Fort Bliss [2014)

If there’s one thing I’ve learned growing up and living in San Antonio, it’s that I love the men and women of the U.S. military.

And here is a hell of a film.

It shows the sacrifice of deployment.

But more than that.

It digs deeper.

It gets at a very peculiar feeling.

Readjustment.

And redeployment.

Have you ever felt like you are unwanted?

It’s the weird things the brain does.

This film specifically deals with the trouble of deploying and leaving behind a young child.

If you go to Afghanistan (as in this movie), you can’t take your family.

Korea, yes.

Afghanistan, no.

Maggie Swann is gone for 15 months.

Her son is five when she comes back.

He doesn’t remember.

The brain is growing.

Changing rapidly.

It is traumatic.

Too much change.

Go live with mom now.

Not easy for a little kid.

Ah!

But I forgot one salient detail.

Maggie Swann is divorced.

And her ex-husband watches Paul while she’s gone.

But there’s another catch.

Another woman.

Who becomes like a mother.

And this is what tears at Maggie Swann.

While serving her country as an Army medic, 15 precious months disappear.

She has done the right thing for her country.

But her reward is a son who barely knows her.

She doesn’t have much to come back to in El Paso.

At Fort Bliss.

This is some real shit.

Whataburger on the roadside.

Strip club.

Gun store.

Base housing.

And finally…a house.

Temporarily.

Orders.

Claudia Myers did an excellent job here.

Don’t make propaganda.

Just tell the truth.

Well done.

Show what is not usually shown.

But this film equally needed the amazing acting talents of Michelle Monaghan.

Monaghan plays Staff Sergeant Swann.

Makes us think Proust.

Excellent performance.

Tour of duty.

Gut-wrenching.

Takes everything you’ve got.

Way to look at life.

Second tour of duty.

All of the actors do a great job here.

The thing I took away from this film is to have courage.

And also that it is so important to have someone back home to think of.

When in battle, it is so important to have someone to be fighting for.

 

-PD

Beynelmilel [2006)

Wow 🙂

What a beautiful and perfect movie!

The International.

Yes, we are back to Turkey.

But this film is very much about the passions of youthful revolution.

Is Trump a revolutionary?

Of course.

Was George Washington a revolutionary?

Of course.

But the strain of revolutionary verve in this film is that of communism.

I don’t hate communism.

I don’t hate anything.

But I think some things are not so good.

With communism, I mainly criticize it on an economic level.

Have I read Marx?

Not very much.

But I’ve read enough Debord to get the late-60s version of Marxism.

I would argue that Debord, one of my three favorite writers, was at his best when he was NOT talking about Marxism.

When he goes off on Marxist tangents, he loses me.

I find it boring.

And, as I’ve said, I object to it on economic grounds.

I have a college degree in music.

[which will be very important in reviewing this film]

But I have an advanced degree (above and beyond that) in business.

Am I a genius of economics?  No.

But I questioned.  I was skeptical.  I studied Marx.

And I found the capitalist system to be the best system.

It is, by no means, perfect.

And so why, then, do I like Guy Debord?

Perhaps no one in history hated capitalism more than Guy Debord 🙂

I respect Debord because he was a brilliant social critic.

I do not agree with his economic assumptions.

I do not agree with his Marxist assumptions.

But when it comes to a critique of capitalism (which is the underpinning of globalism), no one has found the flaws like Debord.

No one has completely dismantled the matrix in which we live (the “spectacle”) quite like Debord.

And so his book The Society of the Spectacle is essential reading in my opinion.

At least the first few chapters.

As I said, Debord gets a bit bogged down in Marxism and loses his poetic divining power concomitantly.

But let’s discuss this film.

This is, by far, the best Turkish film I’ve ever seen.

Granted, I think this is only the fourth I’ve ever watched 🙂

But this is really a special movie!

Wikipedia says that it is set in a small town near Adana.

For that, I will say hi to the American soldiers at Incirlik Air Base 🙂

Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for representing the United States.  Thank you for your service.  We love you and we pray for your safety and happiness!

It is true.

I love our American troops.

Most of my life I did not appreciate these wonderful people.

I took it for granted…

“Somebody will do that job…”

But in my older age, I respect these soldiers very much.

But let us shift back to this film.

First, let us thank the two directors:  Sırrı Süreyya Önder and Muharrem Gülmez.

They have made an almost perfect movie.

Really, this film is so, so good!

But you must be warned, my dear friends:  it is simple.

It you are looking for a complex, confusing film, then you will be disappointed.

Such that, you must be like a child–like a youth to appreciate the naïveté of this masterwork.

So I would say this:  it’s a bit like a Turkish version of Cinema Paradiso.

Do you see what I am getting at?

It is poetic.

The mise-en-scène is a bit like what we might expect from Claude Monet (were he still alive).

It is loving.

Large swaths of color.

And, perhaps most quintessential, it is unassuming.

Down to earth.

There’s no condescension in this film.

Come as you are.

First movie you’ve ever seen?

No problem 🙂

It is that sort of loving masterpiece!

It is set in Turkey in 1982.

Cassettes 🙂

80s-style clothing.  The Turkish version 🙂

A junta is in place.  A military government.  Martial law.

And one band of musicians gets rooked into being a “marching band” (of sorts).

