"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

Joker: A Review

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

My Rating: 4.75 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation: SEE. IT. NOW.

Joker, directed by Todd Phillips and written by Phillips and Scott Silver, is the story of Arthur Fleck, a mentally-ill, down on his luck clown-for-hire and stand up comedian, who transforms into Batman’s arch-nemesis, the super-villain Joker. The film stars Joaquin Phoenix as Fleck, with supporting turns from Robert DeNiro, Frances Conroy and Zazie Beetz.

Early Thursday night I put my life in my hands and made the dangerous trek to the local art house to see Joker in 70mm. Thankfully, no angry white incels were laying in wait for me, so I lived to tell the tale of my Joker cinematic experience…here it is.

I went to Joker with very high hopes, but paradoxically, because I had such high hopes, I assumed I’d be disappointed by the film. My bottom line regarding Joker is this…it is a brilliant film of remarkable depth and insight, a gritty masterpiece that is a total game-changer for the comic book genre, and a staggering cinematic achievement for director Todd Phillips and star Joaquin Phoenix.

Joker is the cinematic bastard son of Martin Scorsese’s masterpiece of 1970’s New Hollywood, Taxi Driver. Beyond being an homage, it is more an updated bookend to that classic, engineered for the corporatized Hollywood of the 21st century.

The film’s Taxi Driver lineage is hiding in plain sight, as it has similar music, shots, camera angles and even re-purposes the famed finger gun to the head move. Joker’s Gotham, is eerily reminiscent of Taxi Driver’s New York City of the 1970’s, which Travis Bickle aptly describes as “sick and venal”. I couldn’t help but think of my Los Angeles neighborhood when seeing Joker’s dilapidated Gotham, with its garbage piled high on every sidewalk and a layer of filth covering the city. In “sick and venal” Los Angeles, we are much too evolved to have garbage piled high on our sidewalks, no, out here in La La Land, even in million dollar neighborhoods, people are disposable and so we we have them piled high on the sidewalks instead, as homelessness is epidemic. Joker’s Gotham, Bickle’s New York and my Los Angeles also share a deep coating of grime as well as a thriving rat population that is disease-ridden and increasingly bold, both in and out of public office.

Joker’s depiction of Gotham as a Bickle-esque New York is fascinating bit of sub-text, as it is a throwback to a time before Manhattan was Disney-fied and Times Square turned from degenerate porn hub to hub of capitalism porn. Joker is also a throwback to a time before cinema was corporatized/Disney-fied, a pre-Heaven’s Gate age, when filmmakers like Scorsese could flourish and make movies like Taxi Driver, unhindered by suits blind to everything but the bottom line.

Joker ‘s genius is also because it is a “real movie”, a Taxi Driver/The King of Comedy covertly wrapped in the corporate cloak of superhero intellectual property. Unlike the sterile Marvel movie behemoths, which Scorsese himself recently described as “not cinema" and which are more akin to amusement park rides than movies, Joker is, at its heart, a down and dirty 1970’s dramatic character study, for this reason alone the film is brilliantly subversive and a stake into the heart of the Disney Goliath.

It is astonishing that Todd Phillips, whose previous films are the comedies Old School and The Hangover trilogies, was able to conceive of, and execute, Joker with such artistic precision and commitment. Phillip’s success with Joker is reminiscent of Adam McKay’s astounding direction of The Big Short (2015). Previous to The Big Short, McKay had basically been Will Ferrell’s caddie, making silly movies well, but they were still silly movies. McKay’s long term film making prowess is still in question, as is Phillip’s, but that does not diminish their mastery on The Big Short and Joker.

Phillip’s direction really is fantastic, but he is also greatly benefited by having the greatest actor working in cinema as his leading man. Joaquin Phoenix’s performance as Arthur Fleck/Joker is an astonishing feat. Phoenix famously (or infamously depending on your perspective) lost a great deal of weight to play the role, and his wiry, sinewy frame at times seems like a marionette possessed by a demon outcast from American bandstand or Soul Train. Fleck/Joker’s madness is seemingly chaotic, but Phoenix gives it an internal logic and order, that makes it emotionally coherent.

