Category Archives: Movies

Trump Or Cheney? NYT Asks “Who’s The Real American Psycho?” by Maureen Dowd

Trump doesn’t have the blood of millions on his hands, although that doesn’t mean he won’t. From Maureen Down at the New York Times via zerohedge.com:

The NYT’s Maureen Dowd appears to have had enough of the hyperbole, hyper-short-memories, and hyped up virtue-signaling from the establishment. Reflecting on Adam McKay’s new movie “Vice” with Christian Bale playing Dick Cheney, Dowd gently nudges America back from the edge of the divisive Midterms to remember that much evil has come before…

Donald Trump is running wild – and running scared.

He’s such a menace that it’s tempting to cheer any vituperative critic and grab any handy truncheon. But villainizing Trump should not entail sanitizing other malefactors.

And we should acknowledge that the president is right on one point: For neocons, journalists, authors, political hacks and pundits, there is a financial incentive to demonize the president, not to mention an instant halo effect. Only Trump could get the pussy-hat crowd to fill Times Square to protest Jeff Sessions’s firing.

We make the president the devil spawn and he makes us the enemy of the people and everybody wins. Or do they? To what extent is lucrative Trump hysteria warping our discourse?

Trump may not be sweaty and swarthy, but he makes a good bad guy. As with Nixon and Watergate, the correct moral response and the lavish remunerative rewards neatly dovetail.

Even for Washington, the capital of do-overs and the soulless swamp where horrendous mistakes never prevent you from cashing in and getting another security clearance, this is a repellent spectacle. War criminals-turned-liberal heroes are festooned with book and TV contracts, podcasts and op-ed perches.

Those who sold us the “cakewalk” Iraq war and the outrageously unprepared Sarah Palin and torture as “enhanced interrogation,” those who left the Middle East shattered with a cascading refugee crisis and a rising ISIS, and those who midwifed the birth of the Tea Party are washing away their sins in a basin of Trump hate.

The very same Republicans who eroded America’s moral authority in the 2000s are, staggeringly, being treated as the new guardians of America’s moral authority.

They bellow that Trump is a blight on democracy. But where were these patriots when the Bush administration was deceiving us with a cooked-up war in Iraq?

Michelle Obama has written in her memoir that she will never forgive Trump for pushing the birther movement. Yet the Pygmalions of Palin, who backed Trump on the birther filth, are now among the most celebrated voices in Michelle’s party.

The architects and enablers of the Iraq war and Abu Ghraib are still being listened to on foreign policy, both inside the administration (John Bolton and Gina Haspel) and out. NeverTrumper Eliot Cohen wrote the Washington Post op-ed after the election telling conservatives not to work for Trump; Max Boot, who urged an invasion of Iraq whether or not Saddam was involved in 9/11, is now a CNN analyst, Post columnist and the author of a new book bashing Trump; John Yoo, who wrote the unconstitutional torture memo, is suddenly concerned that Trump’s appointment of his ghastly acting attorney general is unconstitutional.

MSNBC is awash in nostalgia for Ronald Reagan and W.

So it’s a good moment for Adam McKay, the inventive director of “The Big Short,” to enter the debate with a movie that raises the question: Is insidious destruction of our democracy by a bureaucratic samurai with the soothing voice of a boys’ school headmaster even more dangerous than a self-destructive buffoon ripping up our values in plain sight?

How do you like your norms broken? Over Twitter or in a torture memo? By a tinpot demagogue stomping on checks and balances he can’t even fathom or a shadowy authoritarian expertly and quietly dismantling checks and balances he knows are sacred?

McKay grappled with the W.-Cheney debacle in 2009, when he co-wrote a black comedy with Will Ferrell called “You’re Welcome America. A Final Night With George W Bush.” In the Broadway hit, Ferrell’s W. dismissed waterboarding as a Bliss spa treatment and confided that he had once discovered Cheney locked in an embrace with a giant goat devil in a room full of pentagrams.

When McKay was home with the flu three years ago, he grabbed a book and began reading up on Cheney. He ended up writing and directing “Vice,” a film that uses real-life imagery, witty cinematic asides and cultural touchstones to explore the irreparable damage Cheney did to the planet, and how his blunders and plunders led to many of our current crises.

With an echo of his Batman growl, Christian Bale brilliantly shape-shifts into another American psycho, the lumbering, scheming vice president who easily manipulates the naïve and insecure W., deliciously played by Sam Rockwell. While W. strives to impress his father, Cheney strives to impress his wife, Lynne, commandingly portrayed by Amy Adams.

Before we had Trump’s swarm of bloodsucking lobbyists gutting government regulations from within, we had Cheney’s. Before Trump brazenly used the White House to boost his brand, we had Cheney wallowing in emoluments: He let his energy industry pals shape energy policy; he pushed to invade Iraq, giving no-bid contracts to his former employer, Halliburton, and helping his Big Oil cronies reap the spoils in Iraq.

The movie opens at Christmas, but it’s no sugary Hallmark fable. It’s a harrowing cautionary tale showing that democracy can be sabotaged even more diabolically by a trusted insider, respected by most of the press, than by a clownish outsider, disdained by most of the press.

