Death Wish [1974)

The great American movie.  Paramount.  Gulf + Western.

It grips at your heart.

A Boeing 757 in reverse.  At last.

This inverted haiku serves to give epigrammatic notice.

“Above all, I didn’t want to take any more shit…not from anybody.”  –Iggy Pop

I credit Nick Tosches with turning me on to the album from whence the above lyrics come:  Avenue B.

It kinda sums it up.  Paul Kersey.  Not to be confused with Jerome Kersey (R.I.P.).

They say “vigilante”…  I don’t know.  Doesn’t seem quite right.  I mean, we all know about Bernhard Goetz.  Taxi Driver.

Michael Winner really nailed it as a director here.

But we must face those drones buzzing overhead.  “There’s something dishonorable about killing from a distance,” to paraphrase a line from Godard’s Le Petit Soldat.  Depends on the distance.  Depends on who drew first.

This is, after all, an urban Western.

“In 2010, FOX and the New York Daily News reported that months after the 9/11 attacks, a Pentagon employee invited al-Awlaki to a luncheon in the Secretary’s Office of General Counsel. The US Secretary of the Army had asked for a presentation from a moderate Muslim as part of an outreach effort to ease tensions with Muslim-Americans.”  –Wikipedia

This is, of course, in reference to U.S. agent Anwar al-Awlaki who was subsequently reported to have been wasted by a Hellfire missile fired from a Predator drone in Yemen.  Another American assassinated in the same attack (both killed without due process, if at all) by the JSOC and CIA was Samir Khan.  That is vigilante justice, or (more likely) fake vigilante justice.  Sometimes “reality erupts within the spectacle” (to paraphrase Guy Debord from his masterpiece tome Society of the Spectacle).  Just like those Hellfire missiles erupted (exploded).

I call al-Awlaki an agent (or asset) because that is my analysis of the facts (what is known).  I may be wrong.  I am, however, far more certain about the affiliation of Osama bin Laden.   The story of his “death” (Operation Neptune Spear) is the stuff of straight-to-DVD schlock which makes Death Wish look like Citizen Kane.

Which brings me to my initial inverted haiku:  7-5-7.  Thanks to the wonderful efforts of Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth, I was easily able to find just what I was looking for in a jiffy.  To wit, the original Twin Towers of the World Trade Center were built to withstand (without collapsing) the impact of a Boeing 707 aircraft (each tower) traveling at 600 mph.

Taking into account the different variants of the 707 (especially the popular 707-320C), we are probably talking about (conservatively) a 315,000-pound aircraft (maximum takeoff weight) carrying 21,000 gallons of fuel (fully-loaded).

Compare that to the 767s which crashed into the WTC on 9/11/01.  Yes, 767s are bigger…perhaps 25% heavier, but with a similar fuel capacity (24,000 gallons).

Yet at the Pentagon, we encountered a phantom 757.  The damage was not consistent with a plane crash, but rather with a missile.  Thierry Meyssan makes this exceedingly clear in his book Pentagate (2002).  And then there was United 93…an actual 757…most likely shot down, but mysteriously being trailed by a jet from Warren Buffet’s company NetJets (owned by Berkshire Hathaway).  Meanwhile, Ann Tatlock (CEO of Fiduciary Trust Co. International) was at Buffett’s charity golf and tennis tournament at Offutt AFB:  the command center of the U.S. nuclear arsenal.  Ms. Tatlock would normally have been in her office at the World Trade Center (!) right where flight 175 crashed into the south tower.  Even President Bush decided to drop by Offutt AFB later in the day rather than returning to D.C.  Buffett’s guest list might be quite a piece of evidence for reinvestigating 9/11.

And so…Paul Kersey…an architect (like Minoru Yamasaki, whose masterpiece was brought down by controlled demolition…that is to say, bombs, on 9/11)…living in New York City.  He’s robbed of his family by some punks (including a young Jeff Goldblum) who must have seen A Clockwork Orange (1971) a few too many times.

I’m not gonna give away the plot (if you don’t already know it).  There are some ingenious details and great acting (particularly Bronson and Vincent Gardenia).

We are left with the most frightening wink and smile ever committed to celluloid.  Bronson’s “Gotcha!” is the smirk of justice gaining ground.

-PD

Dirty Harry [1971)

Cops get a bad rap.  It’s only fitting that Kinney National Company, by way of their 1969 purchase of Warner Bros.-Seven Arts film company, should bring you this message.  Kinney National Services, Inc. was the product of a 1966 merger between Kinney Parking (as in, parking lots) Company and National Cleaning Company.  The former, a New Jersey operation, was owned by three gentlemen…at least one of which was a mobster:  Abner Zwillman.  But wait, it gets richer…

Before Kinney Parking Company was publicly listed in 1960, it merged with the funeral home (!) company Riverside.

