Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy [2004)

The world is fucked up.

This is probably the craziest year most of us have ever lived through.

When has the world, in its entirety, faced such chaos in recent memory?

9/11 brought us terror on a horrific, spectacular* level.

Guy Debord predicted this in 1967 with his seminal book La société du spectacle.

No, he did not pull a Nostradamus (who happens to share my birthday).

He did not predict the three towers (including the 47-story WTC7) falling into their own footprints.

But he predicted something much more useful, or at least applicable, to our present times.

The “locus of illusion” that Debord talked about remains (though it be besieged on all sides) television.

For our purposes, we shall call it “video”.

Moving pictures.

Debord also predicted our current age of social-media dominance.

Though he could not name it then, he described it perfectly as, “a social relationship between people…mediated by images.”

What does the word “Facebook” evoke when you hear it?

Does it sound a bit like a dating site?

What role do memes (manipulated images) play in our social discourse?

“The spectacle”, Debord told us, “…turns reality on its head.”

How much of what you hear “on the news” (whether that be television, radio, Internet, social media) do you trust?

Because you are smart, dear reader, you consider the source.

And so do I.

Debord wanted to say something about fakes.

The epigrammatic beginning to the first chapter of The Society of the Spectacle gets right to this point.

It was the philosopher Feuerbach who said that in, “…the present age, which prefers the sign to the thing signified, the copy to the original, representation to reality, the appearance to essence…illusion only is sacred, truth profane.”

Ludwig Feuerbach wrote those words in the 1800s.

But the Irish rock band U2 would come to a similar epiphany in their song “Even Better Than the Real Thing”.

Debord wanted to talk about fake-ness.

But he also wanted to qualify his description of “the spectacle”.

For Debord, “reality erupts within the spectacle, and the spectacle is real”.

To translate (from French to English to philosophy to layman’s terms), there are some aspects of our image-driven information culture that are real (though a good deal of fake news exists).  But owing to the lack of a competing narrative to the overwhelming chorus of voices in agreement (corporate news), “the spectacle” (whatever the talking heads tell you) is, de facto, real.  Never mind that it might all be rubbish.  The sheer repetition of certain truths–day after day, hour after hour (from all the many “options” [ABC, CBS, NBC, New York Times, Washington Post])–renders those “truths” the currency of “factual” discourse.  Without an independent, competing narrative from alternative news sources (which currently lack the scale and reach to pose a symmetric threat to “legacy media”), whatever the aforementioned “usual suspects” (ABCBSNBC…) tell you is TRUE becomes “truth” the moment they report it.  The national news coverage of American current events is indistinguishable whether one has ABC, CBS, or NBC dialed up on the tele.

But the times, they are a-changin’.

Donald Trump’s 3+ years in office have been “a moment of falsehood”, which is to say, truth.

As Debord wrote, “In a world that really has been turned on its head, truth is a moment of falsehood.”

Debord seemed to be describing the “legacy media” when he wrote of an entity “out of reach and beyond all dispute”.

Of particular concern in this current situation (which already existed in Debord’s day) is the role that vision plays in our mediated understanding of the world.

As Debord wrote, “…it is inevitable that it should elevate the human sense of sight to the special place once occupied by touch…”.

He goes on to describe “sight” as, “…the most abstract of the senses, and the most easily deceived…”.

Think about a painting by Monet.

Waterlilies.

What are you seeing?

You are seeing the work of someone [Monet] whose eyesight was impaired.  Literally.  But though it be impaired, he still painted wonderful, huge canvases which EVOKED the atmosphere of a pond with waterlilies.

You are seeing blurry images.

Your brain has to fill in the details.

You are not seeing a high-definition photograph.

Furthermore, you are seeing oil paints which have been applied to a cloth canvas.

You are seeing a depiction.

This takes us all the way back to Plato’s “cave”, but I digress…

What happens when the big three TV networks in the U.S. get something wrong?

What about the New York Times and Washington Post (to just name the two most widely-distributed offenders)?

Do any of these entities make a concerted, SINCERE effort arising from true integrity to correct their previous, faulty coverage on events?

Debord could answer before the question was asked…because he knew the nature of these organizations (even in his native France).

He wrote, “The spectacle is by definition immune from human activity, inaccessible to any projected review or correction.  It is the opposite of dialogue.”