After a screening of “Vice” Thursday, I asked McKay which of our two right-wing Dementors was worse, Cheney or Trump.

“Here’s the question,” he said.

“Would you rather have a professional assassin after you or a frothing maniac with a meat cleaver? I’d rather have a maniac with a meat cleaver after me, so I think Cheney is way worse. And also, if you look at the body count, more than 600,000 people died in Iraq. It’s not even close, right?

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Has America Become a Dictatorship Disguised as a Democracy? by John W. Whitehead

Pull back the curtain on present-day America and you certainly don’t see the country our founding fathers had in mind. From John W. Whitehead at rutherford.org:

“The poor and the underclass are growing. Racial justice and human rights are nonexistent. They have created a repressive society and we are their unwitting accomplices. Their intention to rule rests with the annihilation of consciousness. We have been lulled into a trance. They have made us indifferent to ourselves, to others. We are focused only on our own gain.”—They Live, John Carpenter

We’re living in two worlds, you and I.

There’s the world we see (or are made to see) and then there’s the one we sense (and occasionally catch a glimpse of), the latter of which is a far cry from the propaganda-driven reality manufactured by the government and its corporate sponsors, including the media.

Indeed, what most Americans perceive as life in America—privileged, progressive and free—is a far cry from reality, where economic inequality is growing, real agendas and real power are buried beneath layers of Orwellian doublespeak and corporate obfuscation, and “freedom,” such that it is, is meted out in small, legalistic doses by militarized police armed to the teeth.

All is not as it seems.

“You see them on the street. You watch them on TV. You might even vote for one this fall. You think they’re people just like you. You’re wrong. Dead wrong.”

This is the premise of John Carpenter’s film They Live, which was released 30 years ago in November 1988 and remains unnervingly, chillingly appropriate for our modern age.

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A Clockwork Orange: Waiting for the Sun, by Doug “Uncola” Lynch

This will appeal to a certain type of philosophically speculative mind. From Doug  “Uncola” Lynn at theburningplatform.com:

 Society should not do the wrong thing for the right reason, even though it frequently does the right thing for the wrong reason.

History has shown us what happens when you try to make society too civilized, or do too good a job of eliminating undesirable elements. It also shows the tragic fallacy in the belief that the destruction of democratic institutions will cause better ones to arise in their place.

Stanley Kubrick on “A Clockwork Orange”, an interview with film critic Michel Ciment

An obscure Texas political consultant named Bill Miller once said “politics is show business for ugly people”.  It’s true for the most part, aside from the consequences.  This is because the theatrics of politicians result in policies that affect the lives of others; often against the will of the governed. In books and movies, however, the characters are much ado about nothing. Until, that is, life imitates art.

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Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 11/9” Aims Not at Trump But at Those Who Created the Conditions That Led to His Rise, by Glenn Greenwald

This movie has got to be better than another comic book film. From Glenn Greenwald at the intercept.com:

2017 AP YEAR END PHOTOS - Donald Trump is sworn in as the 45th president of the United States by Chief Justice John Roberts, as Melania Trump and his family looks on during the 58th Presidential Inauguration at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, on Jan. 20, 2017. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Donald Trump is sworn in as the 45th president of the United States by Chief Justice John Roberts during the 58th Presidential Inauguration at the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C., on Jan. 20, 2017.

Photo: Patrick Semansky/AP

“FAHRENHEIT 11/9,” the title of Michael Moore’s new film that opens today in theaters, is an obvious play on the title of his wildly profitable Bush-era “Fahrenheit 9/11,” but also a reference to the date of Donald J. Trump’s 2016 election victory. Despite that, Trump himself is a secondary figure in Moore’s film, which is far more focused on the far more relevant and interesting questions of what – and, critically, who – created the climate in which someone like Trump could occupy the Oval Office.For that reason alone, Moore’s film is highly worthwhile regardless of where one falls on the political spectrum. The single most significant defect in U.S. political discourse is the monomaniacal focus on Trump himself, as though he is the cause – rather than the by-product and symptom – of decades-old systemic American pathologies.

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Hiroshima Revisited: Memorializing the Horrors of War with 10 Must-See War Films, by John W. Whitehead

Needless to say, none of the movies listed are pro-war. From John W. Whitehead at rutherford.org:

“The horror… the horror…”—Apocalypse Now (1979)

Nearly 73 years ago, the United States unleashed atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing more than 200,000 individuals, many of whom were civilians.

Fast forward to the present day, and the U.S. military under President Trump’s leadership is dropping a bomb every 12 minutes.

This follows on the heels of President Obama, the antiwar candidate and Nobel Peace Prize winner who waged war longer than any American president and whose targeted-drone killings continued to feed the war machine and resulted in at least 1.3 million lives lost to the U.S.-led war on terror.

America has long had a penchant for endless wars that empty our national coffers while fattening those of the military industrial complex. Since 9/11, we’ve spent more than $1.6 trillion to wage wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

When you add in our military efforts in Syria and Pakistan, as well as the lifetime price of health care for disabled veterans and interest on the national debt, that cost rises to $5.6 trillion.

