Deepwater Horizon [2016)

This film has every reason to be horrible, but it’s not.

It’s actually quite a good piece of filmmaking.

It’s not cinema, but it’s the kind of stuff which resonates even with a crusty old jaded bloke like me.

BP.

That’s why I went.

As my few diehard readers know, I am a business student.

And Charles Ives was an insurance salesman.

Similar juxtaposition of temperament and métier.

It is my job to research.  To go to school.

I am infinitely lucky to have such an opportunity to retrain.

If you hear of a music theory factory, let me know.

But the men and women on the Deepwater Horizon rig were doing real work.

And so it is an honor to see these employees of Transocean conduct themselves with bravery and virtue on the big screen.

And BP.

What about BP?

We’ll be getting to that.

In 2010, I was still the drummer in a Cajun punk-rock band.

We played benefits in places like Venice, Louisiana.

I can personally attest to the fact that the media focus at the time (2010) was on the plight of shrimpers and marine life.

The focus was on the oil spill.

Sadly, the 11 Transocean employees who lost their lives in this textbook case for business ethics (lack thereof) were never given the memorial they deserved.

Until now.

Yes, this is a story of the deplorables.

Working on an oil rig.

Gulf of Mexico.

These are your Donald Trump voters.

And I am proudly among their number.

If you want to get the real story of class conflict in regards to the deplorables, try parsing this (mostly-good) socialist take on the situation.

http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-class-dynamics-in-the-rise-of-donald-trump-why-establishment-voices-stigmatize-the-white-working-class-as-racist-and-xenophobic/5549634

While I do not agree with all of the author’s conclusions, I think the “white working class” has been unjustly portrayed as deplorable by elitist, pseudo-leftists like Hillary Clinton.

Make no mistake (to use Obama’s favorite phrase):  Hillary Clinton is an extremely wealthy individual posing as a “people’s candidate”.

Her opposition (Donald Trump) does not adopt such Janus-faced dissimulation.  He largely admits to being a (gasp!) capitalist.

It would have been more exciting to see the extremes of the continuum represented by Trump and Bernie Sanders, but the infinitely-crooked Clinton stole the Democratic Party nomination from the genuinely-socialist Sanders.

However, Sanders immediately turned around and campaigned for Clinton.

Bernie, then, is the spineless, wet rag he always seemed to be.

But Trump hits back.  Hard!

And that is what the deplorables want.

There are many aggrieved parties in America.

Deepwater Horizon presents the case of craven, feckless British Petroleum executives who let the little people die.

Socialism is right to focus on workers.

Capitalism is right to focus on value-creation.

China (a real nightmare) just happens to have had a very large hand in funding this film.

Right?

Maybe not.

It seems, however, that there are a few names (and one Hong Kong company) missing from the Wikipedia rundown of Deepwater Horizon.

The company in question is TIK Film (or Films) of China.

As of 2015, Lionsgate had signed a $1.5 bil. cooperation deal with TIK’s parent company Hunan Television.

And so this brings up a point:  was Deepwater Horizon Chinese propaganda to further smear British Petroleum?  It’s a possibility worth considering.

In fact, there are a couple of associate producer credits (if I remember the description correctly) missing even from iMDB’s more extensive summation of the film’s business players.

The two Chinese executives (presumably) are clearly identified in the opening credits of Deepwater Horizon.  Unless you have a photographic memory, you’re not likely to find corroboration of this once you get home from the theater.

But maybe this angle is a diversion.

Certainly, the most important issue covered by this film is that 11 human beings with wives and children lost their lives ostensibly because a company put profit before people.

The film lays the blame primarily on two BP executives.

But all of the major oil and gas players are there including the pivotal case of Schlumberger.  One company suspiciously missing from the film is Halliburton.  Indeed, it doesn’t take very long to realize that this outfit was intimately involved in the Deepwater Horizon disaster.  Maybe Dick Cheney promised to donate his pacemaker to the CCP?

What about these players?

Transocean Ltd. of Switzerland (lovely).

Hyundai Heavy Industries of South Korea.

Indeed…the OptiCem cement modeling system of Halliburton is extremely germane to the issue of culpability for the deaths of these 11 workers.

And yet Halliburton managed to extricate itself completely from this cinematic muckraking.

What gives a company such power?

We likewise don’t hear about Anadarko Petroleum.

Or the Mitsui Group.

It certainly seems BP had a controlling interest in the Macondo Prospect well which blew out, but 35% of the ownership pie was not held by BP.

Our film portrays BP as playing an operational role in overriding the experience and wisdom of Transocean workers at the site.  It portrays BP executives as committing the cardinal sin of business ethics:  focusing on short-term profits over long-term safety.  Indeed, the film under review makes the case that BP executives prevented Schlumberger from performing due diligence in testing the concrete at the well in question.

The most disgusting part is that no one personally got in trouble.  That, indeed, is the most deplorable aspect of all.

 

-PD

 

Sicario [2015)

When you are watching a film or a TV show in which the main character is FBI or CIA, you are watching propaganda.

But some propaganda reaches a height of artfulness which cannot be denied.