Ah yes…Abner Zwillman.  Newark.  Cut numbers…  Tosches.

Zwillman did alright for himself…  Dated Jean Harlow…

Along with Al Capone, Zwillman controlled the movie projectionist union.  Histoire(s) du cinema.

Funny that an extortionist should start a company which would eventually make a film about an extortionist.

Zwillman died an untimely death by hanging…just before he was to appear before a U.S. Senate committee organized crime hearing. 1959.

Another chthonic founder of Kinney Parking Company was Manny (Emmanuel) Kimmel.  Keep in mind, folks–this developed into Time Warner!  Yeah.

Along with the racketeer/bootlegger Zwillman, Kimmel used his garages to store the liquor which the former was smuggling into the U.S. from Canada in armored WW I trucks during Prohibition.  The FBI “compelled” him to testify in two notable mafia trials (including Zwillman’s).

Kimmel…legendary New York horseracing bookie, blackjack card-counter, “compelled” witness.

Kimmel and Zwillman (to say nothing of Sigmund Dornbusch) circuitously brought you the film Dirty Harry.  Oh, the irony!

And thus it starts:  perhaps the most quintessential American movie.  No, dear friends, you cannot watch this with commercial interruptions on AMC…no way.

And TCM has been slow to “get it”…though their screening format is superior.

Don Siegel hits a vein–a gusher–with this one!

From that first rifle scope focus…that first glamorous victim…that icy blue summer swimming pool atop the roof suddenly tinged with blood…

We could have mentioned Vito Genovese.  Meyer Lansky.  Bugsy Siegel…

But we will focus on the immensely talented Don Siegel.

In Don Siegel we encounter the difference between American montage and French montage:  not at all the same thing.

We find Peckinpah as an assistant.

Friends…

Hell, Siegel even directed Baby Face Nelson in 1957 (a couple years before Zwillman was suicided).

But the big story?  The big scoop???  Clint Eastwood.

Eastwood was born in San Francisco (the setting of Dirty Harry).  11 pounds and 6 ounces.

The mid-60s were good to Eastwood…three spaghetti westerns helmed by Sergio Leone with Clint in the lead.  All three were financial successes…low-budget and high box office return.

By 1971 Eastwood had just completed his directorial debut:  Play Misty for Me.

But let’s not forget the Finks who wrote Dirty Harry’s script:  Harry Julian Fink and R.M. Fink!

The Finks were joined by Dean Riesner and John Milius.

Now they just needed a villain.  A mashup of the Zodiac Killer and actor Andy Robinson provided just the right level of disgust for audiences to swallow the vigilante Harry Callahan.

Yeah, a butcher knife and a hard-on is probably probable cause…though D.A. Rothko would likely disagree.

The Smith & Wesson Model 29…we’re talking about a handgun that approaches three pounds (depending on barrel length).

I know what you’re thinking.  Did he just put two unrelated phrases ass-to-ass on purpose or on accident?

Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement, I’ve kinda lost track myself.

Scorpio…

Signed crosshairs.  Benicia.  Vallejo.  Lake Berryessa.  Presidio Heights.

This was real.

Well, Harry’s usual hot dogs had not kept him in the greatest cardio shape, though he admirably runs from payphone to payphone.  It’s a pretty ingenious plot device.  The thrilling uncertainty would do Hitchcock proud.  Yes, Hitch would direct two more films after Harry Callahan hit the world’s stage.  One can’t help wondering if he saw this masterpiece.

When Eastwood stabs Scorpio in the leg…that is cinema.  It’s not far from the iconography of Kubrick’s The Shining or Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre (though it predates both).

When Eastwood steps into the arena (sand) of Kezar Stadium, we know there will be blood.  Would you torture a psychopath to save an innocent teenage girl?  These are the types of questions which came to dominate Clint Eastwood’s amazing career.

Even smalltime shits like Scorpio understand the concept of the good old false flag, but it doesn’t work.

And then like Superman with no name…sun at his back on the railroad trestle…Eastwood hops the short bus.

“But being this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do ya, punk?”

It’s too long to be a haiku, but it floats…

-PD

Tomorrow Never Dies [1997)

“We won’t be signing off until the world ends. We’ll be on, and we will cover the end of the world, live, and that will be our last event . . . we’ll play ‘Nearer My God to Thee’ before we sign off.”  Ted Turner.  1980.  Launch of CNN.