Social media changed this briefly.

But now, Twitter is acting like the generalissimo of a banana republic by banning accounts which “promote” the “conspiracy theory” known as QAnon.

This is just one example–from one social media platform–where the fleeting dialogue which threatened (?) “the spectacle” has been shut down.

Google, working closely with the communist Chinese government, is all too happy to facilitate similar totalitarian censorship in China…all for a buck (or yuan).

So let’s talk about vision/sight for a moment.

Did George Floyd die under the knee of Derek Chauvin?

All of the “usual suspects” (ABCBSNBC) tell me he did.

And there’s video!

Video never lies, does it?

I mean…movies are all true, right?

Is the video that Darnella Frazier ostensibly shot on her cell phone “documentary” footage?

It may be more than one thing.

It is possible to honestly document fake-ness (without knowing you are filming a pageant).

Have you ever seen an actress cry on command?

I have.

It is quite an astounding thing.

I have a friend who is a major motion-picture actress.

She once burst out in tears…right next to me.

I started to offer my condolences.

I was generally concerned.

I almost started crying.

Then she abruptly jumped out of character with a smile…to let me know she was just pranking me.

It was VERY convincing.

She had never done that to me before.

It was novel.

I had no experience against which to measure her crying fit.

I thought of her as a friend first and as an actress second.

I forgot, temporarily, that she was unequivocally a professional faker.

But Guy Debord saw more to “the spectacle” than just a stream of fake-ness.

Debord seemed to also sense an approaching hour when human relations would become totally stifled.

To hear Debord tell it, “Separation is the alpha and omega of the spectacle.”

Both its goal and its essence.

While mass media seems to bring us together (shared touchstones, talismans…), in actuality, it separates us more from one another.

We are always obliged to mention what “the news” says about a certain topic.

It is rare (almost impossible) that two people have a conversation where they each give their opinion of a recent event and “the spectacle” (a mass, homogenized media) is not invoked (in deferential terms) at some stage as a reference point.

Debord describes the “weapons of that system” as ranging “from cars to television”:  all meant to “reinforce the isolation of ‘the lonely crowd'”.

But Guy Debord was not merely taking aim at television and mass media.  He saw further.  He seems to have, though writing in 1967, seen the inevitably of the Internet.

As he describes it, “The spectacle is a map of this new world–a map drawn to the scale of the territory itself.”

While this is indeed a reference to a story by Borges (the world=the map), Debord’s insight in applying this to mass communication and information dissemination is extraordinarily prescient.

Guy Debord, it must be said, was not without fault.

Most importantly, he was an avowed Marxist.

So his perspicacity ended where mass media stops and economics begins.

Which brings us to the film Anchorman…

Will Ferrell is awkward here.

And gloriously so!

We get gender division.

1970s.

As today we continue to get race divisions.

Who is driving this?

Cui bono?

The British were quite good at “divide and conquer”.

In the Indian subcontinent, Hindus and Muslims had lived relatively peaceably together…until the British decided to stoke this latent division for cynical ends.

“If the Hindus and Muslims are fighting each other, they can’t pose a unitary threat to us.”

That is what I can imagine British military strategists saying at the time when India was under their occupation.

And it worked.

It was brilliant.

Evil, but brilliant.

Ask yourself a question:  who benefits (cui bono) from blacks and whites and Hispanics and Asians and police and civilians in America being divided and at each other’s throats?

What series of events led to the isolation (frustration) needed to create the current powder keg that went up in smoke with the George Floyd event?

Ron Burgundy will read anything that is put in front of him on a Tele-Promp-Ter.

…as evidenced by his most unfortunate sign-off, “Go fuck yourself, San Diego!”

Which brings us to Joe Biden.

FDR managed to keep it a secret that he was stricken with polio.

He was carted around in a wheelchair during his Presidency.

He had the Resolute desk in the Oval Office modified so that a panel on the front obscured the prying eyes of news cameras.

You could not see his legs fastened to his wheelchair.

And the press obliged.

They loved FDR.

Good old liberal, Democrat FDR.

Elected to the Presidency FOUR times (an American record).

In the White House for over 12 (!) years.

Our Constitution was amended to make this impossible from there on out.

