown though, but in the end the campaign against Oldman will fall short. 

 

BEST PICTURE

Cal Me by Your Name: A boring and morally questionable mess of a movie. If this were the Old Academy, it might have a chance…but no way, no how, this year. 

Darkest Hour: In the Old academy Darkest Hour would be a serious threat, but the film is simply not good enough or original enough to hold the interest of the New Academy. 

Dunkirk: A staggering achievement in filmmaking, that sadly has been forgotten this awards season because it has nothing to do with identity politics. 

Get Out: A beneficiary of the "Leg Up" program of the New Academy that judges on a curve when it comes to minority films. Get Out is a mildly entertaining popcorn movie that has no business being nominated for anything. The greatest irony of all is that Get Out is a movie about White Liberal Guilt and the film is only nominated for so many Oscars simply because of White Liberal Guilt. Pretty funny. 

Lady Bird: Another beneficiary of the "Leg Up" program, Lady Bird is simply not a good movie. As my friend, a famous Hollywood big shot filmmaker dubbed Mr. X said to me, "Lady Bird is a watered down Napolean Dynamite for women". Ouch! 

Phantom Thread: Another of PT Anderson's masterpieces. Phantom Thread is a remarkable film  that is a monument to the undeniable talent of its director. 

The Post: Spielberg's usual shitty "serious" movie that is more proof that Spielberg can't make a real movie unless there are aliens or dinosaurs in it. It is unbelievable how poorly made this movie is. 

The Shape of Water: A fantastic and original piece of art that is mesmerizing from start to finish. A complex and complicated religious and political metaphor that says more than most other films without ever opening its mouth. 

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri: If you want to see what foreigners think America is like, watch Three Dildos. It is inaccurate, cheap and one dimensional. A dark comedy that isn't funny, and a comedic drama that has no drama. 

WHO SHOULD WIN: Dunkirk, Phantom Thread - If either of these movies win it will be a miracle, but they richly deserve it as they are far superior to any of the other films except for maybe The Shape of Water

HANDICAPPING THE NEW ACADEMY: The Shape of Water in old times would runaway with it without question as its subtle politics are what would usually be embraced by the Old Academy. But the Old Academy is gone, and the New Academy is an unpredictable beast. I think in the New Academy it is a battle between Get Out (race) and Lady Bird (gender). In conversations out here in Hollywood all I ever hear people say is that they want Get Out to win and the film seems to have serious momentum. I think Get Out, because it is more overtly political than Lady Bird, is the favorite in the New Academy.

WHO WILL WIN: Get Out - The Shape of Water?

I have gone back and forth on this one over the last few days. Old habits are hard to break and so my traditionalist, Old Academy side keeps pulling me to The Shape of Water, while the clues from the New Academy/Identity politics crowd all seem to be pointing to Get Out. This reminds me of the lead up to the 2016 presidential election where Hillary was presumed to be the winner and yet I saw something completely different happening. I followed my instincts back then and was right. But that was just a stupid presidential election…THIS IS THE OSCARS!!

As much as I want The Shape of Water to win because it is a superior film and is much more deserving of the award than the fool's gold of Get Out, that doesn't mean The Shape of Water will win. As my father used to say, "wish in one hand and shit in the other and see which fills up faster".  Moonlight's upset win last year has to teach me something…and if I don't learn from it I will be no better than the Hillary Dead Enders who have learned nothing from Trump's win in 2016. 

Therefore…as much as it pains me to say it…my pick for Best Picture is…The Shape of Water!!! No…no…no…I'm so sorry, I typed the wrong title…the actual winner is Get Out

I am not going to be happy when Get Out wins because I think it will diminish the meaning and prestige of the Oscars, as dumb as that sounds…but if, as some are predicting, Three Dildos wins, I might just chop my own head off and throw it in the Ocean.

And one final note regarding the New Academy and #MeToo and all the rest. The proof that the New Academy and Hollywood is full of shit is that in the Animated Short category, Kobe Bryant has a film that is a self-serving, homage to himself titled, Dear Basketball, which is going to win the award. Hollywood loves Kobe…Kobe can do no wrong. Apparently Kobe's rape of a woman in Colorado and his treatment of that woman and others by his legal team, doesn't count in the eyes of the #MeToo gang. I always found it intriguing that OJ is so universally hated out here in Hollywood, just utterly despised, but when Kobe was accused of rape everyone came to his defense. Kobe is OJ in training…and is further proof of the rank hypocrisy of Hollywood and the New Academy. That is the end of my rant. 