Phoenix is a master at connecting to a volatile emotionality within his characters, and of giving his character’s a distinct and very specific physicality. What is often overlooked with Phoenix is his level of meticulousness and superior craftsmanship in his work. Joker is no exception as his exquisite skill is on full display right alongside his compellingly volcanic unpredictability. Phoenix’s subtle use of breath, his hands, as well as his attention and focus are miraculous.

Phoenix is a revolutionary actor. He is so good, so skilled, so talented, that he is reinventing the art form. His work as Freddie Quell in Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master (2012) was a landmark in the art form, and his performance in Joker is equally earth shattering. If he does not win an Best Actor Oscar for Joker, whoever does win the award should be ashamed of themselves for stealing the statuette from its rightful recipient.

Contrary to establishment media critical opinion, Phoenix does not make Arthur a sympathetic character, but he does make him an empathetic one, and one with which we empathize. We don’t feel sorry for Arthur, we feel kinship with him as he struggles to maintain some semblance of dignity in a society allergic to compassion.

Joker was described by its detractors as being “dangerous”, and I can attest that the film is indeed dangerous, but not for the reasons laid out by its critics. Joker is dangerous because it dares to do something that corporate controlled art has long since deemed anathema…it tells the very ugly truth.

Joker has the artistic audacity to peel back the scab of modern America and reveal the maggot infested, infected wound pulsating in agony just beneath our civilized veneer. Joker’s chaotic madness is a perfect reflection of the sickness of our time. Think Joker is too “nihilistic” or “negative”? Turn on a television, read a newspaper or take a cross-country flight, and you’ll see that the nihilism and negativity of Joker are nothing compared to the madhouse in which we currently live.

Arthur Fleck is America, as the country, populated by narcissists, neanderthals and ne’er do wells, has devolved and self-destructed, rotting from the inside out after decades of decadence, delusion and depravity. America is rapidly degrading and devolving, and that devolution is mirrored by Arthur Fleck has he transforms into Joker.

Joker is unnerving to mainstream media critics because it shines the spotlight on the disaffected and dissatisfied in America, who are legion, growing in numbers and getting angrier by the hour. As I have witnessed in my own life, the rage, resentment and violent mental instability among the populace in America is like a hurricane out in the Atlantic, gaining more power and force as every day passes, and inevitably heading right toward landfall and a collision with highly populated urban centers that will inevitably result in a conflagration of epic proportions.

Joker, the consummate trickster, is devoid of politics and ideology and exists only to feed and satiate his own voracious madness. Fleck is an empty vessel and the Joker archetype co-opts and animates him. Fleck, born again as Joker, is adopted as a symbol for the struggles of the angry and the desperate, in other words, Joker is the archetype of our times, a Trumpian figure, who unintentionally inspires others, friend and foe alike, to release their inhibitions and unleash their inner demons. Joker is dangerous because he is an avatar for the rage, resentment and desperation of millions upon millions of Americans who have been forgotten and left behind and are utterly despised by the elite. Joker is both apolitical and all political. The populist Joker is both Antifa and the Alt-Right. Joker is everything and nothing to everyone and nobody all at once. The media in the movie, and in real life, make Joker into a monster, an icon and an iconic monster for the dispossessed, elevating him in the eyes of those desperately seeking a savior.

In a perverted and brilliant way, Phillips and Phoenix make Fleck into a Jesus figure, who as he transforms into Joker, becomes an unwitting Christ/anti-Christ. The line between messiah and madman is a thin one, and depends almost entirely on projection and perspective.

Arthur Fleck, like Jesus, is literally someone who is repeatedly kicked when he is down. Like Jesus, society ignores and despises him. Like Jesus he is berated, belittled and beaten…and yet all he wants to do is make people smile. Like Jesus, Fleck’s birth story is convoluted and lacks coherence.