Such propaganda, then, in some respects becomes its opposite.

Sicario is one such brilliant enigma.

The main visual motif of this film is Emily Blunt sweating.

That may sound like a rather unglamorous device, but it too has crossed over into its opposite.

Emily Blunt gives a performance which approaches perfection.

But she is not alone.

Benicio del Toro is icy.  Frosty, as they say.  Timeless.

What is the template for Sicario?

You might be surprised, but it reveals itself quite early on to be none other than The Silence of the Lambs.

You must see Sicario to understand this parallel.

Nothing in the previews intimates this definite relationship.

But what else do we get?

Torture is good.

Torture works.

This is where Josh Brolin comes in.

His previous turn as the title character in W. is essential to the code of Sicario.

I must credit director Denis Villeneuve.

For propaganda, this gets in some pretty stellar body shots at the expense of the CIA.

But it is all for show.

The message is that terrorism works.

Terrorism?

Yes, terror.

It only depends which side of the battle you’re on.

Brolin’s character is a “DoD advisor”.  [More on that in the film.]

It’s strategy.

Get the straggler to come back to the hive.

We’ve heard that trope for a long while.

Regardless, Brolin is the quintessential consequentialist.

The end justifies the means.

Emily Blunt is the conscience.  And as that she is magnificent.

But propaganda needs a hero (or heroine) to knock down.

Perhaps you remember the disheartening ending of 1984?

The book.

Orwell.

Winston Smith.

It is quite correct that whenever America declares a “war on” something, the smartest thing is to consider failure a foregone conclusion.

Here we have that old chestnut the “War on Drugs”.

There have been several other lackluster “War on(s)”.

The main offender is the War “on” Terror.

But director Villeneuve gives away the secret a little bit (as the best propaganda does).

From Medellín to Mena, Arkansas.

Maybe Phoenix is no accident either.

Remember Ken Williams?

Sicario shows the FBI getting royally fucked.

In game theory, we might call them (full-on “meta-“) good cop.

The whipping boys…the ostensible sack of shit which acts as a catch-all flypaper of blame…are our bad cops:  CIA.

It is, however, significant that Brolin operates under the aegis of “DoD advisor” insofar as the US military then becomes the butt (ass end) of flipped propaganda.

To wit, much of this film is code…not for the drug war, but for the geopolitical ransacking of the past 15 years.

It is a comment.

Not particularly clever.

But perhaps accurate.

That methods have bled over (no pun) from the hinterlands to the “homeland”.

My final caveat is this:

Sicario is an absolute masterpiece.

 

-PD

Brooklyn [2015)

I do believe my tear ducts are sore on account of this film.

Some writing will be meaningful, and some meaningless (depending on the audience).

Don’t you keep anything for yourself?

Very little…

Because I believe in the beauty of people…out there…in the vast world…the goodness of people…in heart and in soul.

It’s like Titanic without the shipwreck.

((lachrymal vases))

Ireland should be very proud of Saoirse Ronan.

And so should The Bronx.

From Howth and environs to Jerzy Kosiński’s 1982 masterpiece novel Pinball.

I have written a great deal about Saoirse in the past.

She is my favorite actress working in film.

[Thora Birch needs some gigs.  Kat Dennings needs to ditch 2 Broke Girls or CBS needs to enter the Hulu joint venture.  Anamaria Marinca and Dorotheea Petre need gigs.  Myriem Roussel:  where are you?  And finally Adèle Exarchopoulos:  you are on the right track!]

But Saoirse Ronan is unique among my favorite actresses for a variety of reasons.

Brooklyn gives her a chance to employ her Irish accent–to accentuate rather than mask it.

Quite frankly, this is a brilliant film!

John Crowley did a masterful job as director.

Emory Cohen is really good herein.

Julie Walters is hilarious!

Fiona Glascott is darn-near perfect.

But this whole thing is really about Saoirse Ronan.

John Crowley surrounded her with an older style of filmmaking.

It fits the story snugly.

Saoirse shines through like no other actress.

She is a ruby with the hardness of a diamond.

Etching her name into film history at the young age of 22.

Hollywood is not dead as long as she continues to get the starring roles she deserves.

 

-PD

The Life of Adam [2015)

Back again with another installment from the talented Independent Media Solidarity group.

This is a sort of follow-up to We Need to Talk About Sandy Hook (which I previously reviewed).

Our producers are Peter Klein (famously described by Lenny Pozner [ostensibly a grieving parent] as “Evil” [sic]), TNN (presumably TyrannyNewsNetwork [a YouTube “handle”]), and MrStosh (previously identified by his [?] YT handle MrStosh314 in the aforementioned film).

Our narrators are SwanSong (another YouTube handle [whose voice sounds strikingly like that of David Knight from infowars.com]), Insanemedia (the name of the site Swan Song edits…another YouTube name?), and the previously mentioned producers (minus Klein).

I have to admit…

The first time I heard Steve Shine’s opening song (about Adam Lanza) I wasn’t overly impressed.

But it has grown on me.

It employs echo delay rather effectively.

But let’s clear the air.

Just what is it to which this film’s title refers?