But these are folk musicians 🙂

They don’t play brass instruments.  They don’t play the sousaphone.

So it is a very steep learning curve (which sounds a lot like Charles Ives in its beginning stages) 🙂

But let’s get to the most important point.

“I fell in love with the actress/She was playing a part that I could understand”

[Neil Young]

Yes.

Özgü Namal.

Just two years younger than me.

She is the star of this film.

Amazing facility as an actress.

But really just a glow–a vibrance in her every gesture.

Here is someone who is glad to be alive 🙂

And it made me glad to be alive!!!

But let me tell you the other star:  Cezmi Baskın!

This man!

He has no Wikipedia page in English, but he is a wiseman.

A humanist.

A saint of an actor.

A craftsman.

He plays the bandleader.

And his daughter in the film is Özgü Namal.

Umut Kurt does a very good job as the young communist.

And, hence, the title of the film:  The International.

“L’Internationale” 🙂

The most famous of communist anthems.

Yes, dear friends, it is that melody written in 1888 by Pierre De Geyter which is the MacGuffin of this film.

The whole plot hinges on it.

Derrida would call it the brisure (if film were a text).

To deconstruct.

The hinge.

I will say this:  the struggles in this film are very real to this day for the people of Turkey.

I would say our communist character would probably today be a member of the CHP party in Turkey:  Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi.

The Republican People’s Party 🙂

Which is funny because in the U.S., the Republicans (whom I support…more or less) are conservative or “right wing”.

So, yes:  the CHP is “left wing”.

But as I say, this is a very fine film.

It shows very much the love which a father can have for his daughter.

It shows the sacrifices which parents make for their children.

Parents will even die to save their children.

This is a funny movie, but it has this tone of seriousness as well.

Actually, the whole film is like a brilliant joke 🙂

It starts very serious…

But the it becomes festive and ridiculous!

Most of all, there are so many poetic camera shots of Turkish life.

Little things which we don’t see in America.

So an American can learn some of another culture.

But also, we see that people all around the world have similar worries and dreams as us.

Well, I don’t want to tell you too much.

I will just say that this is well-worth watching.

It is a bit long, but I watched it in two installments.

And the subtitles are good 🙂

Anyway, it is on Netflix streaming in the U.S. currently as Beynelmilel.

I am so glad I found this film 🙂

Güle güle

 

-PD

Sen Kimsin? [2012)

It’s been a long time since I “visited” Turkey.

Indeed, it’s been awhile since I reviewed an actual movie 🙂

Film critics should review films, right?

Not sporting events.  Not YouTube videos.  Not the Double Windsor of Trump’s necktie.

Well, I am guilty as charged.

I like sports.

And occasionally a video on the Internet has immense impact on me.

And I like Trump.  Sometimes I disagree (strongly) with what he does.

But mostly I agree.

So far.

But as I was saying, I have not reviewed a Turkish film since my initial foray into the national cinema of Anatolia.

In retrospect, I actually reviewed two Turkish films long ago:  Hudutlarin Kanunu and Susuz Yaz.

What is really complex is the “i” with no dot.  I don’t think I have this anywhere on my WordPress possibilities.

But we will forget about that for now.

[at least I can copy and paste]

🙂

Which is to say, it is hard to top Yılmaz Güney.  Hudutlarin Kanunu is a really special film.

But we must move into the modern era…and see what the Turkish are doing now, right?

Well, Sen Kimsin? may not be a perfect film, but I really enjoyed it 🙂

There is something about Turkish humor which I love!

So let me tell you about this motion picture.

First of all, it is currently streaming on Netflix in the U.S. (!)…

Yes, Netflix seems to all-of-sudden be glutted with Turkish films (which is, for me, a good thing).

And we will get to geopolitics shortly (the strange case of U.S. forces “guarding” the Turkish border [to prevent attacks on the Kurds in Syria?!?]).

Actually, let’s get to that now.

Webster Tarpley (whom I stopped listening to quite awhile ago…when he started calling Trump a Nazi) was forever railing about closing the Jarabulus corridor.

Jarabulus is a Syrian city very near the Turkish border.

Tarpley maintained (if I remember correctly) that ISIS (which, like al-Qaeda, was created by the U.S. [according to Pieczenik]) was being supplied mainly from Turkey.

Tarpley continuously insisted that closing the “Jarabulus corridor” would starve the supply line(s) of ISIS.

And then today we have these headlines:  “US troops patrol Turkey-Syria border after strikes on Kurds”.

That was CNN.

It required immense (and worthwhile) effort to not click on that article.

Fuck CNN!

They don’t even deserve italics…

“US troops deployed at Syrian border to prevent clashes between Turkish & Kurdish forces”.

That’s RT.

[Russia Today]

Hmmm…

I thought Turkey was part of NATO?

I thought NATO was the greatest thing since sliced shawarma??

I thought the USA and Turkey were on the same side???

Well, maybe not.

Which brings us back to that “failed coup attempt” last year in Turkey.

July 15.

Now, if the U.S. is today (literally) protecting the Kurds from the Turkish (which even CNN and RT can agree upon).

And the U.S. has nuclear weapons at Incirlik Air Base in Adana, Turkey as part of NATO’s “nuke sharing” program (which is well-known).

Then what the fuck is going on here?

Is Erdoğan such a dipshit that we have to work AGAINST him (while keeping nuclear weapons in his country)?

