True Grit [1969)

To get through life, you need grit.

Toughness.

I know of no tougher people than my parents.

And they have been an infinite inspiration to me.

So it is a pleasure to review what is one of my dad’s favorite films.

He always told me to watch this, but I guess I had some subliminal aversion to Westerns.

Well, dear friends, this here is a masterpiece.

I haven’t written much about Westerns (aside from the three Clint Eastwood spaghetti Westerns I reviewed long ago).

I know the genre is not everyone’s cup of tea.

Jean-Luc Godard commented once that his soulmate Anne-Marie Miéville really couldn’t stand this genre, whereas Monsieur Godard has been open about his admiration for John Ford and other directors of the American Western.

But here we have a film by Henry Hathaway.

Sure, John Wayne is in the movie (big league!), but it was Hathaway behind the camera ostensibly calling the shots.

You might know Hathaway from the film noir Call Northside 777.

Or perhaps The Desert Fox:  The Story of Rommel (starring the inimitable James Mason).

But he also directed Rawhide and The Sons of Katie Elder (another flick starring The Duke).

But let’s bring out the big gun.

John Wayne was born Marion (!) Robert Morrison in Winterset, Iowa.

That’s right.  Not Texas.  Not Oklahoma.

Iowa.

So how did John Wayne become such a badass?

Much of it might be attributable to his attention to detail.

And just what (or who) was he paying attention to?

Wyatt Earp.

That’s right.

Deputy sheriff of Tombstone, Arizona.

But let’s get on to this fantastic film, shall we?

The real surprise is Kim Darby.

Sure, Glen Campbell is great here, but Darby is sensational!

And though this might be thought of as Kim Darby’s only significant film role of her career, it is timeless.

She knocked it out of the park as Mattie Ross.

All our actors are gritty, but the real toss-up is between Kim Darby (who was 22 at the time) and John Wayne (who was 62).

Toughness is the theme of the movie.

He or she who is toughest will overcome.

Sure, some obstacles are insurmountable.

But GRIT will get you through some harrowing situations.

It’s almost funny when a film (like this one) includes minor roles for the likes of Dennis Hopper and Robert Duvall.  Duvall’s role is a bit more substantial, but the main focus is on the troika of Campbell, Darby, and Wayne (particularly the latter two).

Fans of the recent film Sicario will notice precursors to “rough justice” present all throughout True Grit.

But director Hathaway manages to make a G-rated film.

For that and other reasons, I am recommending this as a family film (though it may be unsuitable for particularly young ones).

The narrative device which keeps the film “all ages” is that Mattie is supposed to be 14 years old (though, as stated, Kim Darby [Mattie] was actually 22).

The action of our film centers around Fort Smith, Arkansas (at first) and later in the “Indian Territory” around McAlester, Oklahoma.

The film features prominently a Colt Model 1848 Percussion Army Revolver a.k.a. Colt Dragoon Revolver (.44 caliber).

Firearms aside, John Wayne is magnificent in the denouement when he takes on four armed horsemen.

That said, a Sharps rifle comes in particular handy for Wayne in a near-death imbroglio.

Glen Campbell’s greatest moment is just getting on the horse and setting the beast in motion.

It is this scene in which Campbell proves himself to be just as gritty as Darby and Wayne.

But the film is not over yet.

And we see John Wayne take action:  as a leader!

Doing what needs to be done!

But the scene which brought tears to my eyes was when John Wayne bet on the toughness of Kim Darby.

And that is the message.

What great encouragement it is when people have faith in us!

When they say, “I know you can do it!”

We may not believe it ourselves, but their faith lifts us up.

We think, “Maybe they know something I don’t.”

When we’re at our lowest point.

Those who stand beside us with compassion are displaying that priceless characteristic of true grit.

The very end of the film is quite touching as well.

We see an actor 40 years younger than her leading man offer a hand of friendship with an act of love.

It’s not even romantic.

It’s just classy.

Humane.

In truth, very poetic.

I wholeheartedly recommend this film for all doubters of John Wayne and the Western genre in general.

Yee-Haw!

-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

JFK [1991)

There is very little doubt in my mind that this is the most important film ever made.

For once in American history, someone stood up.

That man was Jim Garrison.

When I used to spend time in New Orleans I shuddered at the courage this man had.

He had the courage to take on everything.

But this epic would not have received its rightful place in history without the auteur Oliver Stone.

Making this film was an immense act of courage.

Search your heart.

Sit alone at 2:00 a.m. on the outskirts of Nola.

3:00 a.m.

Later.

The deepest, darkest part of the night.

Oliver Stone captures the beauty of humanity in the story of Jim Garrison.

Few dramatic performances have ever affected me so much as Kevin Costner’s here.

But you must look deeper.

Look to Jim Marrs.

Long ago I heard Alex Jones proclaim on air that JFK was his favorite film.

Long ago I saw JFK as a first-run film in the theater.

But I didn’t see this 3-hour-8-minute version.

I’m pretty sure of that.

Because I was just a child.

I heard the drums.

I heard the moving music of John Williams.

But, alas, it was 3’08” which was before me.

