Chuck Norris vs Communism [2015)

Dear Ilinca Călugăreanu,

You have made a beautiful film.

Which the world needed to see.

And the title made me think it would be imperialist propaganda directed at North Korea.

But I could not have been more wrong.

Because Romania has touched my heart so many times.

And so I am glad to add another name to the list of auteurs.

Cristi Puiu, Corneliu Porumboiu, Cătălin Mitulescu, Cristian Mungiu…

And now Ilinca Călugăreanu.

Yes, it is only right that a young female director should bring us this story.

This documentary.

Ms. Călugăreanu, born in 1981.

Because this film is very much about the 1980s.

VHS.

Videocassettes.

And the situation in Romania.

Chuck Norris is merely a placeholder.

A meme which has undergone a certain détournement.

But there is no substitute for communism in this tale.

Perhaps, authoritarianism.

You see…

if you tell people to do one thing…and you’re really heavy-handed about it,

they will almost certainly do the opposite.

At some point.

And Ms. Călugăreanu’s very persuasive hypothesis is that videocassettes brought down the Ceaușescu regime.

And so there is very little way around this impasse without talking political economy.

First, let us address the very astute current Russian minister of culture Vladimir Medinsky.

The esteemed Mr. Medinsky has famously (?) called Netflix “U.S. government…mind control”.

Or at least that’s how The Washington Times (who needs the Post?) framed it.

But let’s investigate.

Let’s have Mr. Medinsky’s words and not just a CliffsNotes, elevator-pitch summation of them.

He says [translated],

“And, what, you thought these gigantic startups emerge by themselves? One schoolboy sat down, thought for a bit, and then billions of dollars rained down from above?”

That is pursuant to the funding which helped birth Netflix (and, presumably, other American companies with what Mr. Medinsky feels is a global, insidious reach).

He continues [translated],

“It turns out that that our ideological friends [the U.S. government] understand perfectly well that this is the art form that is the most important…”

Ahh, cinema…

And Vladimir Lenin himself knew it!

Mr. Medinsky then seems to evoke the Leonard Cohen of “Tower of Song” when he says [translated],

“They understand how to enter everyone’s homes by getting into every television with the help of Netflix…”

Leonard Cohen (God rest his soul) said it thus:

“Now you can say that I’ve grown bitter but of this you may be sure
The rich have got their channels in the bedrooms of the poor.”

Ah!

What a lyric!!

And that was in 1988!!!

So our director, Ilinca Călugăreanu, knows that of which she speaks.

Because the grip of Ceaușescu was beginning to slip.

But let’s give Mr. Medinsky one more say [translated],

“And through this television, [they get into] the heads of everyone on Earth. But [Russians] don’t grasp this.”

Ok.

Now why was Mr. Medinsky so upset?

Well, because Netflix undertook a vast expansion this past summer.

Indeed, the article from which I’m pirating these quotes (yes, translations are intellectual property) dates from June 23, 2016.

The same article notes pointedly that Netflix’s expansion into Russia, plus a vast number of new territories, means that the streaming service is now available in 190 countries worldwide.

Wait a minute…

How many countries are there, you might ask?  196.  Or 195.

Poor Taiwan, they just can’t catch a break.

So then you might say, well…what the fuck?!?

What countries is Netflix NOT in???

It appears those countries are China, North Korea, Syria, and…Crimea?

Suffice it to say, the international “community” is not unanimous in their appraisal of Crimean statehood.

Is it part of Russia?

Is it part of Ukraine?

What do the words Republic of Crimea even mean if its not an independent country?

Which brings up the specter of “frozen conflict zones”.

I’m guessing that Netflix might be unavailable in Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh, South Ossetia, and Transnistria.

But I digress…

Because we are on to more specific matters.

There are at least two major ways in which Americans can view the Romanian communist period as it has been depicted in motion pictures.

First, Americans can sympathize with the repression of the Romanian people.

Any doubters should do a little digging on the PATRIOT Act.

Indeed, the psychosis of surveillance (which is mentioned in Chuck Norris vs Communism) could not field a more forbidding bogeyman than the National Security Agency.

And so, dear peoples of the world, would you feel more or less safe living in the same country in which the NSA is headquartered?

Exactly.