If that’s the case, then it would not be farfetched to think that the U.S. had some part to play in the failed coup attempt of last year.

Motive?  Check.  Means?  Check.  Opportunity?  Probably.

As for the U.S. forces on the Turkish border (inside Syria?), their location is not clear from the reportage I am seeing (whether Jarabulus or not).

In a moment of weakness, I clicked on CNN.

The gist there seems to be that the Turks and the Kurds hate each other, but that the Turks and the Kurds are the closest “anti-ISIS” allies of the U.S.. 🙂

Boy, if that’s not generalizing things…

Which is why we need comedy.

And why this will seek to be a film review from here on out.

First, let’s translate Sen Kimsin?:  “who are you?”.

Who are you?

This phrase becomes very important during the course of Sen Kimsin?.

Tolga Çevik is the star of our film 🙂

He’s very funny!

Truly, he has some great comedic talent!!

And so this whole film is a bit like The Pink Panther minus Peter Sellers.

But Tolga Çevik does a very admirable job 🙂

Actually, as you’ve noticed, I can’t stop smiling after this film.

There are so many wonderful parts to it.

Indeed, Çevik is the fumbling/bumbling detective (!) who gets made for a useful idiot.

But the ID was only half-right.

He’s an idiot, alright.

But he’s completely useless 🙂

And I know the feeling.

I really related to Tolga Çevik’s character Tekin.

Director Ozan Açıktan did an excellent job of letting Tolga’s talents come to the fore!

But this comedy of errors just wouldn’t be the same without the priceless contribution of Köksal Engür.

You know, the Turks are a brave people.

And seeing the great humor of Köksal Engür reminded me of that 🙂

But let us talk about the beautiful ladies of this film.

Zeynep Özder is really charming as Pelin 🙂

But I must also give credit to the villainess Pelin Körmükçü.

Wow!  What a beautiful 46-year-old woman!!!

Anyhow, these ladies are distracting.

But this is just a plain fun film.

It is meant for enjoyment.

And there is some great dialogue (particularly between Tekin and Ismail).

I thoroughly recommend this film as a fun way to learn a little more about Turkish culture 🙂

Thank you, my friends!

-PD

President Trump’s Speech to Congress, February 28 [2017)

Dear friends…

it has been a little while.

And I have been immersed in a strange dual-study regimen focused on the LSAT and the GRE.

For my international readers, the LSAT is the Law School Admission Test and the GRE is the Graduate Record Examination.

The second test would be required should I choose (or be so lucky as) to go on to PhD studies.

Quite frankly, my MBA has not been sufficient to wow the employers out to which I have reached.

And so life presents us with little conundrums.

I have a bachelor’s degree in music theory/composition and a master’s degree in business.

Long ago, my bachelor’s degree wasn’t enough to gain me employment at places like 7-Eleven and Wendy’s.  That’s right.  Five years of higher education and a diploma above and beyond the high school level was not enough to overcome the nepotistic morass which dominates the distribution of unskilled labor jobs in the U.S.

I’m guessing this situation might (for obvious reasons) be particularly mark-ed in the American Southwest (where I am located).

So I thought a master’s degree in business would really distinguish me.

I worked myself sick.

Almost to death.

Maintained a 4.00 GPA.

Not only have I had zero unsolicited interest in my skills, but I have received nothing save rejections.

Which is to say, I have not even been graced with an interview.

And so it was some days ago (about two weeks) that I decided I should have a contingency plan in place in case such conditions persist.

So perhaps I will find myself in law school in a few years.

Perhaps in a PhD program.

But I have been trying to better myself every day.

My focus, academically, has been on two areas:  logic and mathematics.

I have never been very keen on (or good at) math.

And logic is something in which I have had zero formal training.

The logic emphasis is, of course, pursuant to the law school possibility.

The math studies (currently algebra, but geometry and statistics to come) are in support of the PhD path.

In addition, I am happy to report that I am exercising (walking) every day.

And I have also added weight training in the most recent nights.

But today I took a day (and night) off from the rigors of autodidactic asceticism.

Yes, today only involved my ongoing survey of Ezra Pound’s Cantos.

Indeed, I suppose I really don’t know how to relax anymore 🙂

But I was very interested to hear Donald Trump’s “Address to Congress”.

This is, mind you, a once-a-year phenomenon in the U.S.

In his next three years (assuming no untimely cessation of his Presidency), these speeches will each be called (respectively) a “State of the Union” address.

Well, I won’t keep you in too much suspense.

If you have read me at all in the past year, you will know that I have become an ardent Trump supporter.

And I continue to be such.

So it is not without immense bias that I posit his speech tonight to have been rather excellent.

But Mr. Trump’s speech comes at a very important time.

And I have purposely raised my visibility as a Trump supporter because of this crucial time.

To wit, many forces have sought and are seeking to undermine the President (at the very least).

The proliferation of protests would truly be remarkable (if we didn’t know the general source and support network for these faux-demonstrations).

And so I haven’t written about a movie in some days, but there is no better viewing than our current President.

The Left tunes in to vomit, and the Right tunes in to cheer.

I am, and have been for only a short time, on the Right.

Conservative.

I will make no apologies about this.

In this past week I have had multiple people who call themselves my friends attack me as a “bigot” and worse.

That’s fine.