What makes Phoenix’s portrayal so chilling is that his Fleck earnestly desires to bring joy to the world just like Jesus…and just as Jesus is actually a good magician/miracle worker, Fleck is actually a good clown, filled with energy and purpose. But Arthur soon realizes that there are two jokes at play in the universe…the one where he is the punchline, and the one in his head, of which he is self-aware enough to realize regular people “won’t get it”. Jesus makes the same sort of discovery during his temptations, he hears a “joke” in his head too, but it is the voice of God, and he comes to realize no one else will “get it” either. Fleck and Jesus are presented the same two paths, Jesus takes the one of self-sacrifice and becomes the Christ, and Fleck takes the road of human sacrifice, and becomes The Joker/Satan.

At its core Joker is a character study, and so there is not a lot of heavy lifting among the cast besides Joaquin Phoenix. That said, Frances Conroy, Robert DeNiro and Zazie Beets all do solid work with the material they have.

The film is shot with an exquisite grittiness by Lawrence Sher. Sher pays adoring homage to Taxi Driver by using certain specific camera shots and angles throughout the film. Sher also uses shadow and light really well to convey Fleck’s/Joker’s perspective and his tenuous grasp on reality. Sher, like Phillips, does not have a resume that would make you think he was capable of doing such substantial work, but in the case of these two men past was not prologue.

Joker is one of those movies that reminds you why cinema matters, as it uses the tired and worn comic book genre to draw viewers in, and then sticks the knife of brutal cultural commentary deep into their chests.

Joker has been at the center of of a cultural storm ever since it premiered to a raucous ovation at the Venice Film Festival in September. The film won the Golden Lion (Best Picture) at Venice and was quickly catapulted into the Oscar discussion, which created a fierce backlash against the film from certain American critics and woke twitter. The common refrain from those critics who saw it at Venice, and those who hadn’t, was that the film was “dangerous” because it would incite disaffected white men to become violent. In researching an article I recently wrote about the controversy, I came across a stunning number of articles with the imploring and weak-kneed headline, “Joker is Not the Movie We Need Right Now”. Of course, the converse is true because Joker is exactly the movie we need right now.

The critical opinion of Joker, especially among the critics at influential media outlets such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The Guardian, The New Yorker and Time, is aggressively negative and dismissive, riddled with a belittling and condescending commentary. The criticisms leveled at the film from these effete establishment critics are obviously contrived, petty, personal, political and entirely predetermined. The amount of intentional obtuseness on display about Joker, its cinematic sophistication and its artistic merits, by these supposed important critics is stunning and revealing.

The critical malevolence toward Joker is undoubtedly fueled by a need to virtue signal and pander to woke culture, and is born out of personal contempt for the filmmaker (who dared defend himself against “woke culture”) and manufactured anger at the subject matter. The poor reviews of Joker by these American critics says considerably more about those critics, their dishonesty and lack of integrity, than it does about Joker. Make no mistake, Joker is a masterpiece in its own depraved way, and the critics who succumb to the myopic social pressure and cultural politics of the moment by reflexively trashing the movie as immoral and artistically and cinematically unworthy, will be judged extremely harshly by history.

In looking at the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, Joker currently has a critical score of 69 and an audience score of 91. The disconnect between critics and audience on Joker is similar to the disconnect on display regarding Dave Chappelle’s recent Netflix stand up special Sticks and Stones. Chappelle’s show was pilloried by critics who were horrified by the comedian’s “unwoke” and decidedly politically incorrect take on the world, as the critical score is currently at 35, while the audience score is a resounding 99. It would seem that in our current age, bubble-dwelling, group-thinking critics in the mainstream media, are no longer interested in artistic merit, cinematic worthiness, skill, craftsmanship or talent, but rather in personal politics, woke ideology, political correctness and conformity, and are dishonest brokers when it comes to judging art and entertainment.