Second, Americans could extrapolate Ms. Călugăreanu’s hypothesis to mean that countries such as China will eventually implode as a result of the fulminating combination of repression and technology (even, perhaps, with a starring role for entertainment).

All of that is to say that movies COULD bring down China or North Korea or even Iran.

[Notice the non-Netflix countries…Syria is without, but apparently Iran does have the service.]

Which is to ultimately say, Mr. Medinsky’s fear is completely warranted.

What is at stake in Russia?

The fall of Putin.

A sea change in leadership.

And I will be quite frank.

There is no doubt that Netflix’s catalog is heavily biased towards globalist propaganda.

One of the most glaring areas is India.

I can’t tell you how many watery, transparent premises there are on Netflix which are some permutation of a young person rebelling against a repressive culture.

It’s almost like they’re churning these formulaic films out in a factory.

Boy marries girl from lower caste.  Mayhem follows.

Girl goes to human rights court.  Happily ever after…

Boy rebels against father’s traditional ways [read:  religion].

I mean, at a certain point it’s just pathetic.

But we must hand it to Netflix for some (SOME) of their selections.

Actually, I have found a good many gems on the site.

But it is a very biased (and historically-uninformed collection).

In general, history doesn’t exist for Netflix.

Unless that history is the Holocaust.

Then, of course, there are a plethora of scenarios to “inform” you about the Nazis.

Make no mistake (my best Obama voice), the Nazis were bad.

Really bad.

But do we need 10 fucking films about the Holocaust?

And if Schindler’s List is the zenith of the genre, God help us…

But I digress again…

Chuck Norris vs Communism is a very beautiful film.

It’s about rebellion.

It’s about the little things we do to assert our existence.

And in this case, it’s about a translator (a voiceover dubbing artist) who reached the hearts of innumerable Romanians.

Irina Nistor.

Whether it was Chuck Norris, or Jean-Claude Van Damme, or Sylvester Stallone, Irina’s voice made the dialogue come alive in Romanian.

But it was a subversive activity.

“Imperialist” films were not allowed in Romania.

But Romania was falling apart.

To take the interviewees of our documentary at their word, their lives sucked…without “video” night.

But we must be clear.

Everything (EVERYTHING) about this enterprise was illegal in Romania.

First, the videos had to be smuggled across the border.

Then they had to be copied and dubbed (voiceover).

Then they had to be distributed.

Then some brave schmucks took the risk of screening these films on their TV sets (for a few lei, of course).

But it was dangerous business.

Especially if you were the kingpin.

So it is then strange to meet this kingpin of video piracy face to face.

Zamfir.

Not the guy with the panpipes.

No, this was Teodor Zamfir.

Made a pretty penny.

But the fascinating thing (by Călugăreanu’s hypothesis) is that he completely changed Romanian culture.

The seeds of revolution were sown by Dirty Dancing, Last Tango in Paris, The King of Comedy

And especially by the action films.

Rocky, Rambo, Lone Wolf McQuade…

And so, if you want to piss off a communist (or socialist, or whatever they’re going by these days), you can go with the familiar tack,

“Didn’t they already try that?  Wasn’t it an immense failure?”

I don’t know.

But I don’t doubt the faces of those who lived through Ceaușescu.

No national cinema has been nearly as effective as the Romanian in communicating to the West just what life under communism was like.

And so Romania becomes our lens into the Soviet Union and its satellite states.

I know there are Russians who fondly remember communism.

Let’s be clear:  capitalism can also suck.

Change and upheaval can be deadly.

They say, “Watch the price of eggs” (to demonstrate how a free market dictates prices).

But we see a very similar discontent in the Middle East.

Is this democracy?

Fuck this!

Yes, America has made some mistakes.

And so we should watch everything with a critical eye.

Be your own critic.

Be like Emerson.

Be bold.

And then double back.

Waffle.

Live by palimpsest.

Because you are the ultimate philosopher.

For your life.

I can’t tell you.

And you can’t tell me.

We have to learn.

It must be the right time.

To receive a particular lesson.

I draw courage from Irina Margareta Nistor.

But most of all, I draw courage from the Romanian people.

Perhaps my country’s Hollywood crap (the stuff I took for granted) was just the stuff necessary in the dark times.

Entertainment.  Ass kicking.  Escape.

But the Romanian cinema of today inspires me beyond words.

And so let us remember, whether we are capitalists or socialists, the price paid by the people of Romania in December 1989.