My response is no response.

It is beneath me to respond to such.

I have had people question my artfulness.

I, who gave my blood-sweat-and-tears for 15 years as an artist.

It is beneath me to qualify such attacks on my character with a response.

And finally, I have been the subject of surreptitious attacks which attempt to equate me with “misguided” artists of the past.

If Trump can be “packaged” (in marketing terms) by hacks like Mika Brzezinski as “Mussolini, Hitler, Lenin”, then I suppose the lesser Leftists are taking this cue to equate me with Nietzsche, Wagner, and certain American artists which shall remain nameless.

But again, my response is no response.

And it’s not because I can’t respond.

But I tire of these games…

I can destroy my enemies.

In some cases, quite easily.

In other cases, with immense effort.

But my friends have proven (over years…the ingrates…abandonment) to now be my enemies in deed.

And yet I consider them friends.

And I will consider them friends.

Until such time as this becomes impossible for my physical safety.

But all of this because I support Trump.

Shame on you, friends.

[N.B.  I doubt any of them are reading this.  These are “real world” friends.  And real pains in the ass(es).]

Indeed, I need more than one ass to put up with the crappy “friends” I have.

To a one, they are all liberal…every one of them.

And if they are conservative, they have not come to my aid in any significant way.

Except for one dear pen-pal.

And it was she who delineated the brilliance in Donald Trump’s message to me in the first place.

She knows who she is 🙂

MAGA!

But that one beautiful soul notwithstanding, “the world” has failed me.

And yet, the President of the United States has made me very proud indeed.

Verily, never before have I felt such immense pride in my country.

Pride in the men and women of our armed forces.

Pride in the men and women of law enforcement.

And so I could dissect what Donald Trump said tonight, but it is more important to analyze the gist.

I could fixate on the pathetic Democrats who applauded nothing…in their Kim Jong-Hillary white pantsuits.

Slobs like Al Franken.

His posture has its own closet…

Witches like Nancy Pelosi.

“Should I clap here?  Will it look good or bad if I clap?  Why does every mirror I look into shatter upon gaze?”

It’s really too easy.

But it does very little good.

Bernie…what could have been.

Except for that whole socialism thing…which is a crock of shit.

And so it didn’t matter that the Democrats were puerile, impotent faux-testers tonight.

Because Donald Trump has guts.

Yeah, his wife is hot as shit!

And so is his daughter.

That’s because they were MODELS.

But, even more so, because they have SCRUPLES.

They are good human beings.

They stand for something.

THAT’S why they’re really attractive.

To me.

But I know when I’ve met my better.

Ted Cruz?  Fuck you.

Paul Ryan?  I don’t fucking think so.

Mike Pence?  Meh.

But Donald Trump?  Yeah.  Big league!

I may have more formal education than the President of the United States (‘deed I do), but the current POTUS is the real deal.

He knows who is better than him.

Our soldiers.

He knows.

And he says it.

And he never presumes that his job is any harder than those who carry out their orders in godforsaken deserts and jungles.

Yes, Virginia, many of those orders have been COMPLETE BOLLOCKS.

But that’s not their job.

In general.

It’s the job of policymakers to get the policies right.

For a long, long (LONG) time, the policies have sucked.

And so maybe, MAYBE (maybe) we now have a President who is competent.

I know when I’ve met my better.

There are many skills in this world.

And Donald Trump has a priceless skill set.

He’s not a saint.

He’s not a god.

But compared to those who have preceded him over the past few decades in the job of POTUS, he sure seems like one or the other.

So thank you, Mr. Trump!

Your understanding of the USA is really remarkable.

We have been taught to hate our own country for so long.

Enough of that.

Fuck that!

We will love what is good about our past.

And not wallow in our transgressions.

And to the detractors around the globe, you can fuck right the fuck off.

Most of all, to the domestic detractors…especially my “friends”…

Thanks a fucking lot…for proving exactly why Donald Trump is right.

You’re all a bunch of liberal frauds…spewing platitudes while being horrible people.

So the biggest “fuck you” is for these “friends”.

Thanks for nothing, assholes!

-PD

The Propaganda Game [2015)

Here is a perfect documentary.

It teeters for a second.

Early.

Because it shows two of the most vile, reprehensible propagandists in the world.

Susan Rice and Barack Obama.

But it lets them speak.

The film lets Rice and Obama make fools of themselves.

[and it doesn’t take these two idiots long]

Then we are immersed in a richness of inquiry which befits the home country of our director.

Spain.

But Álvaro Longoria’s film is about a wholly different place.

North Korea.

I was lucky enough once to visit Mr. Longoria’s hometown of Santander.

Though I was not there long, I found it odd that we (me and my traveling companions) boarded our plane on the runway.

A Boeing 737, I believe it was.

So we are talking about perhaps 200 people.

On a runway in Spain.

With a little control tower.

I must admit.

The operation was not heartening.

But then again, I’ve taken a propeller plane from Sacramento to San Francisco.

The world likes to think of America as filthy rich.

But we still have propeller planes for some of our shorter routes.

Flying over San Francisco Bay in a propeller plane wasn’t exactly my idea of relaxation either.

But so then…what do we think of North Korea?

If we listen to people like Susan Rice and Barack Obama (neither of whom, categorically, can be trusted), then we are to shudder at the thought of the DPRK.