It is, if I am not mistaken, a bit of police radio activity from Dec. 14, 2012 which sounds like the phrase “end the life of Adam”.

I have been familiar with that thread of inquiry for awhile.

I initially didn’t put much stock into those elusive words.

It’s almost like something you’d hear on a ghost-hunting program.

But it makes some sense…

Was it a garbled phrase?

A twisted transmission?

Or did some official from some U.S. government agency (FEMA?) actually utter the words “end the life of Adam”?

Because, you see, within the Sandy Hook research “community” (hey, if our 16 intel agencies can be a community, then fuck off!) it is not firmly established whether Adam Lanza even existed.

This emaciated superhuman of murderous efficiency seems to be a prime candidate for fictional personage.

In the opening credits of our film, you can also see a graphic symbolizing the theory that Adam Lanza (who may have only existed in a handful of photographs) was actually his brother Ryan Lanza at an earlier age.

To simplify (Mr. Ockham), there was no Adam.

There was only Ryan.

And to borrow a phase from another brave bunch of auteurs (aside from this IMS crew), it is quite possible (perhaps even probable) that “nobody died at Sandy Hook”.

The consensus from Dr. Fetzer and others seems to be that it was a drill which was passed off as the real thing.

I have not had the pleasure of reading Nobody Died at Sandy Hook, but the fact that Amazon.com, Inc. banned the book (after it had done brisk sales for about a month) while continuing to sell Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf is really a case of the world having been turned on its head (to paraphrase Guy Debord).

But we press on…

The story of Adam Lanza seems to be about more than just gun control.

Yes, I wholeheartedly agree that the primary purpose of the event was to take another Fabian socialist baby-step towards disarming the American public, but there’s a little more to it.

IMS do a great job of highlighting this.

Adam Lanza is Tim McVeigh updated for 2012.

It had been about 17 years.

It was time for another unbelievable domestic terrorist to emerge.

Now, I’m no expert on the OKC bombing, but from what I’ve seen it looks like McVeigh was a patsy in the mold of Oswald.

Adam Lanza seems to be a whole new level of government duplicity:  a virtual killer.

Sandy Hook seems to be a “kinder, gentler” form of state-sponsored (you read right) terror.

My guess is that some of our leaders in the U.S. fancy themselves to be quite humane now that they’ve marginally figured out how to kill without killing.

All they wanted were the effects.

“Never let a good tragedy go to waste.”  –Rahm Emanuel?

If true, this would be a new systemic trend.

It goes along laughably with the “pinpoint precision” of drone attacks.

We know that is not true.

Ask the residents in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan.

Or I might have it all wrong…

Because the truth is on CNN, right?

Remember Desert Storm?

Ooohhh…Ahhhhh…

Cameras on bombs.

Look, ma!  We’re killing the “right” people.

Yay!!!

Look how humane war has become 🙂

The Gulf War…1990/1991.

An in-and-out burger war.

“Kinder, gentler” bombing.

At least it was marginally “prudent” (though completely duplicitous).

You can take the Hill & Knowlton campaign…Kuwaiti babies ripped from incubators.

[As witnessed by the daughter of the Kuwaiti Ambassador to the U.S….who (she) was not in Kuwait…and was not advertised for who she really was…because she was acting…in front of the U.S. Congress…in a public relations campaign to shore up public sentiment that war (the Gulf War) was necessary.]

But you can also dig deep…into the State Department…and know that Saddam was given a promise that we would not interfere if he invaded Kuwait.

Whoops…  Sounds like a cynical stratagem FOR WAR to me.

Just itching to get their war on (as the inimitable Wayne Madsen says)…

So back to Adam Lanza.

No.  Wait a minute.

Let’s not forget the United States bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade (1999).

In eight years (since our techno-war, our “smart bomb” Gulf War) we hadn’t learned how to read a map.  Fucking ridiculous!

We “see” Adam Lanza from the back.  Playing Dance Dance Revolution (not to be confused with East Germany…the other white DDR).

“Adam Lanza” with his Beatle haircut.

So what is this “other” agenda to which I referred?

Other than gun control.

It is that WEIRD = BAD.

If someone is shy or out of the ordinary, then they are your next shoot-’em-up rampage candidate.

Who benefits?

Cui bono?

The system.  The spectacle (to again reference Guy Debord).

If you don’t look the part.

If you aren’t in style.

God forbid you’re as dorky as Napoleon Dynamite.

Then everyone should fear you.

You are a virus.  A stain.

What did they focus on?

Autism.

The purported acts of Adam Lanza have nothing to do with autism or Asperger’s syndrome.

But that was one of the insidious messages which the DUMB public was to receive.

Yet some are not buying it.

Even if I was a proponent of gun control (which I am not…rather, quite the opposite), I wouldn’t feel good about the hollow (ineffective) victory achieved by the national security state through Sandy Hook.

It’s worse than Realpolitik.  It’s the consummation of our simulation culture.

We should get around to dragging Baudrillard into this at some point.

So, you ask:  who’s fighting for you?

Well, in addition to Independent Media Solidarity, there is Sheila Matthews of ablechild.org.  You can hear her story in The Life of Adam about the quest to make Lanza’s psychiatric treatment history public.