Now the limit is eight years (two terms).

All that notwithstanding, FDR never lost his mental faculties to any significant degree.

He had a physical disability which prevented him from ambulating fully.

Joe Biden can walk fairly well.

Sadly, there is no desk panel that can hide his mental deterioration.

It is there.  It will be there.  And it will get worse.

Which makes Joe Biden a FAR MORE RIDICULOUS candidate than Donald Trump.

And again, “the spectacle” is running defense for Biden.

Making excuses.

Tossing softball questions (if any at all).

The best thing that vicious, Marxist Democrats in the United States can come up with is a dud missile named Joe Biden.

He is harmless (to extend the missile metaphor), and in that he is very harmful.

He is, as regards the responsibilities of the Chief of the Executive Branch, useless.

Which gives us just one more example of how fakes are being foisted upon us.

Never has there been such a poor candidate for the American Presidency as Joe Biden.

It is becoming apparent to all that, if elected, he would not run his own government.

What a sham!

Why didn’t the Democrats have the foresight to nominate Cory Booker or Kamala Harris?

It couldn’t be because they are RACIST, could it?

Remember, Donald Trump is such a horrible misogynist.

How was it that the Democrats failed to nominate Elizabeth Warren or Amy Klobuchar?

Democrats REALLY care about Latinos in the U.S.

That’s why they failed to nominate a guy named Castro.

Democrats are so diverse!

That’s why they passed on nominating a guy named Yang.

And what did the Democrats end up with?

A halfwit, old, white man named Joe Biden.

Halfwit is really too kind a descriptor here.

The mobs wanted Ron Burgundy’s head.

Because he told them to “go fuck themselves”.

But it was a false-flag.

Did Ron Burgundy write the line, “Go fuck yourself, San Diego!” on the Tele-Promp-Ter?

No.

Veronica Corningstone did.

Did the truth about who REALLY wrote it come out?

No.

Not even from a news organization.

Burgundy was summarily fired and his life went to shit.

He ended up wandering the streets like a cross between fat Jim Morrison (Val Kilmer-influenced) and Brian Wilson.

Bathrobe and cheeseburgers.

Nilsson Schmilsson.

Drinking milk in the…hot sun!

But what goes around comes around.

Ms. Corningstone is pushed into a bear pit at the zoo.

An unenviable position, that.

And it takes a little dog to diffuse the situation.

A mob of bears.

A proud species.

Wronged by this intrusion into their hibernation.

But Baxter, the little dog, has a message.

“These are not the droids you are looking for.”

The bears consider the source.

They will not take Ron Burgundy’s word for it.

They will not take Veronica Corningstone’s word for it.

But they will listen to a fellow creature from the animal kingdom.

“I know your cousin,” Baxter says (and I paraphrase).

Baxter’s message rings true.

The bears reconsider.

They are able to retreat gracefully.

Baxter has just acted as crisis negotiator.

A feel-good movie ends with former enemies expressing respect for one another.

Respect.

Not total reconciliation.

But a cessation of the mad chaos.

Brick Tamland (played brilliantly by Steve Carell) ends up (we are told) becoming a “top political advisor” to the Bush administration.

Mass media.

The spectacle.

Hollywood could not help taking a pot shot at a Republican President (even in a light-hearted comedy [and even though the bastard Bush deserved it]).

Why?

Because Bush was a (shitty) Republican (and a war criminal).

But for the eight years of Obama’s Presidency (and the eight years of Bill Clinton’s Presidency), you never saw Hollywood comment (on film) about the merits of these two Democrats.

Why?

Because the Democrat Party is inseparable from the mass media in the United States.

So let me ask you one final question:

do you think you are getting the truth about President Trump, coronavirus, George Floyd, or anything else from this tight-knit cabal of fakers?

Stay classy!

 

-PD

Annie [1982)

Woof!

Yesterday was a rough day for me.

Yeah, nicotine withdrawal.

Ugh…

Maybe the roughest 24 hours of my life.

They say nicotine is more addictive than heroin.

I can neither confirm nor deny that.

But after a day like yesterday, I was ready for tomorrow.

And, to quote Stereolab, “tomorrow is already here”.

So when I saw this little gem on Netflix, I thought, “This is the perfect kinda movie I need tonight.  Something light.  Not too spicy.”