It takes a lifetime to appreciate what Mr. X is getting at.

It is packed tight as a can of sardines (even at 3’08”).

Eisenhower’s farewell address.

Really listen to it.

The nervous glances aside.

What is he announcing?

Does he not have immense testicles to yell such from the tower?

But let’s take a trip…

Acting.  Real fucking acting.

Joe Pesci.

God damn!

If Costner didn’t have the Garrison role, Pesci might have taken it.

Stole the show.

Kevin Bacon at Angola.

In Angola.

Leadbelly, not Neto.

IS THIS THE MPLA?

I THOUGHT IT WAS THE UK!

Donald Sutherland.

You can see the parallel now in Dr. Steve Pieczenik.

You gotta watch it.

Vietnam.

Donald Sutherland gets even closer than Pesci.

It’s that moment he says, “bubba”.

Yeah, that’s the right track.

That’s a lifetime of work.

That’s putting your ass on the line.

Have you ever put your ass on the line?

Really laying it all out there and staring into the void.

That’s the encouragement.

The words you need to hear from someone who’s paying attention.

Someone who’s saying, “Don’t be afraid of the bastards.  Hit ’em back.”

Contrasted with Pesci as a walking pot of coffee.

Yeah.

Feel that fear for a moment.

You don’t live in a bubble

You have family.

You have people you love.

You risk it all because you know it is the right thing to do.

To ask questions.

To object.

To use your mind where none dare tread.

Who’s the Jim Garrison of today?

Yes, it is Alex Jones.

He has earned that.

But it is also very much James Tracy.

Sissy Spacek cannot compete with Costner.

And she shouldn’t.

But she’s indispensable.

The back and forth in the hallway.

She ain’t walking down that hallway anymore.

Watch JFK and you’ll understand why Anderson Cooper is a coward.

Watch the hit piece directed at Garrison.

Sad, sad men (the SAD/SOG).

Yeah.

Come to know Lyman L. Lemnitzer.  Very few LLLs in history.

Don’t stop at Operation Mongoose.

Know the much more important Operation Northwoods (otherwise known as 9/11).

For all of the bigots out there, come to understand just how many things Israel COULD NOT have done (which were essential to 9/11).

And yet they are no doubt involved.

On the wrong side.

Just like their appalling treatment of the Palestinians.

Notice I didn’t say Jews.  And I didn’t say anti-Semitism.

Pesci’s character nails it.

But we still need Gary Oldman as Oswald.

What’s on the gravestone?

Oswald.

Maybe it’s not rogue elements after all.

It’s the whole damn thing.

But who warned us?

They were inside the machine.

Eisenhower.

Garrison.

Kennedy.

Martin Luther King.

Go to Dallas.

Feel the evil.

Unsolved.

Covered.

Covered over.

Like a pothole filled with steaming shit.

Thanks Michael Ovitz.

Did you really convince Costner to take the part?

More importantly, thank you Costner.

Yeah, that’s some method acting.

And it’s far too important not to feel.

With every fiber of one’s being.

Stone took the right take.

There could be only one like that.

In the courtroom.

We don’t even notice the cuts.

Academy Award for editing.

Including a chap named Scalia.

Tommy Lee Jones as the incarnation of evil.

Dainty.  Subtle.  Shades of James Mason from NXNW.

Tommy Lee Jones from my hometown.

San Antonio.

I seen him at a Mexican restaurant.

And we hold out hope that the planet remembers us.

Ed Asner.

Ed Asner who stood up when the shit hit the fan after 9/11.

Where were these other fuckers?  Still basking in the glory of JFK?

That’s too bad because their words then ring hollow.

How about Field of Dreams?  Go the distance.

Back, and to the left.

Back, and to the left.

Back, and to the left.

John Candy as perfection.

A serious role.

Fuck all you motherfuckers!

Martin Sheen is for real.

Charlie Sheen, while not in this movie, put so many social activists to shame.

Real testicular girth.

Jim Garrison as Earl Warren.

The glasses.

The Coke bottle disorientation.

But the erudition.

The evil erudition.

Sean Stone is what we’re fighting for.

The kids.

That’s real shit.

Mohrenschildt in Pappy Bush’s pocketbook.

A directory.

Not the whole Rolodex.

Just the kind of thing you’d take on an ice-skating trip in a thunderstorm to Houston.

It’s always raining.

And a little hunting.

Parse that.

It comes back to Cuba.

Zachary Sklar.

Ellen Ray.

Enough to write a book.

And publish it.

Jack Lemmon.

The fear.

Naïveté.  Étouffée.

A lot of work for a little piece of meat.

Oliver Stone’s not the genius.  Jim Garrison is.

Always will be.

But Garrison needed Stone.

Counter gangs.  Webster Tarpley.

Frank Kitson.  Low intensity.

Critical mass.

Where Jane Rusconi and Yale University come in.

Impressive.

I take it all back.

A dick-measuring contest about how many books one has read.

Garrison.  Stone.  Rusconi.

Impressive.

District attorney.

Ok, I take it back again again:  Oliver Stone is a genius.

But we need it again.