It’s not public.

Almost nothing about this weird Sandy Hook case is public.

It’s all secret.

It’s all in line with the limits of reality.

If the reality was that it was merely a drill (passed off as real) to sway public opinion, then it would have the limits of reality placed upon it.

The fraud could only be as convincing as its budget (and the devious professionalism of those running this operation).

The unnecessary secrecy is in line with the potential truth.  There are no pictures of the crime scene because there was no crime scene.

Rather, the crime scene was the scene of a far different crime.

The crime was fraud, not murder.

I can’t help bringing up Anderson Cooper again…because his whole role in this shenanigan is really revolting.

It is no stretch of the imagination to say that he and CNN are responsible for an extremely articulate, tenured professor losing his job.

That is the misfortune of Dr. James Tracy.

You will hear his story in The Life of Adam.

You’ll see the fumbling, bumbling police Sgt. Paul Vance (who threatens people like me for spreading rumors).  This is the same authority who couldn’t make up his mind where the supposed shooter (Lanza) shot himself.  Was it in the hall?  Room 10?  There’s a difference.  How could you forget that?  It’s fresh on your mind.

Better have a look at your FEMA script one more time…

Of particular interest is the story of Sabrina Phillips.

I must admit that her line of inquiry sometimes loses me.  In other words, she is deeper into this than me.

But I really respect what she is trying to do.

Dig up the truth.  Damn it!

Not only does television suck (sorry all you network addicts), but the news is blatantly fake.

Anderson Cooper needs to march right back to Langley and demand better acting lessons.

As James Mason said, perhaps the “Actors Studio”.

You are no Cary Grant, Mr. Cooper.  You’re no Murrow.

You’re nothing.  You’re just a well-dressed sellout.

The Internet will reveal your grave error in getting Tracy fired.

You’re no journalist.  You’re no better than the “evil empire” over at Fox News.

You know that.  Deep down inside.

You are truly a gigantic nothing.

There’s no Edelman to PR you out of this one.

You lose.  Your network loses.  CNN is not your network.  Seems pure CIA to me.

Ok, mini-diatribe over.

I hope you will take the time to watch The Life of Adam and its equally-brilliant predecessor We Need to Talk About Sandy Hook.

The sad fact is that conspiracies are ruling our lives.  We can ignore them, but they are the main political tool of the 21st century.  They get somewhat more sophisticated each time, but they are still false flags…still just kids with their hands in the cookie jar pointing at an uninvolved sibling.

 

-PD

Spectre [2015)

There’s a moment in this film when a character says “shoot” instead of “shit”.  It is the linchpin of the film.  What follows is the strangest cut in James Bond history since Roger Moore abruptly went gaucho in Moonraker.  But what we cut to is perhaps the first truly vicious, self-inflicted attack of self-parody the James Bond franchise has ever experienced.  Yes, self-parody.  Vicious.  Like a postmodern vomit of confetti.  This whole film.  But mainly starting at the amorous activities which follow the word “shoot”.

Derrida would find his hinge for deconstruction at “shoot”.  As if the film could not bear one more mild expletive and still retain its PG-13 rating.

But let’s dig a little deeper.

A series notorious for running low on creativity must have been thrilled to have the intellectual property rights to S.P.E.C.T.R.E. following the death of Kevin McClory.  It was not just the death of McClory which allowed the franchise to resurrect its proto-NWO, but also the acquisition by MGM and Danjac LLC of McClory’s estate in late 2013.

And so things must have looked rosy for Eon Productions.

Sadly, they made a few blunders.

Those blunders became the ramshackle, mutilated would-be masterpiece Spectre.

And so just what were these mistakes?

My guess is that many of them occurred behind closed doors.

There are moments in this film at which a film school freshman could have done a better job reeling in the mise-en-scène than did Sam Mendes.  But there’s a problem with that equation.  Sam Mendes is not that bad a director.  NO ONE wielding a nine-figure budget is that bad a director.  And so chalk another crappy movie up to the real villains:  MGM and Colombia Pictures.  Credit Eon Productions likewise with rubberstamping this high-school-science-fair of a picture.

But we can’t let Mendes off that easily.  I hope it was a good payday (again) Sam, because this film is generally a piece of shit.

HOWEVER…there are moments of what could have been.  If the executives had kept their noses (and asses) out of the production process, this could have been a homerun.

Christopher Waltz is good when approached with Hitchcockean framing.  As a silhouette.  You can feel Mendes reaching for Mulholland Dr.  But as per the Sony hacks, eventually you have to show the guy (or do you?).  Suffice it to say that Mr. Waltz is the least-scary Bond villain ever and barely more creepy than Jar Jar Binks.

And so it becomes obvious that cost cutting has its downside.  Who was the other bloke they were going to get for the villain?  Who cares.  Waltz sucks royally.  And yet, he is more competent as an actor than the film is solid in structural integrity.

As a whole, Spectre is a disaster which should never have made it out the door of the dream factory.  Anyone with an artistic bone in their body could have “fixed” this film.  Mendes was apparently not allowed to actually direct.