Well, our director Mr. Longoria has given the most fair, measured approach to a very controversial subject.

And his final product (the film) is so much the better for it.

To wit, Mr. Longoria does not presume to think for his viewers.

He lets you decide.

If you are looking for bias in this film, you will have to look pretty hard.

Perhaps, you will reason, Mr. Longoria is a Spanish leftist and therefore he gives North Korea the benefit of the doubt.

On the contrary, one might reason that the director is a very (VERY) savvy propagandist himself…and therefore, his documentary is largely an exercise in reverse psychology.

I must admit.

When I heard the voices of Rice and Obama, my internal monologue of opprobrium almost caused me to lose my lunch.

But I stuck with it.

And I’m so glad I did.

What is at issue in this film, and in the frozen conflict zone of which North Korea is half, is the discipline/technique/art of propaganda.

If you are very dumb (and I doubt you are, as you are reading this illustrious blog), you will believe everything you hear about North Korea.

You will believe CNN.

You will believe Martha Raddatz.

You will believe George Stephanopoulos.

To call these two “presstitutes” is really being too kind.

They make Rice and Obama look like saints.

Those of the Raddatz/Stephanopoulos ilk in the United States journalistic community are really worthless individuals.

Mostly because they have ceased to BE individuals.

They aren’t even drones.

They are more like little Lego pieces of poisonous honeycomb.

Inhuman.

But they’re not alone.

Throw in Diane Sawyer.

Actually (and I’ll throw the lefties a bone), throw in Bill O’Reilly.

All of these journalists are generally less than nothing when it comes to their global contributions.

And so it only makes the case of the DPRK stronger (for better or worse) when such née-individuals (including emasculated presstitutes) insult North Korea.

And so it is very clear that North Korea is the target of an immense amount of propaganda.

HOWEVER,

the DPRK seems itself to be quite prodigious in the art of manipulative communication.

Or, propaganda.

So our director lets the two sides go at it.

It’s almost like two Charlie Brown schoolteachers (Othmars both) having a verbal altercation.

The West:  “Blah blah blah blah HUMAN RIGHTS blah!”

North Korea:  “Blah blah blah blah IMPERIALISTS blah.”

We must credit North Korea with restraint.

The people.

Polite.

Keep in mind, this is a focus on the people.

What kind of people live in North Korea?

[well, Koreans…obviously]

Adults, children…male, female…

And so the cynic will cry “Potemkin village” very early on in this one.

But it is worth watching till the end.

Most intriguing is the figure Alejandro Cao de Benós de Les y Pérez.

Here’s an idealist if ever there was one.

But that’s what we must remember about North Korea.

It is a country of extreme idealism.

Let me frame it with slightly different diction.

It is a country of immense idealism.

[ah…we even got some alliteration there!]

Mr. Cao is, or was, Spanish.

Now he is a North Korean.

He is a spokesman for the DPRK.

As we say here in the West, he’s “all in”.

He digs their chili.

He’s drinking the Kool-Aid.

We want some of whatever he’s smoking.

[you get the picture]

But I must say…

Mr. Cao is an extremely (immensely) articulate individual.

To hear him tell it (and he does so with genuine conviction), North Korea is the last bastion of communism.

China has sold out to market forces (capitalism).

The Soviet Union sold out Stalin (Cao actually makes this claim).

[and, he asserts, China sold out Mao]

Vietnam is now thoroughly capitalist.

[that might be a direct quote]

So does Mr. Cao have a point?

Well, perhaps he does.

But there are doubtless few self-respecting communists [more to this sentence after brackets] who would hold up North Korea as a beacon of socialist governance.

Communist, socialist, Trotskyist…

It all begins to run together for us heathen imperialists.

Ah!

There’s that other buzz word.

Imperialism.

Indeed, if you look at the U.S. military bases in South Korea and Japan (which this documentary illustrates as a sort of “ring of fire” [pun intended]), the imperialism charge is not without evidence.

But this is really the quintessence of what Nick Tosches calls “intellectual parlor games”.

Meaning, we could be here all day.

I’m at nearly a thousand words (and so are you, if you’re still with me) and I haven’t even begun to truly scratch the surface of the imbroglio that is the 38th parallel.

North latitude.

Simply put, the U.S. has a vested interest in creating and propagating propaganda about North Korea.

[which does not mean that all of the reportage is made-up…indeed, the best propaganda has a kernel or modicum of truth…sometimes even a heaping spoonful…North Korea certainly does not seem to have the whole “public relations” thing down yet]

And conversely, North Korea has a vested interest in creating and propagating (mostly for internal, domestic purposes) propaganda about the United States and capitalist economies in general.

[and granted…the United States has done some incredibly daft stuff…the likes of which could be spun into a thousand tales of horror for 10,000 years]

What really complicates matters are nuclear weapons.

North Korea, we are told, has twenty (OH MY GOD!  20!!!) nuclear weapons.

The United States has sixty-eight-hundred (6,800) nuclear warheads in various states of readiness.

I hate to sound like Ted Turner (and it’s sad when Mr. Turner becomes a voice of reason), but there seems to be a rather glaring discrepancy there.

Oh!

But one side is responsible (I’ll let you guess) and the other side is reckless (guess again).

Of course, nuclear weapons have never been used in war…except by the United States.

Twice.