And thus concludes yet another glorious Oscar prediction piece. I think that for the second year in a row the New Academy will, for good or for ill, shake things up. Get Out doesn't deserve any Oscars, but I believe it could be primed to have a big night this Sunday. Maybe…or hopefully…I am wrong and The Shape of Water or Dunkirk or Phantom Thread has a big night…one can dream…this is Hollywood after all.

Just think, a year from now we'll be having this same argument over another shitty movie that is getting too many accolades just because it satiates the New Academy's thirst for identity politics…ladies and gentlemen your front runner for the 2019 Best Picture Oscar is…Black Panther! Yuck. 

 

UPDATE: 3/2/18

I got an email from a reader asking me to expand my Oscar picks into the technical and lesser known categories. Here are my very brief picks for other Oscar categories...

Foreign Language Film - A Fantastic Woman or UPSET PICK: The Square

Cinematography - Roger Deakins Blade Runner 2049

Animated Film -  Coco

Documentary - Icarus

Animated Short - Dear Basketball

Original Score - Phantom Thread

Sound Editing and Sound Mixing - Dunkirk

Hair and Makeup - Darkest Hour

Production Design - The Shape of Water

Costume Design - Phantom Thread

Editing - Dunkirk

Visual Effects - War for the Planet of the Apes

Those are my best guesses…good luck!!

 

©2018

The Post: A Review

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

My Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation: SKIP IT. No need to see this film except for the wonderful performance of Meryl Streep, so maybe catch it on Netflix or cable if you are so inclined.

The Post, written by Liz Hannah and Josh Singer and directed by Steven Spielberg, is the story of Katherine Graham and Ben Bradlee, the publisher and editor of the Washington Post respectively, as they guide the newspaper through the Pentagon Papers controversy. The film stars Meryl Streep as Graham and Tom Hanks as Bradlee. 

In case you aren't aware, The Post is one of Spielberg's "serious" movies, which the Spielberg-worshipping Amen chorus in the media tells us means that it should only be spoken about in the most hushed and reverent tones. The Post has been self-consciously selling itself as being very "timely" because it is allegedly a story about freedom of the press in the face of tyranny. The film is obviously meant as a nobly defiant gesture in the face of Fuhrer Trump, who goes unmentioned in the film but is an ever ominous presence lurking beneath the movie's surface, sort of like the Great White shark that terrorized one of Speilberg's actually good films, Jaws

Speilberg made The Post not only after Trump became president, but because he became president. The film was hurried into production in June of 2017 in order to strike while the anti-Trump iron was hot in an attempt to convert Trump hate into dollars and awards. The political problem for The Post is that it comes across as entirely, overwhelmingly and painfully reactionary. Being reactionary is not a crime in and of itself, but the mark of a great artist is that they are ahead of the curve. The true artist dances between their individual consciousness and the collective unconscious and are able to sense things they can only articulate and express artistically (even when they may not be intellectually or "consciously" aware of them) before they come to the surface in the wider collective consciousness. With The Post, Speilberg's reactionism feels like merely a symptom of the disease of artistic fraudulence and bankruptcy, which is a malady from which he has long suffered. The film is also a result of his shameless and clumsy attempt to be politically relevant in order to be further admired by those in the political and media establishment.

The truth is I saw The Post over a month ago and was so underwhelmed by it on every single level I haven't been able to muster the creative energy to review it until now. The film is a stale and suffocatingly conventional piece of predictable moviemaking that feels as if a propaganda unit for the Hillary Clinton campaign made an after school special that was a sequel to their smash hit "Love Trumps Hate"…or as America heard it, "Love Trump's Hate".

On the most basic level, The Post is an extraordinarily poorly structured cinematic venture and is so numbingly bland as to be unremarkable in every single way. The Post is just one more bit of incontrovertible evidence that Spielberg is simply not that great at making "serious" movies, and that he needs aliens or dinosaurs at the heart of his story in order to be proficient at his craft.

In The Post, just like in his other "serious" films Schindler's List, Saving Private Ryan, Lincoln and Bridge of Spies, Spielberg seems completely unaware of how to create a cohesive and palatable narrative rhythm to a film. As with many of his previous "serious" films, Spielberg chooses to encase The Post in the most useless and clumsy preamble and coda, which renders any sort of dramatic tension or revelations that can be scrounged up in between them entirely moot and ineffective.