Joker is a watershed for the comic book genre. In the future film historians will look back on this time and say that there comic book films pre-Joker and comic book films post-Joker. There is no going back for the genre. That does not mean that Marvel will immediately crumble and fall into the sea, but it does mean that the genie is out of the bottle, and there is no getting it back in. Jason Concepcion and Sean Fennessy at The Ringer recently pondered if Joker is to the superhero genre what The Wild Bunch was to westerns back in 1969. They are not so sure, but I certainly think is as genre redefining or killing as The Wild Bunch. The Disney/Marvel model, post-Endgame and post-Joker, will only see diminishing cultural resonance and relevance, as well as financial returns, from this point forward. The superhero genre will not disappear overnight, but it has begun its long retreat from its apex, and God only knows what will eventually replace it.

In conclusion, Joker is a mirror, and it reflects the degeneracy, depravity and sheer madness that is engulfing America. Joker is an extremely dark film, but that is because America is an extremely dark place at the moment. Joker is unquestionably one of the very best films of the year and should be, but probably won’t be, an Oscar front-runner for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Screenplay. I highly recommend you go see Joker in theatres as soon as you possibly can, as it is must-see viewing for anyone interested in cinema, art or in understanding what is rapidly coming for America.

©2019

Celebriphilia Epidemic Sweeps US: We Look Now To The Stars For Guidance

Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes 37 seconds

CELEBRITY-OBSESSED AMERICANS LOOK TO THE STARS FOR GUIDANCE

Americans are blessed to have a plethora of benevolent celebrities who are willing to share their infinite knowledge and wisdom with them.

After a thorough examination by a team of top-notch doctors, I was recently given some very disturbing news…I was diagnosed with an acute case of stage 4 platonic celebriphilia. In case you don’t know, celebriphilia is a disease where the afflicted have an abnormal and overwhelming adoration of celebrity.

My medical team, which includes Dr. Phil, Dr. Drew and Dr. Oz, tells me that the symptoms of celebriphilia include feeling a false sense of familiarity and intimacy with celebrities which leads to the afflicted projecting an inordinate amount of inappropriate intelligence, wisdom and expertise upon celebrities.

My celebriphilia first manifested itself a few years ago when Academy Award winning actress Gwyneth Paltrow created her “lifestyle brand” Goop. Through Goop, Gwyneth sold new age, alternative therapies and devices at exorbitant prices, including “vaginal eggs” that were meant to be inserted into the vagina in order to aid “hormonal balance, and feminine energy”.

After re-mortgaging my home in order to finance the purchase, I bought a dozen vaginal eggs from Gwyneth. Now if you are wondering why I would buy vaginal eggs whose miracle powers were debunked in a lawsuit, especially since I don’t have a vagina, then you obviously do not have celebriphilia.

The way I see it is this, if I had a vagina, I would trust my friend Gwyneth to tell me (and sell me) the right wonder egg to stick into it in order to cure whatever ails me. If I’m going to trust anyone regarding my non-existent vagina, you can bet your bottom dollar it would be the woman who played Pepper Potts in the Iron Man movies…that alone makes her an authority in vaginacology.

The same is true of anti-vaccination proponent Jenny McCarthy. Jenny is a TV host and former Playboy model, which is the celebrity equivalent of being a Phd in immunology, which is why I faithfully obey her when she orders me not to vaccinate my kids because they could get autism.

Suzanne Somers starred on Three’s Company forty years ago, which is equal to getting a Master’s Degree in Bio-Genetic Engineering, and so when, contrary to mainstream medical opinion, she claims that “bio-identical hormone therapy” is the fountain of youth…I trust in Suzanne’s knowledge and wisdom.

You may think my Celebriphilia is so severe I need to take some medication to temper it…well…you’d be wrong. Kirstie Alley and her Scientology Lord and Savior, Tom Cruise, have informed me that psychiatry is a “quack” science and psychiatric drugs are dangerous. Kirstie was on Cheers, where everybody knows your name…and Tom Cruise is…well…TOM CRUISE!! So they definitely know what they’re talking about and I trust their expertise implicitly and will remain untreated, thank you very much.