Fix number one would have been cutting an hour’s worth of superfluous meh.  I mean, really godawful, expensive, explosive meh.  Jesus…this film didn’t need to try and compete with Spiderman or whatever the superhero flavor of the week is.

The writers (God, the writers…) of this film are not worth their weight in rancid butter.  I heard rumors that the dialogue was bad.  Truth is, it is dry-heave bad…but mainly near the end of the film (the last quarter).

Next time, spend $200 mil. on a single, competent writer (Pynchon perhaps) and <$1 mil. on stunts and CGI.  This film experiences a leveraged shite effect throughout.  Oh, by the way…the opening scene in Mexico City is probably the weakest part of the film.  I would rather see Daniel Craig take a moist crap on a silver platter.

But let’s be fair…

This film tried.  It had grand aspirations.  SPECTRE…yes, bringing it all back home.  Establishing credibility from New World Order to Snowden.  Awesome.  Well-done in that regard.

As for the execution…for fuck’s sake.

I’d rather have a clumsily-performed lobotomy than watch this film again any time soon.

The biggest upside of the film is Léa Seydoux.  Ok, so casting got one thing right.  It almost makes up for Christopher “The Last” Waltz.

There are very important themes addressed in this film.  This could have been a light for liberty.  Someone sabotaged it.  Find that corporate person and you have found the real head of the real SPECTRE.

-PD

Suburban Gothic [2014)

Dear devoted fans [chuckles heard offstage],

I am still alive.  Battling a serious case of MBA.  And, as such, I was duped into watching what turned out to be one of the finest films I have seen in awhile.

But how did I stumble across this little gem in the first place?  For that I must thank the inimitable Kat Dennings.  [More about her as we go on.]

Let us first, however, start with Matthew Gray Gubler.  As someone who watches very little TV, I was unaware of this rising star in the acting world.  Gubler plays Raymond:  a newly-minted MBA who can’t even lock down an entry-level job.  His character grew on me…from, at first, an American Apparel model come to life…to a lovable outcast with impeccable comic timing.

Circling back, I was curious how Gubler’s 21st-century archetype (the unemployable MBA) would fare in this comedy.  As I found out, Suburban Gothic is actually a film of great depth masquerading as a campy horror send-up.

It’s really remarkable, but this film actually does speak for me in some strange way.  Perhaps it was because I was listening to The Dead Milkmen this morning. [Watch the film and you’ll understand why.]

Yes, Raymond’s town is a “depressing shithole” to borrow Enid Coleslaw’s pithy diction from Zwigoff’s Ghost World.  And the ghosts here are real–literal.  But what most impresses me about Richard Bates Jr. (who needs a Wikipedia page) as a director is that he manages to evoke the crappiest reaches of America…from the bombed-out city center of Albany, New York to the harrowing motel highwayside of Roanoke, Virginia…from the strip malls of San Antonio to…well, you get the picture.

It’s one of those films…like Ghost World.  It’s Anywhere, U.S.A.  [Well, almost anywhere.]  It’s the fake vomit-inducing magic of Orlando.  It’s the sprawl of Los Angeles.  It’s that suicidal ennui which Arcade Fire so deftly encapsulated on their album The Suburbs.

Pariahs of the American south will especially appreciate the wonderful redneck evocation of Raymond’s high-school-football-coaching father (played magnificently by Ray Wise).  Yeah…

This film hits a lot of themes.  People change.  Fat kids get thin.  Sensitive souls can’t shake the wimp label.  Some places are especially difficult for creative types to endure.

And so if your life consists of frequenting your local Starbucks on the edge of a super-freeway (I certainly don’t know anyone like that…wait?  Nope, no one like that around here.  This very minute.  Right here.), then you just might find Kat Dennings to be especially on-point as the salty crowbar-toting Becca.  This film is more about Gubler’s character, but Dennings is indispensable to this moral play.

And what’s the moral?  The moral is this:  no matter how much you know about demand and supply curves (supply and demand to us lowly folk) there is always a more important line to shift outwards.  It’s more micro than microeconomics.  It is, in a word, empathy.  Respect for the dead.  Paranormal.  And, most of all, conscience.  It is that latter word which sticks in my head…falling from the lips of Godard (forever in my mind) in his whispered Swiss French.

Conscience.

Sure, this film makes Poltergeist look like Citizen Kane, but one senses from the opening credits that such is largely intentional.  No big budget here, and yet…this film is frightening and laugh-out-loud.  And like a good Simpsons episode, it is more touching than anything Hallmark rolls out of their platitude factory.

John Waters makes quite a fine cameo, but the lion’s share of credit goes to Gubler and Dennings and their auteur-in-the-making Richard Bates Jr.  Really a worthwhile flick!  Thank you.

-PD

How I Live Now [2013)

I have a keen eye for bullshit.  But only in certain areas.

We all have our specialties.  We all have our areas of knowledge.

Just to be clear, this film is not bullshit.  This is quite a good film.

But there is an element of this film which is pure propaganda bollocks.

I’m very sensitive to propaganda.  Allergic, you might say.

On the one hand, I can sniff out a false-flag a mile off.