There are some sequences in The Post that are so cinematically inept, amateurish and heavy-handed it is difficult to not laugh out loud at them. Of all of the cringe-worthy scenes scattered throughout, none makes the colon twinge quite so much as the scene where Streep's Katherine Graham exits the Supreme Court to a soaring soundtrack amidst a sea of young, bright eyed women who part for her like the Red Sea and then gaze with awe and astonishment upon her as if she were the Goddess coming down from the heavens victorious at having slain the patriarchal dragon. This scene is so awful it actually made me unintentionally groan aloud in the theatre. There are also some ridiculous scenes of Nixon in silhouette at the White House that are the absolute height of unintentional comedy.  

Meryl Streep stars in the film as Washington Post publisher Katherine Graham, a woman trying to make her way in a man's world. Streep is simply the very best at her craft that we have seen and her work in The Post is testament to that. With a flaccid script, she is able to turn Katherine Graham into an honest to goodness, multi-dimensional human being, the only one in the entire film. Streep's Graham never rings false, which is an accomplishment of Herculean proportions on the part of the Grand Dame, due to the emotionally and intellectually infantile script from which she has to work. 

Tom Hanks co-stars as Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee. Hanks has proven himself over the years to be a decent movie star but at the end of the day he turns out to be a pretty shitty actor. Hanks's shallow portrayal of Bradlee, with his spray on tan and affected grumble of a voice, would be better suited in an SNL sketch than in a feature film. Seeing Hanks on screen opposite Streep is very illuminating, as Hanks is exposed as being a smoke and mirrors huckster of a performer, and Streep is revealed to be the consummate actor.

The narrative of The Post is meant to cover as many politically correct bases as possible. There is the story of the tyrannical president and the noble press fighting for American ideals and freedoms. There is also the story of female empowerment where a woman must overcome the horrors of the patriarchy that conspires to keep her down. With all of the shamelessly, not-so-subtle Hillary love and admiration for the mainstream press imprinted in the DNA of The Post, a more apt title for it may have been "The Establishment Strikes Back".

One of the things that bothered me about The Post, even more than the sub-par storytelling and ham-fisted directing, is why tell this particular version of the story in the first place? The Pentagon Papers is an important story, of that there is no doubt. Daniel Ellsberg is an important story and The New York Times publishing the Pentagon Papers in an important story, but Spielberg doesn't tell any of those stories. Instead, he tells the story of the Washington Post's part in the Pentagon Papers, and that probably isn't even in the top ten of stories surrounding the Pentagon Papers that should or need to be told. 

The trick that Spielberg manages to pull off in his version of the Pentagon Papers is he manages to smear Daniel Ellsberg and belittles and demeans what he risked and accomplished in exposing the Pentagon Papers. It is remarkable that Spielberg could make a movie about the Pentagon Papers, one of the biggest whistleblowers stories in U.S. history, and yet completely diminishes and disrespects that whistleblower. Spielberg turns Ellsberg into a long-haired, hippie malcontent and narcissist driven solely by his self-aggrandizing instinct and ego. This would not be such a big deal except that it is entirely at odds with the reality of who Daniel Ellsberg truly is and what he did. 

The other thing that bothers me are the lies of omission committed by The Post. Ben Bradlee is portrayed as not only a truth teller in the face of power, but also the quintessential journalist who was a thoughtful and passionate man who cared deeply for his profession. The reality is that Bradlee was the consummate Washington insider and his tentacles were everywhere in The Swamp. It is shown in the film that Bradlee was a friend of JFK and a frequent guest at the White House for private dinners with JFK and occasionally Jackie, which is true. What the film doesn't dare mention is that Bradlee was married to wealthy socialite Toni Pinchot during Kennedy's presidency. Toni's sister was Mary Pinchot Meyer, a divorcee who was having an affair with JFK during his presidency and would frequently go to the White House with Ben Bradlee and Toni in order for them to cover for her and JFK's affair. Also of note is that Mary Pinchot Meyer wasn't just any divorcee, she was divorced from Cord Meyer, a powerful CIA official who was Head of the Covert Action Staff of the Directorate of Plans during Kennedy's administration, and also became the principle operative of Operation Mockingbird, which was a massive operation that was used to secretly influence U.S. and foreign media. 

Another bit of info kept out of The Post about Bradlee is this, that almost one year after Kennedy was assassinated, on October 12, 1964, Mary Pinchot Meyer was assassinated, gunned down in broad daylight, while walking along the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal towpath near her Georgetown home. Why is this important? Well, it is important because Mary Meyer had kept a very thorough diary of her time with JFK, which included not only the usual Kennedy sexcapades, but JFK's use of both marijuana and LSD. To make the Meyer case all the more intriguing, Mary Meyer was convinced that JFK was murdered by a conspiracy involving U.S. intelligence agencies, of which she was intimately familiar, and she was determined to bring it to light.