Even with America’s military might spread thin, the war drums continue to sound as the Pentagon polices the rest of the world with more than 1.3 million U.S. troops being stationed at roughly 1000 military bases in over 150 countries.

To this end, Americans are fed a steady diet of pro-war propaganda that keeps them content to wave flags with patriotic fervor and less inclined to look too closely at the mounting body counts, the ruined lives, the ravaged countries, the blowback arising from ill-advised targeted-drone killings and bombing campaigns in foreign lands, or the transformation of our own homeland into a warzone.

Nowhere is this double-edged irony more apparent than during military holidays, when we get treated to a generous serving of praise and grandstanding by politicians, corporations and others with similarly self-serving motives eager to go on record as being pro-military.

Yet war is a grisly business, a horror of epic proportions. In terms of human carnage alone, war’s devastation is staggering. For example, it is estimated that approximately 231 million people died worldwide during the wars of the 20th century. This figure does not take into account the walking wounded—both physically and psychologically—who “survive” war.

War drives the American police state.

The military-industrial complex is the world’s largest employer.

to continue reading: Hiroshima Revisited: Memorializing the Horrors of War with 10 Must-See War Films 

Review: The Incredibles 2, by Steve Sailer

SLL loved both The Incredibles 1 and 2. From Steve Sailer at takimag.com:

What proportion of the top creative artists in Hollywood, the heavyweight auteurs, are men of the right?

This old question has come up again with the box office triumph of the anti-egalitarian Brad Bird’s The Incredibles 2 and the comments about Donald Trump by David Lynch, director of Twin Peaks and Eraserhead.

Lynch’s work isn’t to everyone’s taste, but obviously he’s an American original who makes movies and television shows that nobody else could (or perhaps would). If you are as admired as David Lynch (his Mulholland Drive came in No. 1 in a recent poll of critics as the best film of the 21st century, although that could be an artifact of the survey methodology), you can, hopefully, continue to have a career after saying to The Guardian:

“[Trump] could go down as one of the greatest presidents in history because he has disrupted the thing so much. No one is able to counter this guy in an intelligent way.” While Trump may not be doing a good job himself, Lynch thinks, he is opening up a space where other outsiders might. “Our so-called leaders can’t take the country forward, can’t get anything done. Like children, they are. Trump has shown all this.”

Trump joked:

“There’s David Lynch. Enjoy it because his career in Hollywood is officially over.”

The square-jawed Lynch, who identifies himself on Twitter as “Filmmaker. Born Missoula, MT. Eagle Scout,” has many obsessions, but few that overlap with those of the social justice jihadis. Fortunately for Lynch, much of the press can’t imagine that his assessment of Trump could be anything other than some complex aesthetic put-on. They assume: By definition, unique artists such as Lynch must agree with everybody you know.

To continue reading: Review: The Incredibles 2

Hollywood hoopla ignores media’s history of servility, by James Bovard

Hollywood ought to turn the lens on itself and do a picture on the intelligence agencies’ influence in Hollywood. That, alas, would be like making a movie of What Makes Sammy Run? (a fine novel about Hollywood that cuts too close to the truth for tinseltown). From James Bovard at thehill.com:

Hollywood hoopla ignores media's history of servility

Much of the media nowadays is portraying itself as heroes of the #Resist Trump movement. To exploit that meme, Hollywood producer Steven Spielberg rushed out “The Post,” a movie depicting an epic press battle with the Nixon administration. But regardless of whether Spielberg’s latest wins the Academy Award for best picture on Sunday night, Americans should never forget the media’s long history of pandering to presidents and the Pentagon.

“The Post” is built around the Pentagon Papers, a secret study begun in 1967 analyzing where the Vietnam war had gone awry. The 7000-page tome showed that presidents and military leaders had been profoundly deceiving the American people ever since the Truman administration and that the same mistakes were endlessly repeated. Like many policy autopsies, the report was classified and completely ignored by the White House and federal agencies that most needed to heed its lessons.

Daniel Ellsberg, a former Pentagon official, heroically risked life in prison to smuggle the report to the media after members of Congress were too cowardly to touch it. The New York Times shattered the political sound barrier when it began courageously publishing the report despite a profusion of threats from the Nixon administration Justice Department. After a federal court slapped the Times with an injunction, the Washington Post and other newspapers published additional classified excerpts from the report. Likely because the Washington Post had a female publisher, Spielberg made it, rather than the Times, the star of the show.

Spielberg’s movie portrays Post editor Ben Bradlee denouncing dishonest government officials to publisher Katharine Graham: “The way they lied — those days have to be over.” Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, who deluged the media with falsehoods about battlefront progress, did more than anyone else (except perhaps President Lyndon Johnson) to vastly increase the bloodbath for Americans and Vietnamese. McNamara’s disastrous deceits did not deter the Washington Post from appointing him to its Board of Directors. As author Norman Solomon recently observed, “The Washington Post was instrumental in avidly promoting the lies that made the Vietnam War possible in the first place.”

To continue reading: Hollywood hoopla ignores media’s history of servility