But as the classics of naïveté always do, this one reduced me to a sobbing snot factory.

[sorry for the vividness]

Back in the day (you know, the day), it didn’t matter to me who directed a movie.

[Auteur?

Is that like a really smart person?

Oh, no…that’s savant.]

But then I got into all this movie business.

And it started to matter.

Because certain directors consistently turned out magic…even when they were all-but-thwarted by external sources.

[and sometimes internal sources]

So it bears repeating that Annie was directed by THE John Huston.

[kinda like THE Ohio State University]

Apparently, Sony Pictures’ subsidiary Colombia Pictures thought in 2014 that Annie would be a good film to remake.

You know?

Because it’s just a musical, right?

And there had only been one other adaption of it (the one under review)…and that had been directed by some guy…Houston, or something…

So, yeah…let’s get Will Gluck (WHO?!?) and it’ll all be groovy, baby…yeah.

Well, I’m not here to pass judgment on a film I’ve never seen (Annie from 2014).

I’m just here to say, when you start fooling with perfection (like Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory [1971]), then you’re probably in trouble.

Tim Burton got a pass (just barely) with his Charlie…

But I pity the Will Gluck,

ok…let’s discuss–

Why Remaking Annie Would Be A Wholly Unenviable Task.

Because John Huston started his directing career in 1941 with The Maltese Falcon (!)…

Key Largo…The African Queen…

Yeah, those were his.

You know, Huston is not high in my list of favorite directors.

[maybe because I’m a moron]

But this film, Annie, which he made five years before he died, is really remarkable.

But who the hell am I, right?

I’m just a no-name in San Antonio, Texas.

AH!

San Antone…

Never felt so good!

Yes, the villain of our film, Carol Burnett, hails from my hometown.

It’s not often we can say that.

Lucille LeSueur (sorry, erm…Joan Crawford).

Pola Negri later in life (Apolonia Chalupec).

Yeah, that’s about it.

And Wings.

That’s San Antonio.

[as far as cinema goes]

But I’m here to tell you, John Huston’s Annie is really special!

Even Jay-Z digs these tunes (apparently).

[couldn’t care less]

Which is to say, sampling?  Cool.

Covering?  An entire film???

Again, I pity the fool…

Because Annie is an ass-kicker.

Yeah.

You’re gonna abuse animals?

Watch out.

Annie’s got some punches–some moves!

[and that’s before her karate lesson with Roger Minami]

{not to be confused with Mini Me}

Yeah…The Asp!

And Punjab!

[who was also in Live and Let Die (1973)]

Yeah, nothing Punjabi about Geoffrey Holder.

But that’s alright 🙂

These were the Reagan years.

And Annie is a not-so-gentle nudge for Republicans to embrace their warmer sides.

[Albert Finney rolling his eyes at the George Washington painting is priceless!]

So yeah…Annie is basically a good kid.

The best!

An animal lover.

A big heart.

Courage.

An encourager.

[As Punjab says, “Buddha (?!?) says, ‘A child without courage is like a night without stars.'”]

Yeah, and Ann Reinking sees that joy in Annie.

I mean, this film has it all!

Bolsheviks!  Rockettes!  Greta Garbo!

Yes, there’s a film within a film.

And I think Edgar Poe would approve…with his glass half-full of brandy (and the other half absinthe).

Judging by Garbo, the year is 1936.

Tough year to be out of work.

And a good year to have some juniper berry syrup.

And a bathtub.

Yeah, Albert Finney knew the art of the deal.

Hardball.

[not the tripe on MSNBC]

The concept.

Aileen Quinn is really fantastic in this film.

Following Daddy Warbucks around.

Like on a Monopoly board.

Hands behind the back.

And Daddy’s gotta sell some fighter-bombers…and BUY, BUY copper!

Albert Finney is driving the economy.

Pushing the leading indicators.

And Annie is honest.

And a little honesty goes a long way.

And in sets fakery.

Looking for some dupes.

Yeah, you can only fool a Warbucks so long.

Nose upturned.

From Liverpool, mind you!

Bootstraps!  Horatio Alger crap!!!

And it ain’t crap.

Positive thinking.

Tomorrow.

I guess you gotta be willing to give it up.