On the other, I make a habit of rewatching James Bond films.

No one is totally immune to propaganda.

It takes a deep understanding of the self to assess what is really going on.

Movies, music, literature, painting…all of these arts play on the emotions.

Artists are ALL emotionally intelligent insofar as their lexicon of emotional triggers is robust and bursting at the seams.

This does not mean that artists are well-adjusted.  Rather, the reality is often quite the contrary.

In this film, our heroine Saoirse Ronan is not at all well-adjusted.

Upon first seeing her arrive at the airport (our film’s first scene) we assume she might be some kind of pop star.

The reality is that she’s merely a spoiled brat from America who’s pilfered Devendra Banhart’s stylist.

Yes, Daisy (Ronan) has quite a look here.  She oozes “hip” from the outset.  She also oozes the angst of conflict.

An angry girl.  Never knew her mother.  Voices in her head.  On psychotropic medication.  Hypochondriac.

It is hard to confront this film without knowing that it is “post-apocalyptic” (such a buzzword in the less-talented cadres of Hollywood).

Being so informed, we notice as Daisy’s plane lands in scene #1 that Paris has been bombed.  It looks serious.

Daisy seemingly couldn’t care less.

And just where has she landed?  Somewhere in England or Great Britain.

And so off to the country to stay with cousins for the summer.  Not her usual routine.  First time to visit these relatives.

The story is powerful.  The story is lovely.  The acting is tremendous.

But slowly the bullshit creeps in and cannot be ignored.

And just what bullshit of propaganda has this film swallowed to then spit out at us?

Terrorism.  The oogly-boogly bogeyman of hidden hand terrorism.

It is all very unimaginative.  There is nothing here to indicate that the writers or directors have ever gotten their news from

anyplace other than the BBC or CNN.

Though they never say “Islamic terrorists,” the frightfully dumb premise is advanced with absolutely no critical thinking evident.

In other words, if this film was a religion, its Bible would be the 9/11 Commission Report (the layman’s title).

And so these terrorists with magical powers somehow invade an otherwise fine movie.

It is like the Red Scare.  The terrorists are everywhere.  They’re unstoppable.  Ha…

It is really sad when such hackneyed brainwashing passes for erudition.

And so, in some ways this film is no better than Fox News.  Sure, films are allowed to take poetic license and “play” on our fears.

But in our current world, the stakes are too high to sink millions of dollars into vehicles such as this which merely reinforce the lies of the fraudulent global war ON terror.

How many times must it be repeated that terror cannot be fought with more terror?

That is like aiming to eliminate the scourge of forest fires by burning the flames themselves.  Ludicrous.

But we do not simply refer to the error of approach.

The fundamental truth is that the war on terror is a charade.

There is big money to be made by blaming Islam for all the world’s evils.

And as Islamic countries are plundered we see the cowed world populace let their brothers and sisters in the Middle East be sacrificed for an inhuman system which needs total control to expand.

It really is, then, a joke to talk about free markets.

And so, to put it succinctly, we have many intelligence agencies to “thank” for our current imbroglio.

The American CIA must certainly take a bow.  The NSA likewise should be recognized for their part in the global reign of terror.

But let us not leave out Mossad.  Cui bono?

But really, it takes a village of intelligence agencies to raise the demonic child known as ISIS.  And so we must thank James Bond’s MI6.  We should likewise not leave out the Saudis and Pakistan’s ISI.

The artist formerly known as al-Qaeda (now rebranded as ISIS) has been very useful to the Western powers.

Russia and China had the opportunity to call bullshit long ago, but they squandered that moment.  And now the world really is closer to WWIII.

It is not easy to pay attention to a film which gives credence to fake terrorism.  Fake terror.  Synthetic terrorism.  False-flag terrorism.

But all is not lost.

Someone (perhaps director Kevin Macdonald) has at least read his Orwell.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, things go very badly for all involved when lies become truth.  When self-inflicted attacks precipitate martial law…

And so the British troops in this film are not portrayed in a propagandistic light.  Quite the contrary, they display the insolence of misplaced power.  Power upon which there are no checks…

The government troops in this film are paranoiacs with automatic weapons.  Sound familiar?  Yes.  We are told that such types are a menace to society (and they are).  Unfortunately, your tax dollars are paying their salaries.

But this is not about military bashing.  To extrapolate from the statements of NSA whistleblower Wiliam Binney, it’s only in the upper 15% where you see the real hardcore corruption.  What do we mean “corrupt”???

Those who would sell their own country out.  The moles in the FBI and CIA who allowed and facilitated (respectively) 9/11.  The high-ranking military and government officials who were likewise moles.  The highest level.

And so we have great sympathy for our military men and women knowing that their corrupt leaders (at the very top) have no real allegiance to country or fellow soldier.  There are exceptions, but consider the words of Binney.  The top 15%…that is where the real culprits are.  They are among the good leaders.

But this begs a question:  does one have to be a scumbag to advance to such echelons of power?  I’m afraid the answer may very well be a resounding “yes”…  And so, at the upper level of governments, intelligence agencies, militaries, etc. we are faced with finding the lesser of evils.  We would much prefer adulterers, drug addicts, etc. to psychopathic criminals.