Ah, but let’s back up to 1973 when Rupert Murdoch bought the San Antonio Express-News.  Somehow this Aussie weaseled into the U.S. market with that acquisition (in my home town) and now his empire has spawned the most virulent threat to the world:  Fox News.

The news ticker began on 9/11/01 over at Fox and has continued till the present time.  Let me demonstrate:  fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fearfearfearfearfearfearfearfear ISIS ISIS ISIS ISIS ISIS ISIS ISISISISISISISISISISISISIISISIS Iran Iran Iran Iran Iran Iran IranIranIranIranIranIranIranIran.

Well, one of these two men (Turner and Murdoch) said something wise back in 2006.  “They’re a sovereign state. We have 28,000. Why can’t they have 10? We don’t say anything about Israel — they’ve got 100 of them approximately — or India or Pakistan or Russia.”  [–Ted Turner]  Now that’s a statement I can get behind.

But let’s be honest:  the perceived enemy of Fox News on the national landscape (Democrats) have had their chance.  Obama lost my confidence when he failed to truly investigate 9/11.  Not only that, he “killed” bin Laden:  thereby solidifying the false narrative which has passed by our eyes each day like that doomsday ticker at the bottom of the screen.

And so we dig deeper:

Georgia Guidestones.  1980.  “..until the world ends. We’ll be on, and we will cover the end of the world, live, and that will be our last event.”  Hmmm.  1980.  Population reduction.  Let’s see:  7 billion – 500 million= 6.5 billion.  Ok, so the Georgia Guidestones would seem to be advocating the death of about 92% of humanity.  So, let’s see:  there’s the 1%…and then the 7% they decide get to come along for the ride.

Wendi Deng.  Deng Wenge.  Wenge…hmmm.  Mao!  Cultural Revolution.  1966-1976.  Purge.  Violent class struggle.  Youths of the Red Guards.  Of course Deng was born in 1968 so her name might be kinda akin to Deng Endlösung or Deng Kristallnacht had she been born in late-1930s Germany.  Back to Mao…how many were fatally purged?  30,000?  100,000?  400,000?  750,000?  1.5 million?  3 million?

MBA.  Yale.  Los Angeles.  News Corp.  Hong Kong.  Rupert.  Tony Blair.  Hmmm…

Well, in any case:  Happy Birthday to Mr. Murdoch who turns 84 years young tomorrow.  Hi Rupert!

Tomorrow never dies.

Spottiswoode.  48 Hrs.  Walter Hill.

Holly Palance.  Jeremy Prokosch.  I always thought it was Jeremiah.

And my jeremiads…

Divorced 1997.  Check.  The omen…

Bruce Feirstein.  He dreamt up this outlandish (hardly) plot.  Political commentator on Fox News.  Vanity Fair contributor (say hi to Tosches for me).  Film producer in China.  Hmmm…

Ah, but the kicker is changing light bulbs on Newark Airport runways:  Feirstein’s high school job.  That really takes the cake.

Flight 93.  Cell phone calls from 40,700 feet in 2001 (NPR, June 17, 2004).  I’ve always hated NPR, but they make the case that much simpler.  In the words of astute observers:  strictly impossible.

The dialog in Tomorrow Never Dies is actually pretty good, but what can compare to the anonymous writing prowess found in such phrases as, “Hey! Hey! Give it to me. Give it to me. Give it to me. Give it to me. Give it to me. Give it to me. Give it to me. Give it to me.”  I mean, really:  that is some heady scriptwriting to give to a non-SAG actor like “Ziad Jarrah” or whichever of the fictitious bogeyman was purported to be speaking at the time.

Ah, but we are supposed to think of Robert Maxwell says Feirstein.  Yet, just like in Godard’s Made in U.S.A., we run into Donald E. Westlake.  Hmmm…

Significantly, villain Elliot Carver (Jonathan Pryce) is made to utter the phrase “new world order.”  Indeed.

Opening the same day as Titanic.  Let’s see:  groundbreaking for The Pentagon?  September 11, 1941.  The CIA’s overthrow of Salvador Allende and his assassination?  September 11, 1973.

I am urged to see these as coincidences.

And Henry Gupta?  Are we to think of A.Q. Khan who was born in Bhopal?  And Enron?

Ah yes:  1974.  ISI.

“We have 28,000. Why can’t they have 10? We don’t say anything about Israel — they’ve got 100 of them approximately.”