My celebriphilia isn’t limited to just medical questions, the infection has spread to my thoughts on foreign policy and politics too. Thanks to celebriphilia I now blindly trust in Hollywood to tell me what to think. When Hollywood churns out star-studded, pro-war, pro-empire propaganda films and tv shows that have their scripts controlled by the Pentagon in exchange for military equipment, personnel, access and budgetary relief, I absorb the indoctrination unquestioningly.

We celebriphiliacs only get our news from rebellious comedians like John Oliver, Bill Maher and Stephen Colbert, and believe in every establishment talking point they sell us. I whole-heartedly put my faith in these second rate hack comedians desperate to stay in the good graces of their corporate overlords to tell me the unvarnished truth.

As a celebriphiliac I get all my insights regarding Russia from Rob Reiner, who is an expert because he played Meathead on the 1970’s sitcom All in the Family. When Meathead tells me that we are at war with Russia because they stole our election in 2016, I treat his anti-Russian proclamations with all the respect it deserves.

To get my political opinions I go to all the top experts…Robert DeNiro, Matt Damon, Bruce Willis, Brie Larson, Alec Baldwin, Tim Allen, Angelina Jolie, James Woods, Chris Evans and George Clooney. Sometimes these experts have conflicting opinions on political matters, like maybe Bruce Willis and Alec Baldwin disagree on tax policy, or Tim Allen and Chris Evans have opposing thoughts on immigration. In order to resolve these deeply troubling quagmires, I do the logical thing and choose what I believe by siding with the celebrity who has the most Twitter followers.

Luckily for me, I am not alone in being afflicted with celebriphilia, as it is a raging epidemic in America. Here in the U.S.A. we adore our celebrities so much we actually vote them into high office. In the last forty years alone we have elected a senile, bad B-movie actor, Ronald Reagan, and a silver-spooned, D-list reality tv con-man, Donald Trump, to the presidency.

In my state of California, the epicenter of the celebriphilia epidemic, we have elected a sex-abusing, steroid-injecting, son-of-a-Nazi, movie star, Arnold Schwarzenegger, to two terms in the Governor’s mansion, and the city of Carmel-by-the-Sea elected Dirty Harry himself, Clint Eastwood, to be mayor twenty-five years before he berated an empty chair at the RNC convention in 2012.

We American celebriphiliacs not only forgave these men for their shortcomings, we also imbued them with a wisdom, competency and expertise they did not possess, all because of their status as celebrity.

You may think that because I suffer from celebriphilia and treat celebrities like experts on things well outside their skill set, that I am insane. If the definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results”, then considering the level of corruption, incompetence and malevolence on display by “real” establishment experts in government, Wall Street, Big Pharma and the media over the years, be it in regards to 9-11, WMD’s and the Iraq war, the housing bubble and ensuing 2008 economic collapse, the 2016 election, Russiagate and the opioid epidemic, then listening to, believing in, or trusting in these “official” experts is equally as insane as buying vaginal wonder eggs from Iron Man’s wife, Pepper Potts.

The bottom line is this, I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on tv, but I have seen other people play them on tv, and I am a certified celebriphiliac, which I think qualifies me to make a formal diagnosis of what ails celebrity obsessed, and expert-addled America. After careful study and deep thought I have come to this conclusion…contrary to popular opinion, America is not losing its mind…just like me, it has already lost it.

This article was originally published at RT.com.

 

©2019

Meathead Beats the Dead Horse of Collusion

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes 27 seconds

Hollywood is churning out all-star videos in order to try and convince Americans that Trump is guilty of “collusion”.

For the last three months there has been a bombshell story hiding in plain sight about an obscure government document that has been criminally under-reported by the establishment press. Thankfully Hollywood is here to save the day and shed some much needed light on this ever-elusive information.