After she was murdered some very strange things occurred, the first of which is that someone in the CIA called Ben Bradlee on the day of the shooting to tell him of Mary's murder. Why is this strange? Because Mary Pinchot Meyer was still lying in the morgue and had not even been identified by the coroners office, she was just a Jane Doe. Mary's family didn't even know anything had happened to her at this point, but because of a mysterious source in the CIA, Ben Bradlee did. Bradlee then went to Mary's house and scoured the pace and found her JFK diary and instead of doing the journalistically honorable thing of reporting on it, he instead kept it secret and turned it over to none other than James Jesus Angelton who destroyed it. Who is James Jesus Angelton? Well, James Angelton was just the Chief of Covert Counter-Intelligence Operations for the CIA. 

To make the Meyer story all the more intriguing is what happened when Bradlee was called to testify in the 1965 murder trial against a young Black man charged, and later acquitted, of the crime of killing Mary Meyer. On the stand Bradlee lied, in other words committed perjury, when he failed to mention his interaction with Mr. Angelton of the CIA and about the existence of Mary's diary. How do we know he lied? Because years later when he wrote his 1995 memoir, A Good Life, he told the truth about what actually happened and how he conspired with Angelton to find and destroy Mary's diary. 

Bradlee's back story is pretty remarkable, but so is Katherine Graham's. Graham's husband, Phil, was the publisher and co-owner of the Washington Post. In late 1962, Phil was having an affair with a young woman from Australia and told Katherine about it. A short time later in 1963, Phil got himself into a boat load of trouble when he got stinking drunk at a newspaper publisher's convention in Phoenix and stood up and told a room full of reporters that President Kennedy was having an affair in the White House with...you guessed it…Mary Pinchot Meyer. Mrs. Graham was alerted to her soon to be ex-husbands behavior and flew out to Phoenix with their doctor and Phil was sedated, put in a straitjacket, and flown to Washington where he was quickly hospitalized at Chestnut Lodge, a hospital in Maryland well-known to be used by the CIA for various unsavory psychiatric activities. 

After his initial release five days later from Chestnut Lodge, Phil left Katherine and told friends he was going to divorce her, take sole control of the Post, and quickly remarry with his Australian girlfriend. Shortly thereafter, in June of 1963, Phil was again placed in Chestnut Lodge and treated for "manic depression". Chestnut Lodge then released him in early August 1963 to his ex-wife Katherine's custody for a weekend break because she claimed he seemed to be doing much better. Phil stayed with Katherine at their Virginia farmhouse, and that is where he allegedly shot himself with shotgun. Against the wishes of Phil's will, which Katherine challenged, Katherine Graham then inherited the Washington Post which became a powerful mouthpiece for the intelligence community on all matters.

Ben Bradlee was also a key part of the intelligence community's control over the Post and of American political discourse. The best way to describe Bradlee is that for the duration of his Washington Post career, he was a useful asset to the intelligence community. Katherine Graham was less an asset and more of an insurance policy for the intelligence community. They got her power over the Post, and she gave them access and unquestioned loyalty. Remember the previously Operation Mockingbird, well the Washington Post is the flagship newspaper for Operation Mockingbird, and remember who ran Operation Mockingbird…none other than Cord Meyer, Mary Meyer's ex-husband. (If you want to read more about the very tangled and incredibly fascinating story of Mary Meyer, JFK, Cord Meyer, James Angleton, Ben Bradlee and Katherine Graham, I wholly encourage you to go read Mary's Mosaic by Peter Janney, it is a page-turner well worth your time if you have the interest.)

Now, don't those stories sound much more interesting and dramatically charged than the limp, third-rate Washington Post - Pentagon Papers nonsense that Spielberg conjures in The Post? Wouldn't those backstories make for at least a modicum of intrigue and drama when trying to fully flesh out who these dramatis personae really are and what actually happened at the Washington Post during the Pentagon papers incident? 

But Steven Spielberg has no interest in telling that kind of truth in his movies, he is only interested in telling a certain kind of truth, the same kind of truth that Ben Bradlee and Katherine Graham are interested in telling, namely...the manufactured, "safe" truth. If you look at the length and breadth of Spielberg and Hanks' career you notice something very troubling, they are both only interested in telling that sort of manufactured "safe" truth. Hanks and Spielberg are anything but artistic truth-tellers, they are Rockwellian myth-makers and star-spangled Riefenstahls who consistently and exclusively pump out agitprop for the Establishment and American Empire. I realize that I will be tarred and feathered as a tin-foil hat wearing kook for saying this, but it doesn't take a genius or a madman to figure out that upon closer inspection, Hanks and Spielberg are just like Bradlee and Graham, they are well positioned assets useful in disseminating disinformation propaganda for the American Intelligence community (and maybe some other nations Intelligence communities as well) in order to subtly indoctrinate the gullible and unaware masses.