I wish I had a Murdoch quote to balance this out.  I don’t think his 2006 fundraising for Hillary Clinton or his New York Post support for Obama would have quite the same effect, but it’s worth noting.  “Yeah. He is a rock star. It’s fantastic. I love what he is saying about education. I don’t think he will win Florida… but he will win in Ohio and the election. I am anxious to meet him. I want to see if he will walk the walk.”  [Rupert Murdoch on whether he had anything to do with the Post’s pro-Obama push in 2008]

Rothschild.  Waterloo.  Niall Ferguson makes a valiant effort to rehabilitate Nathan, but is it true?  It seems there are at least some scruples at the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

We’ve heard the concept…playing both sides against one another.  Indeed, funding both sides.  Hedging.  Divide and conquer.

It’s very important that the “right” weapons be found.  High stakes.  Fighting the Soviets.  Afghanistan.  Charlie Wilson’s War.  Maybe call this guy in Israel.  Fake it till you make it.  Make it to fake it.  Make it fake.

And so the James Bond franchise presciently taught the world about false flags back in 1997, but was anyone listening?

-PD

to end the author

imageÀ bout the Au T EU Rrrrrr…

Age:  42

Residence:  San Antonio, TX

Former occupation:  musician

Education:  BM music theory/composition, MBA management

Dream:  direct films

Life soundtrack:  Mercury Rev, Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci, The Delgados, Suicide, The Band, The Velvet Underground, Amon Düül II, The Homosexuals, Primal Scream, Teenage Fanclub, Rollerskate Skinny, Silver Apples, Kevin Ayers, My Bloody Valentine, Spiritualized, Stereolab, …and you will know us by the Trail of Dead, Hawkwind, The Magic Numbers, Comus, Magma, Roland Kirk, Grinderman/Nick Cave, Teenage Filmstars, The Flaming Lips…

Favorite author:  Nick Tosches

Favorite musician:  Bob Dylan

Favorite director/intellectual hero:

Jean-Luc Godard

 

 

Ghost World [2001)

“I have to admit…things are really looking up for me since my life turned to shit.”  If only.  The consolation?  This is a perfect film.  There’s no use in denying that any longer.

Back in the watershed year of 2001, this film hit me like a bolt out of the blue.  Just how I ended up in that movie theater in Austin, Texas I’m not entirely sure.  The important thing is that this film stood my world on its head.  There was a new tilt to the cosmos after seeing Thora Birch personify everything I was looking for in a girl…everything which I couldn’t articulate.

Brice Parain puts it so simply in Vivre sa vie:  thought cannot be separated from language.  And if we say “goodbye” to language?  That still involves a word.  Perhaps we can simply gesture?

“Waving goodbye…I’m not saying hello.”  Just three years earlier an album had put my world on edge.  I was studying music composition as an undergrad when a rock and roll record called into question everything for which I was striving.  That record was Deserter’s Songs by Mercury Rev.  As I slipped the virgin vinyl onto the turntable in my vacated music lit classroom, I was astounded to hear a noise rock band coming back through the speakers as an autumnal, symphonic opus.  Opus 40…

And so three years later at that little arthouse cinema in north Austin I clamored into an open seat with a couple of friends…  Friends…  It seems so long ago since I had friends.  Some statements are infinitely sad, but others are like old faded pictures.  I don’t really recognize myself anymore.  I’m too young to be old, but…

Ghost World.  It is the world I live in.  Terry Zwigoff made a perfect film.  He learned the nuances from R. Crumb…and then applied the secrets to Daniel Clowes.  The secret is in the power lines…the sprawl…the daydream nation which American Beauty tried to capture but failed in comparison to Ghost World.  If the Palme d’Or was fair, Terry Zwigoff would have one sitting on his mantle.  So would Jean-Luc Godard.  So would Thora Birch.

It’s kinda like the Nobel Prize in Literature.  Where’s Joyce?  Where’s Pynchon?

Enid Coleslaw.  There’s no I in end.  End.  I…is someone else.  So says Nana Kleinfrankenheim.  Thora Birch.  Anna Karina.  The Louise Brooks wig.  Brigitte Bardot.  Initials B.B.  Bertolt Brecht.  B.B. King.  Devil got my woman…

“…since my life turned to shit.”  I’d rather be the devil.  Me and the devil.  Nick Tosches.  Emmett Miller.  Henry “Ragtime” Thomas.

Skip James.  Gossamer-perfect.  Thora stands in a daze…perhaps after a long day of shooting.  We get The Buzzcocks, but then we get D-A-D-F-A-D…that deep, hollow sound from 1931.  Like the high, lonesome Hank Williams.  Somebody’s in a world of hurt.  “Nothin’ but thee devil/change my baby’s mind.”