The document I am referring to, of course, is The Mueller Report, which according to Academy Award nominated filmmaker and Hillary Clinton fanatic Rob Reiner, is an absolute mystery to ordinary (non-famous) Americans. In a patriotic act the equivalent of storming the beach on D-Day, Reiner has done a truly courageous and heroic thing to bring attention to this long ignored story…he made a five-minute video with his Hollywood friends.

On Thursday, June 20th, a group named Now This put out the video directed by Reiner, that features celebrities such as Robert DeNiro, Laurence Fishburne and even former president-on-tv Martin Sheen, highlighting what they believe to be the criminality of Trump exposed in the report.

Reiner has been in the vanguard of Hollywood’s pro-Hillary contingent and is a vociferous proponent of Trump and Russia’s collusion in the 2016 election. In 2017, he teamed with Bush administration war criminal David Frum to start a group called Committee to Investigate Russia. This group also put out a video, one that starred former president-in-the-movies, Morgan Freeman, and it boldly declared that “We Are At War” with Russia.

With that statement in mind it should come as no surprise that Rob Reiner came to fame in the 1970’s playing a character named Meathead on All in the Family. It is nice to know he is still living up to the moniker. Reiner is Hollywood royalty, being the son of comedy legend Carl Reiner, then a tv star in the aforementioned Meathead years, and then becoming one of Hollywood’s most successful filmmakers, having directed hits like This is Spinal Tap, The Princess Bride, When Harry Met Sally and A Few Good Men.

In his most recent work, the Now This - Mueller Report video, Reiner tries to use his moviemaking prowess to make the argument that Trump is guilty of “collusion” but that no one realizes this because they haven’t actually read the Mueller Report. The video starts off on very shaky logical ground when just 44 seconds in Rosie Perez emphatically declares, “virtually no one has read” the report. It pains me to point out to Meathead and Ms. Perez, which could be the title of a future buddy cop movie, that the Mueller Report has been published by three different publishing companies, and all three of those versions currently sit on the New York Times best seller list at #1,#5 and #12. 

Reiner’s claim also ignores the fact that the press has reported on “virtually” nothing but Mueller’s investigation for the last two and a half years. Considering the plethora of Mueller stories to the point of saturation in the media, the putting out of this video by Reiner is an act of animal cruelty worse than anything seen at Santa Anita racetrack because at least at the track they properly dispose of their dead horses instead of continuing to beat them.

In an amusing bit of irony, Reiner and his Hollywood cohorts who claim no one has read the report, prove themselves to either have not read it or not understood it when they repeatedly claim that Trump is proven guilt of “collusion” within its pages. The numerous references to “collusion” made me think of Reiner’s classic comedy The Princess Bride and the character Inigo Montoya who says in the film, “you keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

“Collusion” is a nebulous word in the context of the Trump/Russia story and people who use it only do so to disinform and distract. As the Mueller Report states it did not use “collusion” in their assessment of potential criminality because “collusion is not a specific offense or theory of liability found in the United States code”.

Reiner and company intentionally say “collusion” instead of the more specific colloquial term ‘coordinated’, or the detailed legal term ‘conspiracy’, in order to mislead viewers about the contents of the Mueller Report. This obfuscation is proven by the report when it clearly states, “The investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian Government in its election interference activities”.

In Reiner’s video Cliff Notes version of the report he also holds up Trump campaign officials Paul Manafort and Rick Gates meeting up with a “Russian agent” in a cigar bar in New York City in order to give him polling information as a sort of smoking gun. The video fails to mention the “Russian agent’s” name, which is Konstantin Kilimnik, maybe because he is also Ukrainian and clearly isn’t a “Russian Agent” because he was actually a “sensitive” intelligence asset for the U.S. State Department who would report to them on Ukrainian and Russian matters.

This insinuation of criminality is as equally obtuse as, and reminiscent of, the dim-witted band members from Reiner’s iconic rock and roll mockumentary, This is Spinal Tap, recalling the numerous deaths of their drummers through the years, such as the one who “died in a bizarre gardening accident” that authorities felt was “best left unsolved”, or the drummer who died when he “choked on vomit” but they didn’t know whose vomit it was because “you can’t really dust for vomit”.