Bradlee and Graham were so well positioned to be assets for Operation Mockingbird one cannot help but wonder if they were "assisted" in their rise to such pivotal and prominent roles on the American political stage…and the same can be said of Hanks and Spielberg, who have proven time and again that they seem to have risen to heights in Hollywood well beyond their artistic abilities and use their positions of power to inundate the public with most insidious of propaganda. (For further reading on Hanks desire to alter history to appease the American Intelligence community, check out James DiEugenio's book Reclaiming Parkland, it is not a particularly well-written work, but it is does contain some fascinating and insightful information.)

When you look at the question I posed earlier about why Spielberg would make THIS film about the Pentagon Papers instead of investigating other more potentially interesting angles of that story (Ellsberg bio-pic, NY Times angle etc.), through the prism of his job as a propagandist for the Establishment and the intelligence community, then The Post makes a helluva lot more sense.  

Spielberg could not make a film with Ellsberg as a hero because Ellsberg is a whistleblower and whistleblowers cannot be perceived as heroic especially in this day and age because they could potentially reveal the crimes of American empire and the intelligence community. Hanks and Spielberg both said as much in doing interviews regarding The Post. When asked if Ellsberg was a hero they both said, "yeah sure", but when asked if Snowden was a hero, they both declined to answer and said it "was complicated". It isn't complicated, it is only complicated if you are a propagandist interested in obscuring truth, not exposing it. The reason they can sort of say Ellsberg is ok is because his revelations are ancient history with no impact on today's world, whereas Snowden is making a brave Ellsbergian stand today, and to make things worse in Hanks and Spielberg's eyes, Snowden did so while Obama was president. 

Think of it this way, Spielberg can make any movie he wants, but he chose the safest route imaginable and made The Post. He could've made a Snowden movie, or a Chelsea Manning movie, both of which would tell the truth to power story and even the freedom of the press story that The Post pretends to tell. He could've made a film about John Kiriakou which would be immensely more interesting than The Post, but he didn't. Spielberg could've still played it safe and made a straight up, paint-by-numbers Ellsberg bio-pic…but he didn't. Hell, Spielberg could've made a Trump bio-pic, Oliver Stone made one of George W. Bush while he was still in office for goodness sake, but he would never do something so ballsy. Instead, Spielberg made the impotent and insipid The Post, with all of its narrative quirks, historical omissions and sub-textual dishonesty.

What I found even more damning than the shitty filmmaking and predictable script on display in The Post, was the audience with whom I watched it. The screening I attended was pretty crowded and at various times throughout the showing, the crowd whooped and cheered for the "good guys" (Hanks and company), and when the film ended there was a rapturous round of applause. I can easily surmise that none of these cheering people voted for Donald Trump, and that they felt their cheering was a brave and courageous act of "resistance".

What all the cheering from the audience proved to me is that this anti-Trump audience deserves that know-nothing buffoon as their president, because just like him they are dim-witted ignorami who only want to be told what they want to hear and are incurious, ill-informed and easily manipulated.  

These cheering ninnies are blissfully unaware of Ben Bradlee's connection to the intelligence community or his duplicitous relationship with JFK's affairs and Mary Meyer's murder. They are also blissfully unaware of Katherine Graham's equally nefarious connections to the intelligence community and the mystery surrounding her husbands downfall and supposed suicide and her subsequent rise to power at the Washington Post. These same simpletons probably confuse Snowden with Assange, and recoil at the truthful and accurate revelations of those two men and Chelsea Manning, but ignorantly cheer the charade of The Post as a metaphor for speaking truth to power and the battle for the freedom of the press today, just because Spielberg tells them to. These fools are Spielberg's bread and butter, for they are the worst kind of fools, they think they are savvy, well-informed, serious people, but they are simply dupes and dopes, and these vacuous, vapid and vacant numskulls have gotten the country, the president and the movie they so richly deserve. 