Was it 1,100 people?

11,000 people?

110,000 people?

It’s troubling that nobody knows for sure.

But even if it was a thousand people.

They didn’t just get trampled by goats or run over by garbage trucks.

It wasn’t a bloodless revolution.

At least 1000 people.

They saw their moment.

They seized on a moment.

They capitalized on their opportunity.

There was something which impelled them not to just sit at home and listen.

I salute these brave souls who went out into the streets.

For a thousand people to have died, it seems rather inconceivable that there wasn’t an attempt made by the government to “restore order”.

That’s the line which can’t be crossed.

That’s when a government has lost its legitimacy.

Some stories are twisted.

And full-blown civil wars do erupt.

But it appears, in the end, that repression lost.

And repression, censorship, and heavy-handed tactics (whether adopted by socialists or capitalists) should, by historical lesson, be most strictly avoided.

It is human nature.

The people will not tolerate being treated like livestock.

And something as seemingly inconsequential as VHS tapes can tip the balance.

-PD

#8 Mr. Bean in Room 426 [1993)

First, a short list of Hulu failings:

-Pootie Tang (shite)

-Mordecai (shite)

-Lars and the Real Girl (epically shite)

-The Voices (shite)

-Mystery Team (shite)

-Hot Tub Time Machine 2 (shite squared) [catalog dilemma]

-Anchorman 2 (shite to the second power)

-Beverly Hills Cop II (repetitive shiteness) [catalog dilemma]

-Cannonball Run II (must see first episode to appreciate this shite)

-Teen Wolf Too (now with word shite!)

-The Naked Gun 2 1/2 (quasi-decimal shite)

-The Naked Gun 33 1/3 (LP shite)

-My Best Friend’s Wedding (shite)

-Cashback (shite)

-Dear White People (shite)

-Everything Must Go (shite)

-Jerry Maguire (shite)

-The Skeleton Twins (shite)

-Trailer Park Boys (shite)

-16-Love (shite)

-Novocaine (sic shite)

-Dark Horse (Judeo-Nepotistic shite)

-Little Paradise (shite)

-Frances Ha (epically shite)

-Stranger Than Fiction (shite)

-8 Heads in a Duffel Bag (shite)

-C.S.A.:  The Confederate States of America (ambitious shite)

-Trees Lounge (depressing attempt at shite)

-King of California (total shite)

-Dead Hooker in a Trunk (go-back-to-film-school shite)

-Are You Joking? (more Judeo-Nepotistic shite)

-And Now a Word From Our Sponsors (shite)

-Falling Star (Kosher Casino shite)

-Jewtopia (no comment)

-The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (Swedish shite)

-Heathers (cruel shite)

-Sleeping Beauty (barely shite)

-Gold (Irish shite)

-The Hunger Games:  Catching Fire (quintessential shite)

-Jack Ryan:  Shadow Recruit (lazy shite)

-Mission:  Impossible (a colon-full of Scientologist shite)

-Space Milkshake (actually, not too bad…)

[I hate to say it, but the number of films by mediocre directors named Schwarz is really astonishing.]

Now, you might reason:  these are just the rantings of an anti-Semitic film snob.

I admit I don’t laugh easily.

It takes a lot to laugh, it takes a train to cry.

Mostly I don’t like waste.

Entitled filmmakers are more likely to make shite.

They didn’t earn their stripes.

They have an uncle who works for Sony Pictures.

Actually, the film school rubbish on Hulu is astonishing.

It is completely venal in nature.

I just happen to have had some bad experiences with unfunny Jewish films.

What do I mean, “Jewish films”?

I mean exactly what Brandon Tartikoff was referring to when he first saw the Seinfeld pilot.

In that instance, Tartikoff (himself Jewish) was wrong.

Seinfeld was genius!

Seinfeld is a funny show.

Yes, it exists in a Jewish milieu.

Tartikoff thought the show was “too Jewish” to appeal to Americans in general.

He was wrong.

But, sadly, now we have a gaggle of filmmakers who think they are Woody Allen or Mel Brooks.

Status update:  those two guys actually have talent!

Which is not to say they didn’t make some clunkers.

Hulu happens to have picked up two of those clunkers:  Bananas and Life Stinks.

No one’s perfect.