The ultimate test of faith.

Where is your heart?

In steps FDR.

Infamy.

Who can know?

Why we fight?

So it’s up to us orphans to run down 5th Avenue.

If we have something to say.

Jailbreak!

These little G-Men (G-Women, in this case) are citizen journalists.

Town criers!

Extra!  Extra!  Read about the fakery!!!

Because time is of the essence.

And you gotta keep climbing even though you can see the steps run out.

God bless the parents of this world.

Those who want to give their kids a warm bed.

And sweet dreams.

Penny on the dollar for your fireworks!

You can even ride the elephant 🙂

-PD

Cochochi [2009)

Long ago.

When I went to Spain.

I was amazed to find.

Not everyone speaks Spanish.

Primarily.

In Catalunya, with Barcelona, they speak Catalan.

In the Basque Country, with Bilbao, they speak the fascinating Euskara (or Basque language).

And in Galicia, where clothing giant Inditex (Zara) is located, they speak Galego (or Galician).

[Even Google Translate recognizes Galician now.]

And that’s all in Spain!

But how was I to know this?

Being a boy from Texas.

Well, I did my research…

Let me tell you:  it’s not easy finding a Basque language guide here.

Even in a diverse city such as Austin!

But now I am in San Antonio.

And here we have another Mexican film.

But it’s not in Spanish.

Yes, Mexico is linguistically rich too.

This film is in Tarahumara.

Yes.

That’s a language.

Spoken by about 85,000 people.

AND…it’s one of 63 “national languages” of Mexico!!

Other sources count 69 languages in the country (including Spanish).

Tarahumara is one of four languages in Mexico which fall under the Taracahita branch of Uto-Aztecan languages.

And when you watch this wonderful film (currently available on Netflix in the U.S.), you will see the distinctive, beautiful faces of the child actors who carry on this “Aztec” heritage.

But don’t be confused.

The Uto-Aztecan languages stretch as far north as Idaho (Uto, as in Ute language, as in Utah).

And as far south as El Salvador.

But suffice it to say.

Even Mexicans might be hard-pressed to understand the dialogue of Cochochi.

Thank God for subtitles!

Our film is directed by Israel Cardenas and Laura Amelia Guzmán.

And they do a fantastic job.

The film is sparse.

Quiet.

The child actors evoke the magic of Víctor Erice’s masterpiece El espíritu de la colmena.

And while Cochochi seems to emanate from another planet (kind of like that “Martian” language Basque…[or, for that matter, Welsh]), there are faint glimmers of cinematic quotation here and there.

Perhaps a sudden splash of color…some sunflowers…in an otherwise bleak, earth-tone color palette…à la Kiarostami’s Taste of Cherry.

Or even the delicacy of time passing…perhaps what Deleuze meant by the “time-image” all those years ago…but what I instinctively associate with Ingmar Bergman–that eerie silence which characterizes nature in its most remote regions.

The Rarámuri people depicted in this film (our Tarahumara speakers) live (in this case) in the state of Chihuahua.

Northwestern Mexico.

[The Rarámuri people are also found in the states of Durango and Sonora]

Our actors have the Sierra Madre Occidental mountains as their backdrop.

Places like Copper Canyon.

But this is no Bogart film.

Each and every movement and bit of dialogue which our directors elicit from their players is an act of loving capture.

Priceless moments which convey a multitude of new thoughts to those unfamiliar with the Rarámuri people.

Our main actors play themselves in the movie.

Yes, in much the way you would expect Robert Flaherty to make a film.

But keep in mind that the French title of Blue is the Warmest Color is La Vie d’Adèle – Chapitres 1 & 2.

As in Adèle Exarchopoulos.

As in, the actress (Exarchopoulos) was playing a character which bore her name:  Adèle.

[at least her first name]

But the stars of our film are two young actors who don’t even have Spanish Wikipedia pages.

Luis Antonio Lerma Torres plays Tony (short for Antonio).

His full name is utilized for that of his character.

Tony is great in this film.

But the real star is Evaristo Corpus Lerma Torres.

Evaristo gives a performance which is unforgettable.

Quiet.  Understated.  Real.

But don’t be fooled…

These two film brothers (real life as well?) need each other.

Their personalities play off one another.