And so every society has its propaganda.

I will never feel very good that my country nuked two Japanese cities.

Somewhere between approx. 125,000 and 250,000 Japanese people (at least half of them civilians) were vaporized and/or bombarded with lethal radiation by Fat Man and Little Boy.

I know that the U.S. Department of Defense (then known as the Department of War and Department of the Navy, respectively) isn’t selling Girl Scout cookies.

But Harry S. Truman’s “display” on live targets is a rather hard pill to swallow.

We are supposed to think statistically.

Think of how many lives we saved (by, counterintuitively, squelching perhaps a quarter million OTHER souls).

I guess maybe after six years of war, we were insane.

They say it only takes 100 days.

Of warfare.

Any man (or woman).

No matter how mentally strong.

Literally insane.

Beyond that point.

But we were talking about North Korea…

Mr. Longoria is more of a scientist than me.

Our director, Mr. Longoria.

He meditates on the problem.

He is not rash.

Granted, his access to the “hermit kingdom” compels him to be open-minded (if only for the duration of his stay [and in strictly “apparent” diplomacy]).

It seems evident to me that Álvaro Longoria is a very formidable filmmaker.

I wonder what he would have made of our recent American election?

[when Trump supporters learned to hate Hillary…and Hillary supporters learned to hate Trump]

In retrospect, the United States has just been the battlefield of an immense propaganda war.

The winner (for the time-being) was and is Donald Trump.

But the war was so ugly that things are still not back to “normal” in the USA.

Perhaps they never will be again.

And that is also the lesson of The Propaganda Game.

This substitutes for bullets when you cannot shoot.

When destruction is mutually-assured, colder, icier methods prevail.

Sneaking, surreptitious oozing of lies and falsehoods.

All’s fair in war and love, they say.

And “close enough” only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.

“They” say that too.

“They” say a lot of things.

Indeed, “they” are the most quotable group around.

Now, if we only knew who “they” were…

-PD

Spies Like Us [1985)

Hulu lost me.

Hello Netflix.

Hulu is like an inept intelligence agency.

They had the goods.

The Criterion Collection.

But as that oeuvre was surreptitiously phased out, Hulu was unable to offer any value whatsoever to the thinking person.

And so perhaps it is ironic that my Netflix relationship (no chilling here) starts with a spy spoof of sorts, but make no mistake (as the woeful Barack Obama is wont to say):  this is a very intelligent film.

It was a childhood favorite of mine.

Perhaps I was a strange child.

[no doubt]

But we all want to be James Bond to a certain extent, right?

Details disappear.

Even Putin had his cinema heroes.

Consider the film Щит и меч from 1968.

iMDB seems to fill in where Wikipedia fails.

Because these details tell so much.

To know one’s opponent.

But Vladimir Putin is not our opponent.

As long as our election stands.

Perhaps the answer is Stanislav Lyubshin.

Or was it Oleg Yankovsky?

The real answer is comedy.

Even spies need a laugh.

Spies are humans too.

Spy lives matter.

And so we get the provenance of the Pentagon basement meme.

A favorite of mine.

And this film.

Integral to who I am.

I had a cousin who worked in the Pentagon.

I don’t think she worked in the basement 🙂

But God rest her soul.

She is no longer with us.

And she was the most kind lady perhaps I ever knew.

She served her country.

I believe she did something in the health care field for veterans.

But yes…I identify extensively with Austin Millbarge.

In my own way.

Dan Aykroyd is stellar here as Mr. Millbarge.

And then there’s Emmett Fitz-Hume.

Chevy Chase is at his best in this film as Mr. Fitz-Hume.

Frank Oz is classic in his role as a test monitor.

Yes, Yoda and Miss Piggy were the same person.

How’s that for a mind fuck?

For young know-nothings like myself, this was a likely first exposure to the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA).

And it speaks volumes that the DIA “recently” fielded its own band of covert operatives (in direct competition with the CIA).

There is, it seems, a palpable mistrust between the CIA and the U.S. military.

Different cultures.  Actually, a class difference.

[Not to get all Marx here…]

But it’s real.

I can’t define the parameters other than those intuitive, nebulous sentiments just expressed.

It is (very) interesting to note that Dan Aykroyd’s wife Donna Dixon, who stars in this film, was born in Alexandria, Virginia…

Hmmm…

NoVA.

We get Pamir Mountains.

We get Tajikistan.

But before that, we get Pakistan…and Budweiser…and Old El Paso tortilla chips.

And the intel cutout Ace Tomato Co.

And while we’re on the subject of failed businesses (Hulu), we should note that we definitely shan’t be accepting Indra Nooyi’s invitation (“Why don’t you gentlemen have a Pepsi?”) any time soon.

No…we’d much prefer to look at B.B. King’s Jheri curl blowing in the Nevada breeze…or watch Bob Hope “play through” on the Road to Bali.

But let us get back to that old enigmatic chestnut of our youth:  the road to Dushanbe.

“It’s…’Soul Finger’…by…The Bar-Kays.”

“They must be having trouble getting gigs.”

God damn…best line ever!

“Doctor.  Doctor.  Doctor.  Doctor.  Aaaaand Doctor.  Did we miss anyone?”

So many lines in this film which hit just the right mark.