But please…dear world Jewry,

Please tell your precocious sons and daughters that they aren’t all geniuses.

Who’s funding this shit?

Hulu:  who the fuck is in charge over there!?!

Your catalog indicates that you enjoy wasting the monthly fees people pay for your woeful service.

Ok, ok…

A short list of Hulu successes:

-the Criterion collection

THE END.

And so…what part of the Hulu catalog presently needs the most work?

Answer:  the comedy genre of movies.

Second most problematic lack of imaginative curation?

Answer:  the drama genre of movies.

[If you think that Hulu’s selection of movies might be lacking (based on my first two points of emphasis), then you are right:  it is!]

Third crappiest category on Hulu?

Answer:  the “action & adventure” genre of movies.

Even Hulu’s genres are ass-backwards compared to the pinpoint precision of iTunes.

Korean Drama?  Really???  Ok.  I guess Hulu is really killing it in Seoul (and Pyongyang).

CEO Mike Hopkins needs to take a long look in the mirror.

Whoever got the Criterion catalog, give that person an infinite raise.

The rest of them?  Fire their sorry asses.

Beth Comstock needs to overturn the moneychangers’ tables.

Destroy YOUR business, Ms. Comstock.

Jason Kilar…you know what doesn’t work?  Faux-dreams.

Faux-tographs.

A catalog of shite.

Make a call.  Do lunch.

“Anywhere, Anytime:  Shite”

“For the Love of shite”

“Come Shite with Us”

Lot of people drawing a check at Hulu and turning out a subpar service.

The name Hulu comes from two Mandarin Chinese words…both of which translate roughly to “shite”.

Now, just to be fair…I wouldn’t sign up for Netflix if my life depended on it.

iTunes is a horribly antiquated business model (and offers very little value for consumers).

Amazon Prime Video was petty to disallow MacBooks (as incompatible devices) as late as last year.  Not to mention that Jeff Bezos is just a wannabe Rupert Murdoch who bans books like Nobody Died at Sandy Hook.  [And yes, Virginia, Murdoch is the great Satan.]

And so, with such a paltry selection of movies on Hulu, I’ve been forced to examine its television offerings.  The prospects are not much better.

But I will give credit where credit is due.

Mr. Bean was an excellent pickup.

If you want a tight, seamless work of art (unlike this rambling, frothing review), then check out the episode under consideration.

You know, not even the childlike Rowan Atkinson was above making fun of old people (in this episode) or suggesting that continental Europeans be purposefully killed by British drivers (tourists).  Check out his standup comedy album from 1995 for the latter bit.

Which just goes to show…we all lose our heads.

We all exercise poor judgment.  We all have poor taste now and then.

You may not believe it, but I have put my own sorry butt on the line to stand up for world Jewry.

I will be the first to admit that my term “Judeo-Nepotistic” is incredibly crass and insensitive.

And still, I would ask that Jews (who are no doubt hard-pressed on all sides) please exercise some judgment of their own.  Transparent nepotism is really tasteless.  It goes against our better Jeffersonian principles.

So there you have it.  Bobby Fischer was a jerk.  The Holocaust really happened.  Not so sure about the gas chambers.  You’re welcome Faurisson.  The Earth is not flat.  9/11 was an inside job (and therefore not an Israeli job).  Insofar as it was an Israeli job, the U.S. government was at least half-responsible.  It was much more likely an Israeli job than a Saudi job.  Much more likely a purely self-inflicted inside job (no substantial Israeli involvement) than an Israeli job.  And finally, Israel is a criminal country oppressing the Palestinians in a most disgusting manner.

And for good measure, yes Donald Trump is a bigot.  And he’s horribly wrong about immigration (both in regards to our Mexican brothers and sisters and our Islamic brothers and sisters).  But he’s still the only real choice for President.

Sanders has been right about one thing:  Snowden.  Snowden’s a hero.  But America is not a socialist country.  Sanders would actually be a bigger step backwards than Trump.

The other candidates (Clinton and Cruz) are worthless.

So there you go, Hulu…I need some better circuses here!

To keep me out of the political arena!!

I could use some bread as well 🙂

In any case, I’m sorry for my vile ranting.

But film is my religion.  Through film, omnism.

Stop defiling my religion, Hulu.  Your thoughtlessness is ghastly.

Hire some people who love cinema.

Get your shit together.

 

-PD