 

-PD

 

Hanna [2011)

This is quite possibly the best film I’ve ever seen.  Once or twice every generation an actress comes along who is well beyond all the rest.  That actress, for this generation, is Saoirse Ronan.  I would not have come by this film were it not for her turn in The Grand Budapest Hotel.  That film is likewise one of the best I’ve ever seen.  This one is better.  Why?  Because Miss Ronan is allowed to show a much wider array of her skills.

I had previously thought Wes Anderson a modest director until his most recent aforementioned film.  The Grand Budapest Hotel is his first great, timeless piece of cinema.  The key (though it may go unnoticed by many) is Saoirse.  The name Joe Wright meant nothing to me prior to tonight.  I must congratulate him on a near-perfect movie.

Yes, this is a movie.  And a film.  There is a difference.  Movies are entertainment.  Films are cinema.  Guy Hamilton proved in The Man with the Golden Gun that a movie could also be a film.

Mr. Wright’s film benefits from an anti-fascist plot which would do the opponents of Operation Gladio and other black ops proud.  I count myself among their number.

Hanna is a genetically-modified human…a prototype super-soldier.  Cate Blanchett plays her role so wonderfully (like James Mason in NXNW) that we wonder if there is a heart beating at all under there.  Ms. Blanchett portrays the CIA officer who helmed the genetic research which spawned Hanna.  To call her icy would be an understatement.  She registers at absolute zero.

The beauty of this story is when its’ arc arrives at the golden mean:  the moment Hanna first hears music.  To be precise, it is the moment when she equates music with the encyclopedic definition she learned as a quasi “wild child” in the Finnish arctic.  Funny how a comparison can be made to François Truffaut and the director in question is not Anderson (whose style most resembles the sentimentality of Truffaut), but Wright.  The link is L’Enfant sauvage from 1970.  Anderson, for his part, found the golden mean in The Grand Budapest Hotel by way of Saoirse Ronan as well.  That moment is the magical kaleidoscopic close-up of her angelic face aboard a merry-go-round.

Both Hanna and The Grand Budapest Hotel straddle a line which would have made Hitchcock proud.  In the latter, Mendl’s pastries are all the sweeter for scenes such as the one in which Jeff Goldblum loses four of his fingers.  In the former, the PG-13 rating is pushed to the max with gruesome deaths (such as Knepfler’s topsy-turvy demise à la Saint Sebastian…particularly as depicted by Odilon Redon), yet there is an innocence and panache to the whole affair.  Credit Wright with knowing how to offset the sheer terror of the premise with essential throwaway aspects such as the camper-van family (who, by the way, do a lovely rendition of Bowie’s “Kooks” from Hunky Dory).  The whole juxtaposition is positively Beethovenian.  And none of it would have been possible without the Leitmotiv and soul of this film:  Saoirse Ronan.  She did not, as it turns out, miss MY heart.  The Academy just missed its best actress.  I have a feeling her coup de grâce is yet to come.

 

-PD

North by Northwest [1959)

A film critic’s most daunting task is tackling that which has been pored over for decades.  What can be left to write about a film such as this?  This is no doubt one of the most famous movies ever made.  What has accounted for its “staying power?”

There is, of course, the well-tailored Cary Grant in his grey suit and tie (grey tie) thinking thin while suavely moving between Madison Ave. and points west.  There is the deliciously-evil James Mason whose one-liners ring with Shakespearean gravity in their chilly enunciation.  Even Martin Landau…with his iconic, effeminately-sinister visage makes a lasting mark upon the viewer’s brain.  And then there is Eva Marie Saint:  her glowing locks like Garbo in Technicolor.  These are great characters, but there is something more.

Situations.  What would Sartre and Debord make of this dissection?  This critical tangent?  The crop duster scene.  Surrealism.  Beckett, but back to Finnegans Wake.  Somehow screenwriter Ernest Lehman tapped into the non sequitur nature of Joyce’s masterpiece (akin to Hawks’ approach in The Big Sleep [by way of Raymond Chandler]).  It is one of the greatest situations in cinema.  There are few scenes more iconic than Cary Grant in full stride trying futilely to outrun an approaching plane.

The overarching situation involves the C.I.A.  Leo Carroll is fantastic in the short-but-powerful role of The Professor.  We sense a Donald Rumsfeld sort of character.  Polite.  Gentlemanly.  But certainly a man of the cloth in the dark arts.  It is perhaps fitting that we end up atop Mount Rushmore…that gargantuan creation of Gutzon Borglum (himself a mysterious if not shadowy personage).

But all of these methods merely attempt to approach what can be summed up only as essential cinematic viewing.  In Hitchcock here we find an apex of craftsmanship and imagination.  Not even the masterful performance of Grant can usurp the controlling role of our auteur.  It is a slippery slope.  Had the film failed to deliver; failed to age well, it would have been Hitchcock’s fault.  Somehow this greatest of all directors managed to make all the elements work together in a dramatic harmony of color.  Cinema is the closest we come to a truly synesthetic art.  When films start to differentiate themselves by their smells and the ways they literally touch us, we will have tasted the future.  For now, pinnacles such as North by Northwest have yet to be surpassed.

 

-PD