In conclusion, The Post is certainly not worth paying to see in the theatre. If you stumble across it on cable or Netlfix you can watch it to see Streep's marvelous performance but that is about it. The Post is fools gold for those looking for powerful stories of the struggle for freedom of the press and speaking truth to power. Viewers would be much better served avoiding the historical revisionism of The Post and seeking out the stories of Edward Snowden (the documentary Citizenfour or Oliver Stone's flawed Snowden), Chelsea Manning, John Kiriakou, Daniel Ellsberg (the documentary The Most Dangerous Man in America) and yes, even the much-maligned Julian Assange, if they want to understand the current fight for freedom of the press and the battle against tyranny, where information and the truth are the greatest weapons of war.

©2017

Harvey Weinstein is America

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes 39 seconds

Harvey Weinstein’s sexual harassment scandal isn’t only an indictment of his twisted soul but of America’s as well.

The story of Harvey Weinstein, the uber-powerful film producer, co-founder of Miramax Films and major donor to Democratic politicians, who got fired from his job as co-Chairman of The Weinstein Company after the New York Times ran an article exposing his serial sexual harassment of female employees, is such a perfect storm of corruption, depravity and hypocrisy that it exquisitely encapsulates the moral decay of America.

The Times piece revealed that Weinstein has settled at least eight different sexual harassment lawsuits over the years. The Times article was just the tip of a really grotesque iceberg though, for in its wake a plethora of other claims have surfaced.

In a New Yorker article, written, ironically enough, by Ronan Farrow, son of accused pedophile Woody Allen, even more claims emerged of Weinstein’s predatory behavior. One of the many lowlights from that article include Italian actress/filmmaker Asia Argento and two other women claiming that Weinstein raped them.

The most famous women among the sea of those claiming harassment at the hands of the movie mogul are Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, Ashley Judd, Rose McGowan and Rosanna Arquette.

The odiousness of this Weinstein scandal is overwhelming, and nearly public person is going through the Kabuki theatre of denouncing Harvey and his lecherousness but this strikes me as disingenuous at best. All the movie stars, media members and politicians strongly reprimanding Weinstein now, displayed nothing but egregious cowardice during Harvey Weinstein’s grotesque reign of wanton terror.

Many Hollywood heavyweights like Meryl Streep, George Clooney, Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lawrence, are feigning ignorance of Weinstein’s disgusting depravity, but the revelation of Weinstein’s repulsive misdeeds cannot possibly come as a surprise. Harvey, the rotund and repugnant Hollywood kingmaker, is notorious in the film industry for his petulant and imperious approach, which includes physically abusing underlings and being a lascivious beast to women. Tales of Weinstein’s bad behavior are so legion that even a complete nobody like me has heard them ad infinitum.

So how did Harvey get away with being such a gigantic creep for so long? The main reason is that he possessed the most rare talent that all of Hollywood covets, the ability to garner Oscar votes for his films. Weinstein produced films have been nominated for Best Picture 26 times in the last 28 years and have been nominated for over 300 Academy Awards overall. In other words, Harvey could make people rich and famous beyond their wildest dreams, which is why so many in Hollywood checked their humanity and ethics at the door and looked the other way when he was being such a troglodyte. To quote Upton Sinclair, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

Blind ambition isn’t the only reason Hollywood looked the other way regarding Weinstein, political expediency played a part as well. Weinstein has been a long time supporter of Democratic candidates, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in particular, and has donated a lot of money to their campaigns.  

A perfect example of someone making a devil’s bargain with Weinstein for political reasons is Lena Dunham. Dunham, a vociferous and vocal Clinton supporter and devout feminist, admitted that she knew of Weinstein’s predatory reputation in regards to women, but still shook his hand and performed at a fundraiser he held for Clinton’s campaign. Dunham said she betrayed her feminist values because “she so desperately wanted to support Clinton.” 

Hollywood liberals were quick to denounce Evangelical Christians for supporting Trump despite his moral turpitude and misogyny, calling them hypocrites. I agree that Evangelicals are hypocrites for supporting Trump, but so are Hollywood liberals for enabling Weinstein. Both sides, Trump supporters and Hollywood liberals, need to get off their high horse and read Matthew 7:5, “You hypocrite! First remove the beam out of your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

Speaking of enabling, the Weinstein scandal brought to my mind a line from a U2 song, “if you need someone to blame, throw a rock in the air, you’ll hit someone guilty.”  When I throw my rock it often lands on the media, and so it is with this case.

Ronan Farrow published his Weinstein story in the New Yorker magazine, but only because his employer NBC news refused to go with the story. NBC is in business with Weinstein on various film and television projects, and no doubt did not want to ruffle the feathers of such a powerful and litigious man like Harvey Weinstein, so they passed on it, which means this story says just as much about them as it does about Weinstein.