I will be the first to admit that my diatribe is not really fair to this film.

This is quite an excellent film.  But artists cannot play with gelatinous archetypes like “terrorism” and expect a free pass.

There is glorious acting in this film (for Christ’s sake).

It pains me to write so much about the premise.

For fuck’s sake, don’t copy the fear-mongering of Fox News.  Those “journalists” will have their Nuremberg.  They will have no press passes.  They’ll be on the stand.

Don’t sully yourself in that stream.  Look at your box office.  $60,213.  Sixty-thousand measly dollars!  If you had put Ronan and George MacKay in a room together with no script they would have surpassed the trite constraints laid upon them (presumably) by Meg Rosoff’s novel. Dear Rosoff:  whatever paper you read, cancel the subscription.

-PD

To Write Love on Her Arms [2012)

This film goes beyond film.  Which is not to say it doesn’t have its problems.  Like the protagonist, it does.  But let me tell you why this film is worth it.  No…you know what?  This is fucking bullshit!  That’s not the way to review a film.  This is.

It’s gotta come from the heart and mind.  Depend too much on the mind and you miss the beauty.  Secrets make you sick.  Must be a whole lot of sick people in Langley, Virginia and Fort Meade, Maryland.  Go on, look it up.  It’ll do you good.  But for you lazy bums, that’s the CIA and NSA.

I read about the CIA all the time.  Why?  I’m only answering limited questions today.  But suffice it to say that both of these spy agencies are pretty interesting.  Don’t you think?

Well, so that’s one of my secrets.  It’s not really a secret.  It’s pretty transparent.  But maybe not.  So, there.  Like Robert Creeley said.  There you have it.

It’s very hard to not drop into John Berryman testimonial mode when talking about this film (oh yeah, this is a film review…duh!).

First things first:  you gotta love a film that premieres at the Omaha Film Festival (!)  Just knowing that Omaha has a film festival makes me feel a little less depressed about my life and the shitty town I live in (San Antonio).

And so…our setting:  Orlando.  It’s like an outtake from Mister Lonely–Cinderella smoking a cigarette at the bus stop.  Headed to the theme park presumably…  It’s certainly begging for a Harmony Korine touch, though director Nathan Frankowski does a nice job handling this priceless aside in more of a Terry Zwigoff way.

Wow.  Somebody needs to give the Wikipedia page for TWLOHA (the movie) some love.  I mean, Jesus!  A three-sentence plot summary???  There’s lost silent films which have more detailed synopses on Wiki than this!

So I guess my first inclination was correct:  speak from the heart.

Well God damnit!  There are some priceless moments in this film.  The secret weapon is Rupert Friend.  I’ll be damned if he doesn’t strike a stake right to my heart…fondling that pocket watch…  It’s no jive-ass MC5 John Sinclair rave-up testifyin’ going on.  This is some real shit.

For all of the snobs (like me) in the audience:  you gotta give this film time.  Clear from your mind the unpleasant parallels to the CGI of What Dreams May Come and The Lovely Bones.  IT GETS BETTER.

That said.  How?  Well, once again Ms. Kat Dennings hits a home run. This is no easy role.  It’s a tough, tough, TAXING role to embody with anything even approaching Method Acting.  But I have a sneaking suspicion that Dennings felt this role naturally (to a certain extent).

How does this film go beyond film?  Because.  Ghost World was a masterpiece.  Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist was perfection for its genre (young adult comedy romance).  Charlie Bartlett was a mini-masterpiece…a damn good film.  Hell!  Daydream Nation was pretty fucking good too.  But TWLOHA moves into the social realm…because it touches on depression and substance abuse (not to mention the cutting words of the haiku title) in a real, sobering way.  No pun intended.  At least not the sober one.

Yeah.  What does this mean for you, dear WordPress blogger…or for someone who stumbled across this article?  It means you are powerful beyond your wildest belief.

Every time you commit your precious thoughts to the page and share them with people (comma) you are saying the only stuff that people believe anymore.

It doesn’t mean you can talk about reptilians and be taken seriously (no offence to my reptilian theorist brothers…and sisters).  No, it means that the only people who have CAPITAL in SINCERITY are everyday people like me…and YOU.

We don’t believe the lies anymore.  We’ve swallowed so many damned secrets that we’re sick to death.  We can’t sleep.  But we are fucking powerful!  Hillary Clinton knows it.  Zbigniew Brzezinski knows it.  I’m not sure if David Rockefeller knows it.  Nor George H.W. Bush.

That’s ok.  They came from a different generation.  Hell…I’m not even a “digital native”…  Not a Millennial.  I guess I am part of that lamentable flannel fuzzed Generation X.  I hyphenate when I damn well please.

I make inside jokes that only I get.  I don’t have any friends.  Not anymore.  But I have family.  I have cats.  Some days I think my best friend is an extraterrestrial in Turkey.  Or a classmate from Iran.  But most days my best friend is an actor or an actress.