Rarely do I write about screenwriters (it’s the auteur theorist in me), but Dan Aykroyd and his cowriters Lowell Ganz and Babaloo (!) Mandel deserve major credit for the quality of Spies Like Us.

And yet, the direction of John Landis is fabulous as well!

Landis is no slouch.

I’ve previously written about the timelessness of Trading Places.

And I am sticking with that assessment.

But let’s take a break here…

Is there anything more lovely than seeing Vanessa Angel emerge from that tent?

Well, at least we get the cultural edification of some Lithuanian dancing to a boombox blasting Stax/Volt goodness around a Stolichnaya campfire 🙂

Back to the essential stand-down aspect of the false flag/stand down.

And for this we will always be indebted to Dr. Steve Pieczenik (and to a far lesser extent Roberta Wohlstetter).

We again refer to the FBI’s 1989 raid of Rocky Flats and the heavily-armed DoE agents guarding that facility.

Perhaps some U.S. Army Rangers are in Michael Chertoff’s not-too-distant future (to name but one grand conspirator).

“Ohh…I’m sorry Paul Wolfowitz!  The correct answer is ‘The Girl Can’t Help It’!!!”

 

-PD

 

 

空手バカ一代 [1977)

[KARATE FOR LIFE (1977)]

Shin’ichi Chiba.  Another world.

The floating world.

Sonny Chiba.

We struggle with what can be expressed.  Our only means meanwhile our only limitation.

Language.  To the edge of verisimilitude.

Perhaps the greatest of all karate movies.  And yet no plot summary waiting to remind us.

This appears to be the final film directed by Kazuhiko Yamaguchi.

From the first iconic Toei breakers upon the rocks to the karate Karajan of the final plea for peace revenge.

Breathing into the ocean a righteous fire anger.

It is not the kung fu of China.  Not solely the karate of Japan.

It is the story of Mas Oyama.  Korean.

That said, it is Chinese martial arts…at the time of Japanese occupation…of South Korea.

Manchuria.

It is also the story (very tenuously) of Kanji Ishiwara. A Japanese general unpopular for his opposition to Japan’s invasion of neighboring countries (like Korea).

All it takes is one good egg.  Isn’t that what they tell us???

What is karate?  1963.

Strange in a stranger land.  A land more strange.

Chojun Miyagi.  Wax.

Wane on, wane off.

Okinawa.

You want an anti-imperialist film?  You want a political film?

Hear it is.

Her lips flaming with booze…ready to slice her wrists and end her pathetic life as a prostitute for U.S. airmen.

What would you do if you lived in Iraq?

Chiba Prefecture.

Doubt.  Retreat.

All we have needed is a little encouragement.

The geometric equation of detractors.

We admire the beards of the Marxists and the Muslims.

What if Thoreau had retreated to Walden in order to perfect his ass-kicking skills?

Ah, but all good things must come to an end.  T.B. sheets.  Van Morrison meets La bohème.

Perhaps they were trigger-happy with the inscrutable conventions of French title capitalization.

Maybe it is the e.e. cummings of opera composers.

We wait for Satie.  Erik.

Not to bore you, but judo and karate unite.

Enter The Dragon suffers.  The lady from Shanghai prefers Yamaguchi.

Raging bull fights ox luchador.

Bizarre.

Beautiful.

-PD

Sudden Impact [1983)

This is not a popular time to have sympathy for cops.  That’s too bad.

This is not a popular time to have sympathy for the FBI.  That’s unfortunate.

Not a popular time to champion the CIA.  Pity that.

No love for the NSA.  Shame…

We get one version of events.  So much so that we chase after an alternative version.  Which is credible?

Police have a very sacred trust.  Once upon a time it was phrased as “to protect and serve.”

Abuse of power disgusts us.  The pendulum swings to the other end.

Jingoism breeds contempt.

détournement

There are several wars on in the world.  The U.S. is involved widely.

It’s not a popular time to say something kind about the military.  Bummer.

What is at issue in all of these parallel phrases?  Justice and compassion.

Efficacy.  Human rights.

Right and left.  Conservative and liberal.  Even the widely disparaged neoconservative movement.

I have been quick to find fault with the so-called neocons.  But there is an interesting fundamental point about them that perhaps few know:  they used to be liberals.

I am reminded of Realpolitik.  Kissinger.

The tendency creeps in to apologize for the shameless.

An apologist, after all, works in myriad ways.

It is good that all of these thoughts come to the surface upon viewing what many “serious” film critics would consider to be sub-par pulp.

Let me start (continue) by saying that Sudden Impact is a brilliant film.

There are moments when the balance between directing and starring (acting) seem to be too much for Eastwood, but those few moments are mostly on the front end of this picture.

Though it be, perhaps, sacrilege to suggest such, this is probably the best Dirty Harry movie.

The reason is directly attributable to Eastwood’s auteurish guidance.

Though the setting of San Paulo somewhat mirrors Bodega Bay from Hitchcock’s The Birds, it is mostly the same director’s Vertigo which provides a wellspring from which Eastwood draws liberally for the symbol-laden mood of this affair.

Sondra Locke is formidable as the Kim Novak character.  Though Callahan himself never succumbs to catatonia, Locke’s sister in the film does.  It reminds us of Jimmy Stewart’s incapacitation after seeing Madeleine “die” the first time (again with the Vertigo references).  Of particular note is the camera work which follows Locke’s first killing in Sudden Impact.  The circular, woozy pattern makes us think of Novak’s plunge into San Francisco Bay.