Even the New York Times, which broke the Weinstein story, came out smelling less like a rose and more like a manure pile after it became known that the newspaper spiked a similar story regarding Weinstein in 2004 after being pressured by the producer and his lawyers to do so.

The New York Times dropping the ball on an important story in the early 2000’s should come as no surprise to anyone who followed the lead up to the Iraq war or Bush surveillance, but what was shocking was who helped to scuttle the 2004 Weinstein article. Matt Damon, yes, Matt Damon, Mr. Good Will Hunting and thought-to-be good guy, called the Times reporter to defend and vouch for Weinstein in an effort to stop the story. So did everyone’s favorite Gladiator Russell Crowe. I wonder how Damon and Crowe sleep at night knowing they were complicit in thirteen more years of Weinstein’s abusing women?

It is uncomfortable to acknowledge, but another group of people who could have stopped Harvey Weinstein but did not were the more famous of his victims, like Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, Mira Sorvino and Ashley Judd. These women did not ask to be placed in this terrible position, but they could have stopped him cold if they came forward years ago. The reason I cite them and not the other victims is because they were uniquely positioned to be able to defend themselves and to take on Harvey Weinstein, where the other victims were not. What I mean by that is that Paltrow, Jolie, Sorvino and Judd all come from entertainment families that are well-known and liked in the industry. They were not powerless because they have strong allies and deep connections in the business. These women, sans Judd, also won Oscars, giving them even more credibility and visibility to make their claims. I do not “blame” these women for being harassed or assaulted by Weinstein, I only wish they overcame their ambition and saved others from that awful fate.

 The cavalcade of condemnation for Harvey Weinstein will continue unabated for the days and weeks to come, and deservedly so, but to see him only as a target of derision diminishes his impact as a cautionary tale. Harvey Weinstein is simply a symptom of the wider disease which I call “reality show America”, which sees human beings as disposable and transactional objects whose value is measured in terms of their usefulness for entertainment or pleasure.

The true power of the Weinstein story is not about his personal failings, but that it is symbolic of the fact that “reality-show America”, which thrives across the political and cultural spectrum, is a collection of self-serving, amoral, hypocrites who are quick to attack the failings of their enemy but slow to embrace self-reflection.

Will the denizens of “reality-show America” in Hollywood, Washington and the news media ask themselves how they have contributed to the culture that bred a man like Harvey Weinstein? I sincerely doubt it since deflection, emotional myopia and historical amnesia are as American as apple pie.

The Weinstein scandal is an opportunity, not only to see Weinstein for who he really is but also to see America for what we have become…an ethically bankrupt and indecent collection of moral cowards allergic to self-reflection and truth.

This “reality show America”, currently starring the Trumps and Kardashians (with special guest appearance by the Clintons!) and produced by Harvey Weinstein, shows that America has devolved to the point of shameless obscenity, and regardless of how self-righteous we as liberals, conservatives, Democrats or Republicans may feel, we no longer possess any moral authority because, just like Harvey Weinstein, Hollywood, Washington and Wall Street, we are incapable of being honest with ourselves.

It is difficult to admit, but if we mustered the courage to see ourselves as we truly are, we would recognize that Harvey Weinstein is America, and America is Harvey Weinstein. Both are bloated, entitled, corrupt, bombastic, blindly ambitious bullies, full of fear and loathing, that use their outsized power to exploit the defenseless in order to indulge their darker impulses and insatiable desires. The sooner we recognize that, the faster we can try to change it.

This article was originally published on Thursday, October 12, 2017 at RT.

©2017

Express Yourself? Madonna Don't Preach!

Estimated Reading Time : 4 minutes 11 seconds

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Did Lisa go?”

 “No.”

 “Did Jenny go?”

 “No.”

 “Did Karen go?”

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

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

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

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

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

Previously published on January 24, 2017 at RT.

©2017

Meryl Streep, Character and Moral Authority

Estimated Reading Time : 5 Minutes 08 Seconds

Last night after finishing up some work I sat down and turned on the television just in time to catch Meryl Streep's speech when she won her much deserved lifetime achievement award at the Golden Globes. In the speech, Streep spoke out against president-elect Trump but never mentioned him by name.  Here is the speech.

Streep's speech has received a great deal of attention, both good and bad, and everyone seems to have an opinion on it. Here is mine.

I love Meryl Streep. If she isn't the greatest actress of all time, she is most definitely in the discussion. Her talent and passion for her art are only surpassed by her mastery of craft and technique. In addition to being a tremendous artist, Streep has the reputation of being a wonderful human being, kind and generous to everyone with whom she comes into contact . With all of that said, I found myself getting very angry as I watched her speech last night. I wasn't angry because I disagreed with her, I didn't, I agreed with nearly everything she said. I was angry because I was wondering, where have you been for the last eight years Meryl?