To call this a road film would be slightly inaccurate.

There aren’t really roads here.

At least with paving.

And while there are a couple of rusty pickup trucks which transport members of various communities around…creeping along the dirt roads (gratis, of course)…the real drama involves a horse.

Indeed, there are horses about.

Donkeys.

Sheep.

But this one horse is very important.

Because Tony and Evaristo have “borrowed” it…from their grandfather.

This is really a transcendent story of mercy and love…of patience…and of the brilliance of nature.

Animals are smart.

And miracles can be in the wise words of grandfathers…

Forgiveness.

And wonder.

-PD

Au Hasard Balthazar [1966)

If life has no meaning, then do not continue to the next sentence.

Thank you.

For those of you still reading.

You must excuse my reliance on 1/3rd of the trivium (to the detriment of the remainder).

It must be rhetoric which I employ.

Like a donkey.

No.

It doesn’t work that way.

But for those of us in poverty and misery.

How do we express our futile existences?

By affirming their meanings.

Their meaningfulness.

You have not worked your whole life for nothing.

You worked to survive.

But you survived for others.

You loved.  You cared.

You were curious.

Too curious to let the human race go.

And so, slow and easy does it goes [sic]…the autumn of your years.

Perhaps.

Another spring.

Hope.  Eternal.

Robert Bresson slips a note under our door.

A key.

At first viewing it is dull.  Ugly.

Like a donkey.

Yes.

But Bresson knew Beethoven.  Concision of expression.

Economy of means.

It is no wonder that we hear Schubert throughout this film.

And no wonder that Schubert is Philip Glass’ favorite composer.

Those ostinati.  Figured bass.

Even simpler than Alberti.

More like a rail fence transposition.

Or a Caesar shift cipher.

Ostinato.  Obstinate.

Like the donkey.

But I have patiently borne the humiliation.

I am still a youthful beast of burden.

And yet I know my hooves.

I am a genius.

A four-legged mathematician.

Give me three digits…and a single digit.

And I multiply.

I fecundate the field with feathery flowers.

Four digits.

Do I hear five?

With a memory like an elephant.

A stare like a tiger.

And a harangue like a polar bear.

But look how he shivers.

The donkey.

So humble as to not say a word.

Perhaps it was the wisdom of salt.

Salt of the earth.

A wise ass.

Yes, forever in trouble.  With my pride.

Getting kicked in the rump.

But these are really nasty assaults.

The other side of James Dean.

François Lafarge as Gérard is a real asshole.

Not enough love at home.

Feels a need to punch donkeys.

[pause]

Quite literally…the world comes to life through Bresson’s filmmaking.

Prostitutes pop up.

Pimps prance and preen.

But here we have “merely” sexual assault.

A first step in losing the ability to feel anything.

Numb.

And we have rape (through allusion, of course).

Gérard toots his horn.

Literally.

The other side of the James Dean coin.

The underside of Jean-Paul Belmondo.

A disproportionate riposte courtesy of the one filmmaker with the balls to be simple.

So simple.

On first glance it is nothing.

A donkey.

But live a few years.

And then revisit.

It is a novel.

It contains everything.

We can’t catch it because it doesn’t pop out at us in color.

One way would be to say that no one has ever looked more sad on screen than Anne Wiazemsky here.

Before Godard.

Perhaps a first conversation.

A nervousness.

It was through Wiazemsky that Bresson told this tale.

To teach the New Wave.

They hadn’t learned all the lessons yet.

He wasn’t done speaking.

The quiet tone of an old man…

I want to tell you more more more.

But this is best secret.

To appreciate the simple things.

Before they are gone.

The patient animals.

So gentle in their existence.

Not presuming.

Not running.  Not hustling.

The pack-animals.

We know this look.

In cats.  In dogs.

This wisdom.

We laugh at their carefree insolence.

But they have shown the way.

Such resilience!

Such love…

And we are taken in.

Our hearts are melted.

Yes.

Few moments in cinema feel more lonely than the end of Au Hasard Balthazar.

It is almost unbearable.

The quiet dignity of humanity being shamed.

How could we ever forget our love.

For even a second.

When we rub two sticks together at such an eyelevel perspective, the meaning of life is very clear.

But unutterable.

 

-PD