The video also declares that Trump officials met with 200 Russian “operatives” and that this again is proof of “collusion”. In Reiner’s Cold War addled mind, every Russian is an “operative” or agent or asset, such as lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, who is described in the video as a “Putin-connected Russian lawyer”, no doubt her “Putin-connection” comes from simply being Russian. 

The sort of Russophobic prejudice displayed by Reiner was best articulated by former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, when in 2017 he said, “…Russians, who typically, almost genetically driven to co-opt, penetrate, gain favor, whatever, which is a typical Russian technique.”

It is obvious that the gullible Reiner has fallen prey to the insidiously deceptive media narrative of Russiagate which is the equivalent of his film The Princess Bride, where liberals are Princess Buttercup and Robert Mueller is the hero Westley, who will save them from the evil Prince Humperdinck, who is Trump.

This current insipid Reiner video is a symptom of the delusional orgy of ecstatic Trump and Russia hating in which Democrats have indulged in recent years. Like in When Harry Met Sally when an older woman (played by Rob Reiner’s actual mother, Estelle) in a diner, who witnesses Sally demonstrate to Harry how she fakes an orgasm, masterfully deadpans the line “I’ll have what she’s having”, liberals watch Rachel Maddow’s orgasmic Russiagate coverage and declare, “I’ll have what she’s having”. The Democrat hysteria over Trump and Russia results in a dangerously distorted perception of reality, a perfect example is the perilous Reiner statement “We are at War” with Russia.

The reality is that because of the intensity of Reiner’s slavish, sycophantic worship of Hillary Clinton, no matter how many political videos he makes, he will convince no one of anything except the fact that he is a rabid political dog chasing his own tail who is close to collapsing onto the floor in a dizzied state of exhaustion and madness. That is the truth, and to quote Colonel Jessup from A Few Good Men, Rob Reiner simply “can’t handle the truth!

 A version of this article was originally published on June 27, 2019 at RT.com.

©2019

Wild : A Review

****WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SOME (MINOR) SPOILERS!! YOU HAVE BEEN OFFICIALLY WARNED****

Wild, directed by Jean-Marc Vallee (Dallas Buyers Club), is a film adaptation of Cheryl Strayed's memoir of self-discovery "Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail". Nick Hornby adapted the book for the screen. In the story, Strayed is compelled to hike the very formidable Pacific Crest Trail from southern California up to Washington state in order to heal herself and purge her demons after the death of her mother, years of drug use and promiscuity, and a divorce. The story is told from Cheryl Strayed's perspective and follows her on her physical journey, including her mental and emotional fluctuations while on that journey, all the while peppered with flashbacks of her life leading up to the decision to trek. 

Reese Witherspoon stars in the film as Cheryl Strayed. This is the best performance of Reese Witherspoon's career, without question. It isn't easy for an actress of her status to dirty themselves up and expose themselves, both literally and figuratively, in a film like this. But she dives in head first and roles around in the muck and the mire, embracing the grit and grime of the character and her journey.  She should be applauded for her courage if nothing else, but the performance deserves applause for more than just it's courage. Witherspoon's usual appealing persona is not removed from her portrayal, but it is channelled and contained enough to give her character the right amount of vibrancy and charm that encourages us to follow her through the story without making her unreal, phony or too Hollywood. This is the 'most genuine' Witherspoon has ever felt on camera. She still maintains that trademark radiant energy of hers which made her a star, but it is sullied enough that she is able to create a  distinct, specific and conflicted character, one that we might actually come across while out in the world somewhere. Reese Witherspoon's performance is undeniably the driving force of the film, and I am sure she will receive, at the least, a well-deserved Oscar nomination. I genuinely hope that in the future she will take on more challenging roles in more interesting films like she has this year with Wild and Inherent Vice