And that’s just it:  Eastwood had the balls and brains to drag Hitchcock into the Dirty Harry series (itself set in San Francisco).

What this film achieves is imparting humility to armchair DCIs (like myself) who think we have it all figured out.  Sometimes distance is good…for planning.  Sometimes you need to hear a few bullets buzz past your ears to realize that a hot war is on.  It’s not always easy to know who’s shooting…and from where.

There are multiple fronts.  I often ponder my own mental weakness.  Ultimately, no one has died in vain.  The challenge is for us as a nation and a world to get better…quickly.  It ends up sounding meaningless, but it’s about all one can say about this spinning globe of chaos on which we live.

-PD

Skyfall [2012)

If you wait too long, you lose the impression.

I was way behind on trying to support my compatriots.  It is not necessary to agree.  What I champion is freedom of expression.

And so we try to remember the mood…the efficacy of cinema in the hands of Sam Mendes.

Perhaps the first “real” director to approach the Bond franchise after having had success beforehand.

Mendes will always have a place in my heart for his deft touch directing Thora Birch in American Beauty.

Fortunately we can look forward to a second contribution in the forthcoming Bond film Spectre.

But for now we have this.

What of it?

I should dispense with self-congratulatory pomp at this time rather than let it distract me.

Yes, I have now seen all of the Bond films from Eon Productions.  You can access the reviews of all 23 pictures here on my site by clicking the Bond tab.

Now that we have that out of the way…

The first glaring bit of strategic signaling occurs when we learn that our MacGuffin is a hard drive.

Of course, it’s what’s on the hard drive which makes this worth mentioning.

NATO agents embedded in terrorist groups.

For anyone with a knowledge of Operation Gladio this brings up a troubling association.

To wit:  the possibility that the organizations are controlled by NATO for cynical purposes.

This was, and continues to be, a fundamental aspect of geopolitics.  False-flag terror.

Perhaps Mendes (or the writers of the film) knowingly left this bread crumb to add a quasi-credibility to what has often become a propagandistic series for the power elite.

Whatever the case may be, the opening sequence is generally good.

Let’s face it:  it’s getting harder and harder after 23 films to have James Bond do something novel.

His seeming demise before the credits roll make us think of that horribly daft episode from the Connery days:

You Only Live Twice.

Ralph Fiennes is unlikable from the start, but we learn why as the film progresses.

Mendes does a nice job of faking us out on several occasions.  We even suspect Bond as a terrorist briefly.

Another breadcrumb:  the depleted uranium bullet fragments from Bond’s shoulder.

With this we are brought back to that stain upon U.S. military operations over the past 15 years.

Keeping in mind the research of Doug Rokke, we might again be seeing an attempt by the Bond franchise to relate with an increasingly informed viewer base.

Think on your sins?

Well, all cinematic sins are forgiven once director Mendes has occasion to mold and shape the lights of high-rise Shanghai into a sci-fi backdrop for good old fashion ass kicking.

Modigliani.

We are meant to associate the extra-terrestrial eyes with Bérénice Marlohe.  Like the grey-eyed goddess Athena, we will later meet her in the shower (ohh-la-la!).

When all else fails in a film, have the location shift to Macau.

Indeed, the best dialogue comes between Daniel Craig and Mlle. Marlohe at the casino bar.  It reminds us of that fleeting bit of verbal mastery aboard the train in Casino Royale when Craig and Eva Green took turns sizing each other up.

Enter Javier Bardem.

Bardem is certainly among the most convincing villains in the entire Bond pantheon.  Something about that bleached-blond hair gives us a creepy feeling every time his character Raoul Silva is shown.

Bardem’s acting, particularly around the time of his character’s first appearance, is world-class.

Ben Whishaw does a fine job as the new Q (though we miss John Cleese and, of course, Desmond Llewelyn).

Credit Sam Mendes with a deft portrayal of the battle between old ways and new.

New is exemplified by the new Q:  cyber-reliance.

Old is exemplified by the crusty James Bond:  HUMINT.

This film almost telegraphs the Zeitgeist which would spawn Edward Snowden as global hero, but it casts such genius (>145 IQ) as the enemy in Bardem’s character.

[As a side note, I should like to add that Snowden’s story would have to be most ingenious cover ever if found to be inauthentic.  Such iron-clad credibility no doubt came at a steep price for the NSA (see PRISM).  Though farfetched, one never knows to what lengths the Western national security state will go next to try and salvage its tenuous hold on global hegemony.  All things considered, his defection to the public side (in the interest of the general public) seems to be authentic and highly admirable.]

Skyfall becomes less successful when Bardem has Hannibal Lecter lighting cast upon him during the glass-cage treatment later in this film.  This is an unimaginative bit of filmmaking beneath the level of director Mendes.

As trivial as it may seem, Mendes later redeems himself with a simple shot of approaching figures reflected in the chrome of a side-view mirror.   It doesn’t hurt that the mirror in question is attached to an Aston Martin DB5.

Overall, the successes of this film should rightly be attributed to Sam Mendes.  That said, this is not a masterpiece.  It is a very good, yet flawed, film.

Here’s hoping Mendes knocks it out of the park with Spectre.  Cheerio!

-PD