If the things Meryl Streep talked about last night meant so much to her, why didn't she speak up for them during Obama's presidency? If she is so concerned about foreigners or immigrants being singled out, why didn't she speak up when Obama deported nearly three million of them, more than any other president? If she is so concerned with "bullying" of the weak and defenseless, why didn't she speak up when Obama ordered the extra-judicial murder of Americans including a 16 year old American and then had his spokesman say the teen "should have had a better father" as being the reason he was killed ? And why didn't she speak up when Obama failed to prosecute torturers and war criminals in the Bush administration? If Streep is so concerned about protecting the press, why didn't she speak up when Obama had twice as many prosecutions of whistleblowers, eight, as all of the other presidents combined? Why didn't Streep speak up for Chelsea Manning who sat in solitary confinement for nearly a year? Or Edward Snowden who sits in exile in Russia? or Julian Assange who has been imprisoned in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for over four years now? If Meryl Streep cares about those issues as much as she passionately displayed last night, why didn't she fight for them when Obama was president? Could it be that she is actually more interested in style over substance? Political party, power and ideology over Truth?

Sadly, Streep's speech will resonate with no one outside of those who already agree with her. She will change no minds and change no policies with her words from last night. The Obama presidency was the opportunity to change things for Streep and those like her. Streep could have spoken out vociferously for immigrants, foreigners and the weakest among us during the last eight years, if she had, she may have been able to change things. She may have, with her respected standing in the public eye, been able to have gotten Chelsea Manning pardoned, or Snowden, or Assange (or Leonard Peltier for that matter). She may have been able to hold Obama accountable for the extra-judicial drone killings of Americans and gotten that policy changed and saved innocent lives that Obama calls "collateral damage". She may have been able to speak out for poor and working class people who didn't get bailed out while Wall street did, but she didn't. She may have been able to force Obama to fight for single payer healthcare and not the corporate friendly Affordable Care Act, but she kept quiet. She was silent on all of these and a host of other issues she claims to hold dear, only speaking out now that Trump is soon to be president. 

The problem with Streep staying silent during the Obama years is that she has lost all moral authority to lecture anyone. She had her chance for eight years to fight for Truth and change things, and she blew it. She stayed quiet when speaking up could have cost her something in her liberal community, but also when her voice could have really made a difference. Streep's anger may be righteous, but she has lost all moral authority and standing because she failed to speak up at a time, during the Obama years, when her critical voice would not have been so warmly welcomed by her Golden Globe compatriots. That is the sin of the Obama years, liberals stayed quiet in order to stay in power, or to support the party or to not be seen as attacking the first Black president. Whatever the reason, it was a most egregious mistake and one that they will rue for decades to come. It is when your side is in power that your voice and dedication to principles must be loudest because that is when you can actually effect change, not when those who oppose you take the reins. Speaking up against Trump now was a safe move for Meryl Streep in the largely liberal world she inhabits, speaking up against Obama during his presidency would have taken real courage.

It is not only what you say or do when you are out of power that defines your character, but what you say and do when in power that reveals your character. The democrats and Obama supporters revealed their lack of character and cowardice by not being true to their supposed values and speaking out forcefully against Obama when he failed to uphold the constitution and fight for the people. When Obama sided with Wall street over Main street, democrats gave him a pass. When he sided with the insurance companies and big pharma over regular working folks, democrats sat on their hands. When Obama imprisoned whistleblowers and murdered Americans without trial, democrats kept their mouths shut. Democrats revealed their character during Obama's presidency with their silence, and they no longer have any moral authority to speak out against Trump. That doesn't mean they won't speak out, it just means no one will listen or believe them when they do. The Obama presidency was a lost opportunity for democrats to prove their character and their moral authority, and they failed miserably. It will take a long time for them to ever be able prove to people that they mean what they say or are worthy of trust.

The first step for Meryl Streep, and other like-minded people, is to come out and apologize for losing their way and failing to uphold their convictions and principles during the Obama years. If Streep came out and said she was wrong to blindly support Obama, and that she is now going to be loyal to Truth above all else, then maybe…just maybe…she can regain the moral authority that is needed to change hearts, minds and policies. Will she do that? Not likely, as self-righteousness is a warm blanket few refuse in favor of the cold, hard struggle of self-reflection. Which is a shame, as Meryl Streep is an important voice that needs too be heard, it just needed to be heard for the last eight years, and not just last night.

©2017