So to Kat Dennings (and Renee Yohe)…wherever you are.  Thank you.  It makes a big fucking difference.  That you exist.  My sentence fragments and idiosyncratic punctuation are yours.  Mi casa es su casa.

-PD

The Grand Budapest Hotel [2014)

There have been two movies in my lifetime which affected me so that I saw them multiple times in the theater:  Life Is Beautiful and Genghis Blues.  Along with those two masterful films I would add three which have a similar effect on me and formed my pantheon of five as a college student and young adult:  Cinema Paradiso, Central Station and the original Willy Wonka.  Few films have ever touched me quite like these.  There have been a few:  Spirit of the Beehive, Wild Strawberries and even Amelie, but I didn’t feel the same level of “ownership” in the stories–the same resonant investment in the storylines and mise-en-scène.  But it has come time to add to the pantheon of five–a reservoir of naïveté which has remained untouched since at least the time of my reading James Monaco’s book on the French New Wave.

The Grand Budapest Hotel is an unqualified masterpiece.  It is not often that I even feel drawn to a movie theater whatsoever these days.  It takes a lot to get me out of the house as far as cinema is concerned.  My interest in this particular film owes to a job which I recently secured and ultimately quit (within a week or so) at an old, old hotel in San Antonio, TX.  I had initially intended to see the film ostensibly for “research,” but when I finally saw it (after quitting my brief stint as a hotelier) it took on a different and immensely significant meaning for me.

I don’t want to spoil the plot or ending, so I will refrain from giving away too much info concerning either.  I will, however, say right up front that the secret star of this film is Saoirse Ronan.  She is the Anna Karina of this movie and she enabled Wes Anderson to make a truly transcendent picture.  Ralph Fiennes is magnificent as Monsieur Gustave H., but it is Ronan as Agatha who embodies the film in such a way that I can only compare to Poe’s story The Oval Portrait (which played such a large role in Godard’s Vivre sa vie).  The movie really gets going in earnest when Anderson goes to a magical close-up of Agatha (Ronan) on a merry-go-round.  It is from the POV of her beau Zero (Tony Revolori) and its weightless, gossamer delicacy sets the stage for what will become (throughout the remainder of the movie) Wes Anderson’s best film to date.

Leave it to Anderson to give the beautiful, chaste Agatha a huge birthmark the shape of Mexico on the side of her cheek.  Perhaps it was a nod to Gorbachev, but the effect is such that the beautiful Ronan becomes even more adorable and perfect by way of her imperfections.  Indeed, it is when she is covered in flour at her job baking pastries that she reaches her highest peak of sublime cinematic presence.  Even in her “mug shot” (which figures into the plot), she exudes mystery and imagination in her smile-less stare.

The red-headed, fair-skinned Ronan is part of a color scheme on the part of Anderson which includes powder-blue uniforms and cotton-candy-pink pastry boxes.  Even The Grand Budapest Hotel itself is pink…like a giant pastry or gingerbread house (indeed, it is a model…a miniature…a favorite directorial device of Anderson).

But make no mistake, the royal-purple-clad gents whose acting makes this the coup that it is are Fiennes and Revolori.  To call it a “buddy flick” would be doing the entire creation a grave injustice.  Perhaps it is a comedy of manners?  Or perhaps sui generis.  Anderson’s “tricks” have never been employed to such successful effect until this film.  It is as if all his prior attempts were quite good practice runs at making this film.

Jeff Goldblum and Willem Dafoe are integral to the fabric of this sentimental, yet razor-sharp tapestry.  Anderson manages to draw from so many influences (I seemed to notice Tati) such that the piece as a whole avoids being a puppy dogs and ice cream affair.  Goldblum and Dafoe play out a sub-plot of sorts (in terms of filmic references) which hints very strongly at Hitchcock.  It is just this dash of bitter verismo which holds the confection together and makes it truly delicious.

The story (not to mention the dialogue) would do a writer such as Ernest Lehman (North By Northwest) proud.  Monsieur Gustave is infinitely quotable and his character bears a striking resemblance to Cary Grant in terms of mannerisms.  It is as if Roger Thornhill somehow ended up in the maze that is Tati’s Playtime.  Indeed, Gustave H. is a man on the run (just as Grant’s character in NXNW).  And as per the Hitchcock motif of “the wrong man,” Gustave is, of course, innocent.

But the truly remarkable thing about The Grand Budapest Hotel is the expansive, somewhat metaphorical love story it encapsulates.  Wes Anderson succeeds in channeling not only Truffaut, but Bergman (particularly Ingmar’s bittersweet Wild Strawberries).  The overall narrative device of a recounting (Zero as an old man) and the framing of impressionable literary admiration (the student reading the “fictional novel” at beginning and end afore the canonical author’s statue) allow the film to operate on several levels simultaneously. The viewer is invited to hop on board the elevator at any floor and draw meaning from any of the many strata.  It is like a cake–a fine, layered pastry from the old world.

There is indeed an air of panache which wafts through the illustrious halls represented in this film.  It is, in some ways, a fairy tale and a morality play.  Do the right thing and you might just end up with Snow White.  And you might, with extraordinary integrity and compassion, get to have your cake and eat it too.

 

-PD