Besides Witherspoon's performance, the most interesting aspect of the film to me, and what it does incredibly well, is to perfectly capture the overwhelming feeling of vulnerability a woman can experience out alone in a world filled with men. This is a thought I rarely, if ever, contemplate. It was such an interesting insight to me, to be able to not only understand that experience intellectually, but to actually feel it, which is a credit to both Vallee's direction and to Reese Witherspoon's powerful and appealing performance. Without the Witherspoon's trademark natural charm, there is a chance the Cheryl character would not be as easy to connect with, and that would undermine this forceful aspect of the film. The tangible feeling whenever Cheryl comes into contact with men while in the wild, is one of predator and prey. Men are the predators, with their different tactics and strategies, and Cheryl is the prey. Her vulnerability is palpable in these situations. Even if the men aren't always trying to prey upon her, she certainly feels as if they are, and the audience feels it right along with her. This was a really eye-opening and transformational experience for me watching the film. In real life, I'm a large mammal, and so I never really have that experience of vulnerability. That is not to say that I am never in the position of being prey, but it is to say, regardless of situation, I never feel like prey, but with Wild, and Reese Witherspoon's work in it in particular, I was able to have that experience. It is a credit to the filmmaker and the actress that they were able to expand my horizons in such a way that I will be able to be much more empathetic and understanding of people who have that very uncomfortable feeling of vulnerability on a much more regular basis.

Watching Wild, I was reminded of one of my favorite films, the 1986 Roland Joffe film, The Mission, which is set in 18th century South America, where Robert DeNiro's character must carry his 'baggage', the heavy armor and weapons he used to kill his brother in a fit of jealousy, tied to his back as he hikes and climbs the Andes under the supervision of Jesuit missionaries. The carrying of the weapons on the arduous climb is his penance for his sins and the vehicle for his spiritual transformation. Wild is not as great a film as The Mission, but it is a good film with similar lessons to teach. Strayed makes a less arduous but equally dramatic pilgrimage as DeNiro's character does in The Mission, and carries all of her literal and figurative 'luggage' with her on the way. The lesson Strayed learns on the journey is to slowly, but surely, release the emotional baggage from her past, and to free herself of the burdens her mistakes and misdeeds weigh upon her. As in The Mission, Strayed's journey in Wild is for spiritual transformation and psychological catharsis.

The power of a journey or quest, whether it be for wisdom, penance, transformation or catharsis, resonates with us all. At one time or another we have all had to make the journey, be it actual or symbolic, or more likely, both. Whether that journey be out of the womb or the slow march to the tomb, or anything in between, we evolve a little or a lot with every step we take on it. Mankind's myths speak to the universality of the power of the journey, whether it be the quest for the holy grail, Homer's odyssey, or Christ's tortuous march to Golgotha. The 'journey myth' speaks to us on levels we can both enjoy as entertainment and yet also psychologically in ways we are not able to intellectualize, verbalize or quite grasp . The 'journey myth' takes hold in, and works upon, both the collective and our personal sub-conscious. The history of film is riddled with the journey myth in the form of  the 'road picture', from Hope and Crosby to Easy Rider to Rainman to Little Miss Sunshine to name but a few. Wild is not quite to the level of those films, but it is a road picture that takes us off the road and into the wild and out of our, and Reese Witherspoon's, comfort zone. It is far from a perfect film, but it is a journey well worth your time, if for no other reason than to contemplate your own transformational journey, and to see Reese Witherspoon at her most genuine.

© 2015

FOR REVIEWS OF OTHER FILMS RELEASED DURING THE HOLIDAY SEASON, PLEASE CLICK ON THESE LINKS TO THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING , WHIPLASH , BIRDMAN OR (THE UNEXPECTED VIRTUE OF IGNORANCE) , FOXCATCHER , AMERICAN SNIPER , THE IMITATION GAME , A MOST VIOLENT YEAR , NIGHTCRAWLER , STILL ALICE , INHERENT VICE , SELMA , MR. TURNER , CAKE .