She is the girl we can’t have.  And you can’t have me either, world.  Not for free.  Few artists got this.  Alex Chilton got it.  Affonso Beato captured its fleeting presence at twilight in his cinematography.  A bus.  Bus stop.  Joshua Logan.  No, Thora Birch.  Yes.  That route was cancelled in 1956.  Cancelled in 1962.  Mensan I.Q.  Cancelled in 1967.  And still, Thora boards the bus and does the impossible in a magic realism which takes her back over the Mississippi at Baton Rouge…back to Appleton, WI…back to Los Angeles.  The nighttime bores the daylights out of me.  We’re in exile with the Radio Shack and the Allstate and the Chevron and the Shell…  R.I.P. Brad Renfro.

-PD

Rope [1948)

For many years this was my favorite Hitchcock movie.  Sure…I secretly thought Psycho was better, but I didn’t want to be ordinary.  It was long before I understood the metaphorical reading of Rear Window; long before my mind was mature enough to wrap itself around the slippery plot of Vertigo; long before I realized that North By Northwest was truly sui generis. 

What was it about this film?  I had first run across the title in a quote attributed (I believe) to Peter Bogdanovich.  Rope was a film to be studied.  Rope was a feat of trickery.  The Rope trick.  Long, unedited shots…  It was only later that I discovered how they reloaded the film.  Once you know, it seems obvious, but upon first viewing it does seem like the master and slave reels had unlimited 1000s of feet to spool out and take in.

But that’s not it.

What was it about this film?  It was Jimmy Stewart.  Good, old Jimmy Stewart of It’s A Wonderful Life.  Jimmy Stewart as Louis-Ferdinand Celine.  Jimmy Stewart the misanthrope.  The novelty of it!  But the “kicker” was bloodlust.  Jimmy Stewart redeemed with Emersonian integrity.  His words thrown back in his face.  Even at an old age.  Stewart’s character realizes he has been wrong all these years.  Would Nietzsche have had the same reaction to Hitler?  Would Wagner?

There is no way to accurately “read” this film without placing it in history:  three years after the end of WWII.

Inferior.  Superior.  Intellect.  Beyond good and around again to evil.

It is Hitchcock commenting on himself.  The character of Rupert is the dark, sardonic, macabre humor of Alfred the auteur and joker.  But what of that ending?

There is no more blood-curdling pronouncement of justice in the history of cinema that when Jimmy Stewart proclaims, “You’re both going to die.”

The character names don’t matter.  The tricks of filming even less.

This is the inquisitive Stewart of Rear Window already suspecting.  This isn’t the Hitchcockean trope of “the wrong man:”  this is the right man.

Stewart can’t believe it.  We can’t believe it.  And we saw the whole thing.

We don’t trust our instincts when the conclusions go (as Dick Cheney said) “beyond the pale.”  Look up that phrase.  Look up Arnold Rothstein.  The “pale of settlement.”

In King of the Jews the author Nick Tosches touches on this phrase.  My contention is that Tosches knew in 2005.

Rope is the story of two young men who strangle an “inferior” being (who just so happens to be a Harvard man).  Hmmm…from where then would that make our killers?  Yale, perhaps?  Is this an quasi-establishment jab at the Skull & Bones fraternity?

And Rupert…dear old Rupert…the house master from our murderers’ prep school days…  Could the reference be Phillips Academy?

I will leave these remarks as a thumbnail sketch to inspire discussion.  But it was certainly the novelty of Stewart as a villain…and his redemption as the voice of reason.  Yes.  The message is clear.  All who have killed in this eugenic manner will die.  You’re all going to die for what you’ve done.  It is what society is going to do to you.  The public doesn’t want to hear your advanced theories and your avant-garde morals.

Hollywood failed the Jews.  Cinema failed those in the death camps of WWII.  This is Godard’s grand theme in Histoire(s) du cinéma.  Film has the ability to preserve the “honor of the real,” to quote Jean-Luc.  No country was more technologically advanced (arguably) in terms of motion pictures during WWII than Germany.  Why were their scientists so sought after by Operation Paperclip (and the Soviet equivalent) following the war?  Why were they so successful?  Because they were brilliant.  It doesn’t make sense then that there is no available footage from the pre-liberated Nazi camps.  Cinema failed to prevent the holocaust and this cinematic gap in history likewise has rendered the medium irreparably hollow.  That was Spielberg’s failure with Schindler’s List:  one cannot portray what has never been seen.  The camps no doubt existed.  There is no disputing that.  But there is a hole in the heart of cinema’s history.

The 21st century has offered cinema another chance.  And contrary to Dick Cheney’s quote and its context, there is nothing beyond the pale.

 

-PD